Hypothetically, a great UX designer should have it all – besides visual communication and design thinking, s/he should be at least familiar with the basics of: business management, psychology, software development / technology, marketing, sales, teaching, etc.
Assuming that each skill mentioned is a craft by its own, and no one lives long enough to master them all, the UX designer should have some familiarity (preferably gained through hands on experience) with most of them.
This means that preferably, a design degree in visual communications is a great starting point from which all of the rest of the skills could be added. A good design degree will train the designer well with the basic required design skills, including the design thinking process, in understanding his viewer’s feelings through empathy, in creating the right orientation and navigation through guiding his user using visual signage, in using grids and laying out content over screens, in the nuances of typography (where a simple font selection might change the tone of the message, or create a different brand feeling), and in becoming a creative innovator and a visual problem solver within the product development team.
Introduction to music basics can also be useful for anyone practicing design. Understating composition, harmony, elegance, flow, rhythm, empty space, noise, clarity and focus, etc. are all terms shared among those arts’ languages, and being able to imagine something in your brain before you start realizing it (writing / playing / drawing it down), is an important part that develops your creative brain skills.
Understanding the limitations of the technology used, maybe even some knowhow in a basic computer language, just to understand how software is built and how computers work, are also important to design better products’ UX, by indicating where technology is underperforming (in the eyes of the user) as well as finding creative ways to circumvent the physical problems (e.g. if you can’t make the elevator go faster, maybe put there a mirror and play some music, and suddenly, from the user’s point of view, time flies…).
Empathy isn’t a skill taught only in design schools. Academic social and psychology departments also discuss in depth how the human mind works, and could be a great place to gain insights and useful tools to develop these analysis and research skills, which are essential for certain products that affect users behaviors, not by luck, but by design. Verticals like gaming, financial, ecommerce and even social networks (E.g. Facebook, YouTube, etc.), all benefit from continuous research to gain deep understanding of our behavioral patterns, and how to manipulate them.
Knowing how to measure, analyze and implement those research conclusions, creates the insights that made the success of products like Tinder, Facebook, and others. It is usually a team work and a ‘trial and error’ till the right behavior pattern is forged and nurtured with the users, but once it does, it’s priceless…
But that’s not all. Understanding the business mechanics in order to create a better selling product has to mean understanding how to motivate the user to open his pocket and pay somehow for it. E.g. Freemium is currently the most successful model for software products today. The reason is that we leverage the power of ‘Free’ to lower the cost of our marketing efforts and minimize the signup friction, while we introduce our service to the client. Once the trust and value are clear, we try to convert the free user to a paying customer by offering different upgrades and additional values. Knowing how to create these and offer (sell) them, has become an art, and startups that do not crack this, might get lost on the path to their next investment round.
Understanding the data and statistics gathered, and improving the business models, by finding new ways to attract and pull the users back to the service, and increasing the volume of sales, by offering different and more attractive packages, creating ultimatums, etc. are all part of the business strategies and sales tactics, that are now part of many successful online products.
Being aware of the value of micro copy and the nuances of which text to put on a button to make it more clickable, and how the order of the offered packages affect the purchase inclination, is all part of the UX know-how today.
Same as the Vitruvian man in the image above, that has those perfect proportions in his body, hypothetically, the perfect UX designer should have all the skills mentioned here developed to perfection, but unlike Steve Jobs' famous 'Connecting the dots' inspiring speech, where things connected for him later, and by coincidence, I suggest this layout, as a plan for a life of learning.
Steve Jobs in his unforgettable 'Connecting the dots' speech in Stanford University in 2005
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