3 Skill Sets for Good User Experience Design

by George Elkhabbaz, October 14, 2011

In my previous post, I explained what User Experience Design (UXD) is. Here I will define what makes a good user experience (UX) designer. A good UX designer works like a guitar tuner; if the strings are too tight, everything will break, yet if the strings are too loose, the instrument won't play well.

To keep the strings tuned, the UX designer must balance logic (usability and information architecture) and emotion (design and aesthetics), pulling from a variety of discplines such as library sciences, ergonomics, usability, interaction design, and information architecture.

The traits that make a good UX designer- the ability to wear different hats, synthesize knowledge from different arenas, and keep a balance, also apply to entrepreneurs in general.

So what exactly makes a UX designer good? At a bare minimum, she must have three basic traits:

1. The Ability to Create User Centered Design (UCD)

When designing something new, a user-centered designer should answer these 6 questions in order to understand the needs, wants and limitations of the user:

     1. Who are my users?
     2. What is the purpose of the site?
     3. What will the users be doing?
     4. How proficient or savvy are the users?
     5. What functionalities will the user need?
     6. What information will the user need to operate the product?

Asking the right questions allows you to form a clear picture of what the user needs, allowing you to create a product with good visibility (in terms of navigation and layout), good accessibility, (e.g., color coding and pagination), good legibility, (involving font size and type), and good content (in terms of language, tone, and sentence structure). You can answer these questions by conducting research.

2. Good Research Skills

Forget about lab coats. Research here is about usability testing, user interviews, and analytics. One cannot design for a user that he has not interviewed. In bigger organizations, you will find that design and research duties are typically divided between two teams, yet ideally, a designer will have some experience with the research phase. Working on your statistical analysis abilities and knowledge of experimental design will especially help build your research skill set.

3. Flexible and Creative Personality Traits

These are more attributes than skills. A UX Designer should be:

     - Cooperative. You will have to cooperate with other teams.
     - Creative.
Finding an allover solution to a small problem is often key.
     - Diplomatic.
A diplomatic demeanor comes in very handy when discussing issues with stakeholders.
     - Observant.
We all miss small details, but it especially pays in this field to keep your eyes open.
     - Open.
What applies to you don’t necessarily mean it applies to others. It’s important to be open to new
        ideas and suggestions.
     - Patient.
It might sound fast on pen and paper, but design takes more time than you would think.

Cultivating these three skill sets is a good place to start, for a UX designer or an entrepreneur, when it comes to building products. In the next post, I will discuss how to set up a UX Design project. Feel free to comment or ask. If you’ve read until the end, you are patient- that’s at least one trait down.

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Ever since George first worked for an online directory back in 1998, he caught the digital bug and has since been immersed in 1 and 0s. He is an interactive manager for an international mobile brand (no free ads here) and a user experience consultant. He holds a degree in advertising and marketing and focuses on usability and user experience design. In his spare time he writes on his own blog (featured in a regional magazine) and contributes to a local tech blog, likes to share his opinion, and prefers not to write about himself in the third person. :) You can find him on twitter at @UxSoup.

 
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