6 Soft Skills to Excel in UX Design (With Book & List Recommendations!)

Photo by Fauzan Saari

“Unfortunately, some people believe that soft skills aren’t that important. However, almost every employer I’ve ever talked to about this disagrees. In a world where job roles are changing rapidly, soft skills will be one of the few constants” — Chris Jones

A popularly adopted habit in all industries is to master the craft that we’ve chosen — To completely focus on our practical abilities, like a hawk with nothing else in our eyes.

Rarely though, do we spend the proper time to hone our other hidden talents, quite poorly named ‘soft skills’, as they are anything but ‘soft’. The value of these talents, when polished, can turn an otherwise mediocre person into the MVP of their industry- This isn’t talk for talks sake, truly mastering these abilities can & will take you much further than just knowledge of the craft, of course this doesn’t mean to neglect your practical ability either! Let’s explore a bit more about soft skills within UX, and how they can benefit you.

Photo by Christin Hume

Many organisations you join won’t have high levels of UX maturity; particularly if you work with startups and smaller companies. This means that it will be up to you to spearhead a push for user centric design, something that won’t be possible without a certain level of literacy in UX Design, born from curiosity.

Keeping yourself curious and placing yourself as an eternal student allows you to better understand the craft, but also gives you the opportunity to better express the decisions that you make.

Photo by Tengyart

I truly believe, backed up by many of my peers, that empathy and emotional intelligence is THE most valuable skill for a UX Designer to hold — and actually my opinion of EQ transcends design, I believe empathy to be a superpower that will carry you through life in a way that would be unprecedented if it had been neglected!

A bold claim of course, but at the core of every person are goals and aspirations, needs and desires — being able to empathise, understand and cater to these grants you an incredible boon.

Photo by Airfocus

Now I’m not saying you become an NLP expert and manipulate your way to a UX utopia; That would raise some moral questions… However, persuasion is such an unbelievably powerful skill if used empathically and ethically.

It’s difficult to count how many times good UX decisions have been shot down because the spokesperson failed to effectively explain why this would be a benefit for the company, and not only does improving your persuasive ability massively help you in day to day life, it also allows you to effectively push forward the user centric movement, what more could we ask for as designers?

Photo by Volodymyr Hryschenko

If you’ve worked as a UX Designer, then you’ll know how important it is to not only communicate the decisions you’d like to make, but also the ones that have already been accepted — When I say this, I talk about communicating within the team to development, engineering, and other designers! As a UX Designer, creating the product and experience is only the first step, next we have to assist our team to understand exactly what we expect when certain interactions happen, or how specific elements behave.

Of course, communication stems much further than teamwork — Without good communication, we probably wouldn’t find ourselves passing the first stage of an interview!

Photo by Oksana Taran

No, not that flexibility… To be able to put aside your ego and accept your team’s opinions is an incredibly valuable skill within all industries, especially so within UX, and is what creates flexible UX Design.

Even if you ignore the fact that value comes from the most unexpected of places, and that every opinion on usability holds a degree of importance, then a host of other benefits are still left over — namely the ability to facilitate discussion through flexible reasoning! Facilitation is incredibly powerful, and can result in some fantastic insights that we would not have been able to discover had we been rigid and unmoving in our mindset.

Balancing ourselves with the proper mix of hard and soft skills in UX is incredibly valuable, not only allowing us to climb the ranks within the industry, but more importantly to truly create effective and usable experiences for our users!

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