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The ‘soft skills’ of user experience design

Before we begin to explore this I first want to look at what user experience is. User experience is the art of designing something that solves a problem in a way that is easy to use.

Much of user experience design – or as I like to say, designing for humans, relies on soft skills. Below I explore what these soft skills are, and why they are so very important.

Understand and convey meaning from results

The analytical skill to convey results in a factual way for the team to explore more is crucial. This could be conveying results of a survey. In addition to this, it’s really important to be able to suggest why people have responded the way they have. By this I mean the ability to review results and think critically about the motivations that sit behind what people reveal in a survey. Or to understand why people respond to tests in an unexpected way. An analytical view helps you to step away, and look at the problem with a wider view.

Thinking around the problem

Creativity and being able to truly understand a problem is invaluable in any user experience project. In most instances it won’t be the first idea (or solution) that works. Because of this it’s important to be able to think around the problem and explore ways to get to a solution. I hate the phrase but in this case it’s true, creativity helps you think outside the box.

Putting the human first

The most important skill, in my opinion, you need is empathy. During your project you will need to speak to and understand the problems faced by the people you are designing for. Empathy is so very important here. Through empathy you are able to understand the perspective of the person. It’s important to create a space that they feel safe in. They will need to trust that what they say is of value. Really getting to know the people you’re building for helps with that connection.

Good user experience design takes this understanding of what the person needs and turns it into something that’s useful, easy to use and accessible.

Working well with others

Being able to work well with others may seem pretty obvious to you as you read this. When designing for people you will have to work collaboratively with lots of different teams, stakeholders, and subject matter experts. Empathy is a pretty key to making this work too. Many people in a project team will come with their own needs and ‘bias’, understanding this will help you guide the team, not direct it.