Top 20 Skills Needed to Become a UX/UI Designer (+ Tips)

They make up the perfect formula.

Reviewed by Chris Leitch

Skills needed to become a UX/UI designer

User interface and user experience design are processes that define how users might interact with a company, as well as its products or services. The UI/UX design discipline is popularly focused on online products, such as how webpages or mobile apps are laid out, but this exciting career path can involve streamlining any kind of user experience.

UI/UX design is a rapidly growing and respected career path, one that offers plenty of opportunities and good compensation packages. In fact, Glassdoor ranked UX design at 24th in their list of the 50 best jobs in the US for 2022.

UI/UX design requires a variety of skills that work in harmony with each other to ensure effectiveness in this discipline. This article takes you through these skills — and how they can be learned.

Top UI/UX design hard skills

The UI/UX industry requires certain nuanced technical skills that require strong competence in order to excel in this career. Here are the top 10 UI/UX hard skills:

1. Agile software development

Agile software development and project management practices are chiefly concerned with continuous improvement, customer collaboration, change management and working ideas.

UI/UX work crosses over extensively with agile software development; this skill is known as Agile UX design, which is a great skill for UI/UX designers to hone, as it merges what they do with software development and the practical side of their work. This can lead to synergies and efficiencies in pulling interfaces together.

2. Analysis

Understanding analytics is essential for a UI/UX designer. Given that a large chunk of the work going into testing and creating interfaces requires research, testing and feedback, making sense of all this data is essential for understanding what is and what isn’t working and to ensure prototypes are created that progressively get closer and closer to the finished interface.

Basic analytics can also be a soft skill honed over time, but taking technical courses in the subject is the best way to make this skill work for you.

3. Coding or application development

UI designers are not necessarily required to write the software and code needed for interfaces to be created, but having a good understanding of how this happens can be very useful to the UI/UX design discipline.

Having a basic understanding of programming languages such as C++, HTML and JavaScript can make your UI/UX role much easier through understanding what can and cannot be done and increased collaboration between teams.

4. Information architecture

Information architecture is the practice of organizing data and information into a logical order that can be understood by users. In the world of UI/UX, information architecture is essential to success and, therefore, interactive designers need to have a high degree of proficiency in this skill.

Information architecture is applied in many different areas, such as online (including websites and applications), wireframing and prototyping, in physical spaces, and also in printed materials.

5. Graphic design software

Although having an understanding of visual communication skills is vital to working effectively as a UI/UX designer (these skills are covered later), designers must be proficient in graphic design software, as these programs provide the tools and ability to make user interfaces come to life in a visually appealing way.

There are many different programs that might be used, but advanced knowledge of the core applications, such as Adobe XD, Figma, Miro and Photoshop, will be especially useful.

6. Prototyping

Prototyping is a vital step in the UI/UX design process, as this is where interfaces are checked for functionality, design and navigation. It usually represents the final stage before UI/UX interfaces are constructed, so this is an important step. Prototypes are often created, tested and then remade as the interface is fine-tuned.

UI/UX designers need to be able to create prototypes thoroughly and accurately. Seeing as many different prototypes might be created before the final product is signed off, making them swiftly is also important.

7. User research

Making interfaces that are useful to all kinds of users is central to the job of UI/UX designers. Consequently, designers need to understand the people they are creating these interfaces for.

UI/UX designers need to conduct various user research interventions to find out more from audiences what is needed. This includes planning user research, running it and effectively interpreting the outcomes. As well as UX research, designers will also need to be able to correctly undertake user testing to see how products impact customers.

8. UX writing

Technical written communication is such an important aspect of UI/UX that understanding the intricacies and exactness of language is essential to the job. If UI/UX writing doesn’t hit home, then users might not return to the product.

UI/UX designers need to phrase messages in interfaces clearly and succinctly in order to make them effective; this skill transcends the basics of simple verbiage and requires designers to combine technical writing ability, empathy and even marketing skills into one.

9. Visual communication

UI/UX visual communication goes far beyond communication soft skills. Designers must be well-versed in creating logical and well-constructed visual interfaces, as well as relaying these to clients and colleagues.

UI/UX designers need to understand many different facets of visual design, such as design theory and concepts, typography, layout creation, flow diagrams, and the usage of visual elements like icons and color. Designers need to use all these concepts in a way that creates interfaces that are not only useful but also visually appealing.

10. Wireframing

The stage before prototyping, wireframing refers to the mapping out of interfaces or user flows to demonstrate to designers or clients how user interfaces might work.

Wireframing interfaces will look similar to a flowchart, and represent an important step in bringing UI/UX to life. As such, it’s a vital part of the process, and UI/UX designers need to be able to competently wireframe in order to logically create great interfaces.

Top UI/UX design soft skills

Soft skills are often connected to personality traits and are learned gradually. Soft skills related to UI/UX might not need much formal training, but it’s best to keep them developed over time.

11. Client management

Clients can be demanding people, and UI/UX designers, therefore, need to be able to interact with them effectively to ensure not only that they are satisfied with product concepts but also in such a way that the designers themselves remain in control of the project and can work at their best.

Client management involves being assertive with customers regarding realistic expectations but ultimately having the client’s wishes at heart whilst ensuring excellent customer service.

12. Collaboration

UI/UX design is a highly collaborative field that requires lots of teamwork and time with various stakeholders. In addition to working directly with your manager, team members and clients, you might also have to work with cross-functional teams, including marketing, software development and many other areas that have an interest in effective UI/UX.

Managing different stakeholders while ensuring that your own UI/UX work is not overlooked is a delicate balancing act, requiring a lot of proficiency in this skill.

13. Communication

We have already discussed how some aspects of UI/UX design might be classified as hard skills, such as graphic design and writing skills. However, UI/UX designers need to be expert communicators in general.

Communication skills with stakeholders are essential, as is the skill of translating technical information into easily digestible language that clients can understand. Effective email communication is also vital, and influencing others through assertive yet friendly conversation is another important aspect of the job.

14. Continuous learning

UI/UX involves thinking up innovative solutions to product and interface design and, as such, designers will be under a lot of pressure to be different and come up with new and exciting concepts.

As a result, continuous learning is an important skill, as this will expose designers to fresh ideas and ways of working, as well as getting to grips with new technical skills that can positively impact UI/UX. Designers should maintain a continuous learning log and look for every opportunity to get trained and retrained to remain competitive in this field.

15. Critical thinking

The ability to think critically is an important skill for all UI/UX designers to possess. When creating products for users, there might be many paths forward and many different groups of stakeholders to appease.

UI/UX designers must think on their feet and critically evaluate the suitability of their products for all kinds of users, as well as being able to accept these criticisms and fine-tune processes. Seeing the pros and cons in your own work, meanwhile, is an important part of critical thinking ability.

16. Curiosity

Curiosity is an important skill for UI/UX designers to have, as this fosters ideas and ensures that interfaces and design are forward-thinking, useful and innovative.

Designers who are curious will not stop looking for new and exciting ways of doing things, and will often work more effectively with clients, as they would be receptive to customer ideas and ask the right questions to explore ways forward.

17. Empathy

Being a UI/UX designer chiefly involves understanding other people’s challenges with interfaces and working out solutions. To do this, designers need to see things from clients’ points of view. This might involve not seeing a problem first-hand but appreciating that other people might want different things from the product development process.

Empathy ensures UI/UX designers can work through projects with the most important stakeholder – the client – at the heart of their thought process.

18. Feedback

Giving feedback is an essential skill for every UI/UX designer. Designers need to give feedback to clients as to what can and cannot be done, and provide feedback to each other as projects are being worked on. Openness and honesty will ensure that complicated projects (and competing priorities) are worked on constructively.

Similarly, being able to take feedback and receive it well is another important skill to have.

19. Problem solving

The nature of UI/UX design involves figuring out challenges, and having proficiency in this area will ensure UI/UX designers can not only solve problems as and when they arise, but also pre-empt them and proactively adapt interfaces to challenges that might occur.

UI/UX designers, therefore, need to have excellent problem-solving ability to create programs and interfaces that can benefit users in the best way possible.

20. Time management

As a UI/UX designer, you will be working to many different deadlines all at once; therefore, effective time management is essential. Not only might you have to manage various projects in various stages of completion, but you’ll also need to manage clients and collaborators who will be relying on you for updates and communication.

Knowing how to prioritize all these tasks is a vital part of performing UI/UX design effectively.

How to improve your skills

UI/UX skills are dynamic, and reflect how quickly this industry changes and adapts to new trends and technologies. It’s vital that you keep up to date with your UI/UX skills; here are a few tips to do this.

1. Bookmark design resources

UI/UX design is all about inspiration, and what better way to upskill than reading up on UI/UX trends or bookmarking examples of innovative UI/UX examples that resonate with you?

2. Build a network

Connecting with fellow UI/UX designers can enable you to share best practices and collaboratively learn off each other, as well as be inspired by each other’s ideas.

3. Complete courses

There are plenty of opportunities to attend in-person or remote courses that allow you to brush up on your UI/UX skills. Many of these courses are cheap, or in some cases, free, and often accessible through websites like LinkedIn.

4. Follow UX experts

Following UI/UX design experts can provide you with not only a powerful network but also an excellent development resource where you can be inspired by and learn from the best in the industry.

5. Taking on imaginary projects

A great way to brush up on your UI/UX skills is to simply practice new techniques on make-believe projects. Here, you can put your creativity to work and safely try new ideas.

Final thoughts

UI/UX design is an industry that offers a lot of possibilities and great development. It’s a sought-after career that is becoming an ever more important aspect of how companies cater to customers.

There are many facets to UI/UX, meaning that roles in this field require a complex combination of hard and soft skills. The hard or technical skills can take time to train and master but are embedded in soft skills that can be naturally acquired over time.

UI/UX designers must participate in continuous professional development to ensure their skills do not become outdated. Improving these abilities does not need to take long, and is essential for UI/UX designers to remain competitive and at the forefront of their profession.

Finally, given how important UI/UX has become, it’s never too late to retrain and make a start in this exciting career.

Got any questions? Let us know in the comments section below.

Originally published on January 7, 2015.