It’s an exciting time to get started in user experience design (UX design). Popular job site Glassdoor listed “UX designer” as one of their 50 Best Jobs in America for 2021 based on job satisfaction, earning potential, and job openings .
There’s more than one path toward becoming a UX designer. Showing that you have the right set of skills is often key to getting hired. But what are those skills?
To find out, we reviewed UX designer job listings on LinkedIn to find the skills most frequently included in job descriptions (as of April 2021). Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Peloton, IBM, Playstation, Tesla, Adobe, and Visa are among the companies hiring for these skills.
UX designers use a combination of technical skills and soft skills in their design work. Some of these skills are specific to the world of UI/UX, while others are more general. Chances are you already have skills that will transfer into a new career in UX design.
A huge part of the product development process is envisioning what a product will look like. Depending on the stage of development, you might do this by creating wireframes, low or high-fidelity prototypes, mockups, or user flows. Let’s define these terms.
Wireframe: A web page layout stripped of visual design used to prioritize page elements based on user needs
Prototype: A sample or simulation of a final product used to test and gather feedback. Low-fidelity prototypes might be sketched on paper and don’t allow user interaction. High-fidelity prototypes are typically computer-based and allow for mouse and keyboard interaction.
Mockup: A realistic visual model of what a final webpage or application will look like
User flow: A diagram that maps out each step a user takes when using a product or service
These elements of interaction design are hands-on skills that require practice. Luckily, you can get started with a pen and paper. Practice sketching out wireframes and user flows for an app or site you already use frequently to get familiar with the components.
Prototypes and mockups often require special UX software. If you’re just getting started, consider working with a free option, like Origami Studio. Popular paid prototyping tools, like InVision, Sketch, or Adobe XD, typically come with a free trial that allows you to design some prototypes without having to subscribe.
Both UX designers and UI designers use visual design software, like Figma, Sketch, Photoshop, and Illustrator, to create the visual elements of a product. Besides proficiency in the tools, you should build your knowledge of visual design best practices for things like typography, color theory, layout, icons, and general design theory.
To design a product that solves a user problem, meets a user need, or generally delights a user, you first need to understand who that user is. That’s where user research comes into play.
Conducting the right type of user research for the product or feature you’re designing can empower you to make a product even better. As you develop prototypes, you’ll conduct user testing to validate your design choices. Knowing how to iterate through these two user-centric phases can help make you a more effective designer.
This skill is so critical that some companies have a specialized role on their UX team known as the UX researcher.
Agile, a set of project management practices popular in the software development world, is based on an iterative approach to building a product. Since many software development teams use the agile methodology, it would make sense that UX designers could benefit from an understanding of this popular product management approach as well.
UX and agile have begun to overlap to the point that there’s a term for it—agile UX design. While you don’t need to know every detail of project management to be a UX designer, you can enhance your resume by knowing the basics. Read more in our beginner’s guide to agile development.
Information architecture (IA) involves effectively organizing and structuring content. When designed well, IA helps users find the information they’re looking for or complete their task. UX designers can facilitate this by making it easy for users to understand where they are, where they need to go, and what’s next.
If you’re new to information architecture, start out by studying some common website IA patterns. Much like you did with wireframing, you can also practice by creating a sitemap of a website or app you enjoy. Do this a few times, and try to identify the elements that lead to good IA.
Understanding how applications are developed can help you as a UX designer in a few ways:
You’ll have more realistic expectations of what’s possible in your design.
You’ll be able to better communicate and collaborate with the development team.
You might be more marketable in small startup companies that hire for a wider range of skills.
You’ll have basic coding skills should you choose to move into UX engineering or UI development.
As a UX designer, you’ll be collaborating with other teams on a regular basis. Depending on the project and phase of development, you might work with leadership to define business goals, user interface (UI) designers to add visual elements to a mockup or high-fidelity prototype, or developers to translate your designs into code.
Working as part of a team also means knowing how to give and receive feedback and incorporate new ideas on how to make the best possible product.
Communication and collaboration go hand in hand. And it’s not just your team you’ll need to communicate with. Strong communications skills help you to get more valuable data from customers when conducting user research and build enthusiasm in stakeholders when presenting your designs. Good UX often relies on effective visual communication and written communication (UX writing) as well.
Companies are often looking for UX designers who can manage their time and prioritize tasks to address the most critical needs first. You might be working on multiple projects (or multiple parts of the same project) over the course of a day. Practice staying organized and flexible in your current tasks, and you’ll set yourself up for success in the world of UX design.
You probably already have some of these skills. Others might be new to you. Either way, you have several options for developing your UX design skill set. Your efforts could end up giving you a competitive advantage when it comes time to apply for jobs.
Enroll in a UX design course for a more structured approach to skill development. General UX courses might touch on several of the skills mentioned above. You’ll also find niche courses targeting individual skills. Look for courses that include group projects to develop collaboration and communication skills. Browse our full library of user experience courses from leading universities.
To start building job-ready UX design skills in less than six months, consider earning your Google UX Design Professional Certificate on Coursera. You don’t need a degree or any prior experience, and you’ll cover skills like wireframing, prototyping, user research, usability testing, and design software.
As you build foundational and more advanced UX skills, subscribe to a few top UX blogs and podcasts to keep yourself informed on the latest trends. You can learn a lot from the wealth of free UX resources out there.
Sometimes we learn better by doing. If you’re ready to start practicing some of the UX design skills mentioned above, here are some Guided Projects on Coursera that you can complete in under two hours with no special software required.
Prototyping: Design and Develop a Website using Figma and CSS
Visual design: Create and Design Digital Products using Canva
User research: Using Google Forms to Analyze User Research Data
Information architecture: Streamline User Experience Flow with Sitemaps in Miro
Communication: Google Slides Tutorial for Informative Presentations
Getting a job as a UX designer is often about showing recruiters and hiring managers what you’re capable of. As you add new skills to your UX tool belt, remember to add them to your resume as well. You can find some tips on how to tailor your resume to the role you want here.
As you prepare for job interviews, practice some specific stories about times when you’ve used these skills in a previous job, course, or even a personal project.
Take the next step toward a career as a UX designer by enrolling for free in the Google UX Design Professional Certificate on Coursera. Experience for yourself what UX design is all about with a seven-day free trial.
1. Glassdoor. "50 Best Jobs in America for 2021, https://www.glassdoor.com/List/Best-Jobs-in-America-LST_KQ0,20.htm." Accessed May 5, 2021.