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5 Essential Skills You Need To Get Started in UX Design

Ask enough people about what skills you need to be a UX designer, and you may find your head spinning. This in-demand career requires skill, technique, and a natural ability to design for the user. A study by Adobe found that 87 percent of managers said hiring more UX designers is the top priority for their organization, so know that your time spent learning UX is well worth it.

When you’re getting started in UX design, you can’t master every in-demand skill so there’s the question of pinpointing exactly what your learning and career goals are: Do you want to flesh out your portfolio with plenty of skills, or only focus on the few that will most likely get you hired?

Successfully designing UX can draw from your natural creativity, but there are other skills you need to cultivate. Use this list as a jumping-off point to develop your own roster of bankable qualities as you seek to get started in UX design.

1. Wireframing
Wireframing is the mapping stage where you start to design the app or site you have in mind. Think of it as an outline. As such, it's a critical skill to master since it will help you gain experience in taking projects all the way from start to finish. Wireframing is intended to “demonstrate functionality, features, content, and user flow” according to Michel Angeles. One great thing about wireframing is how accessible it is. Although tools like Adobe Illustrator and Balsamiq are useful, you can also accomplish wireframing tasks with just a simple pencil and pad of paper. However you do it, make sure to be thorough and review your work to ensure it makes sense.

2. Rapid Prototyping
Rapid prototyping is exactly what it sounds like: the process of quickly moving through several different working models of your product as it gets closer to looking and feeling like the final product. Where wireframing gives a basic structure and layout of a web product, a prototype behaves more like the actual product. Like wireframing, you can use Adobe Sketch to help your work along, but HTML and CSS can also be of use. A collaborative program like InVision can make it easy to create and share your test designs as well, an important factor for a large team.

3. User Research
A critical step in the process, user research is what ultimately enables to you iterate on your prototype before you come to your final product. There are many different tools to help you get user feedback, from survey programs to apps that capture specific input from your test audience. You'll need a firm idea of what you're measuring and should know whether or not your research will be remote. The good news is that you have no shortage of options and can get as narrow as your focus requires. Some possible tools for conducting user research include Usabilia, UX Recorder and Five Second Test.

4. Empathy
To truly capitalize on UX, a designer will have to have empathy for the users themselves. This may sound abstract, but it’s an essential trait for mastering UX. Consider how the user will be approaching a problem and base your design around this. Ask questions like, “what are our customers goals and how can our product help them accomplish those goals?”

5. Analytical Thinking
There's a good chance that you didn't get into design because you want to crunch mountains of data. However, even though it might not seem to have a direct relationship to the job, analytics is becoming essential to many types of web-based content, for the simple reason that it allows you a base upon which to build. As such, look for chances to learn how to use analytics tools and incorporate data-driven insights into your later work.