A design student recently asked me “What 3 skills are the top things to master in UX?”. It’s hard to limit an answer to just three, but this is how I replied…
In order to truly design something that’s going to be useful and meet the needs of a person, you really need to understand the problems you’re trying to solve for them, from their perspective. You need to do your research and try to get a feel for what it’s like to walk in their shoes for a while.
Keeping a curious, open mind and thinking laterally .
The first solution you come up with is rarely the best. It’s important to open yourself up to exploring new and left-of-field ideas. Collaboration with others is a key component to help with this, and don’t feel limited to just brainstorming with other UX designers either; you never know who might come up with the gem that turns into the killer solution.
The ability to think in ‘spaces’ and ‘flows’ rather than just ‘pages’.
My background’s in Industrial Design and I believe that the ability to understand 3-dimensional space and ergonomics really helps in terms of interaction design. It’s more than a series of individual, independent pages; it’s about understanding the bigger picture — how the information architecture, content, page structures, UI components and transitions all work together to deliver the whole experience.
Lastly (I’m cheating now — this is clearly a fourth!), I added that in relation to UX design for digital products, I think it’s really important to have an appreciation of basic UI principles such as visual hierarchy, grids and typography, as well as a some form of basic HTML/code understanding. I’m of the belief that it’s important to understand the medium you’re working with, even if you’re not writing the actual code. Much like a designer of furniture should understand the basic properties and mechanics of materials such as wood and steel.