10 skills future UX designers will need to know
4 minutes read
The tech industry is about as fast paced as they come. New technologies, new products, new services and new ways of working appear at a phenomenal rate. What was true today won’t necessarily be true tomorrow, and what skills are required today are likely to need to change to meet future demands. Gazing into my crystal ball I’ve outlined 10 skills that I think all future UX designers will need to know.
1. Mobile & tablet design
As smart phones and tablets become more and more embedded into the fabric of peoples’ everyday lives it is clear that all future UX designers will need to be highly skilled in designing user experiences for an increasing range of mobile devices. Of course designing for mobile devices isn’t just about designing for a smaller screen, it’s also about considering the context and environment in which these devices are used, the difference that a touchscreen makes to interactions and even the different relationship that people have with their phone compared to their laptop. Trying to shoehorn an existing desktop design on to mobile simply won’t cut it for the future UX designer.
2. Responsive design
As responsive design becomes the defacto means of supporting multiple devices (whether the responsiveness is client side or server side), it’s important that UX designers become well versed in creating responsive designs. This will mean creating more modular designs, perhaps going straight from sketching to prototyping and getting away from the old wireframes to Photoshop PSDs mindset. It’s also becoming increasingly important for UX designers to understand more of the technical side of things. Which breakpoints should we consider? What is possible with CSS media queries? As designs become more fluid and responsive, there is a greater need to understand the techniques and mechanisms that are used to deliver and transform content.
3. Service design
According to Wikipedia, “Service design is the activity of planning and organising people, infrastructure, communication and material components of a service in order to improve its quality and the interaction between service provider and customers”. To put it another way, service design is basically all the stuff (including of course UX design) that is key to delivering a great service to users. But surely UX designers only need to worry about the UX stuff? Well they shouldn’t and in the future they won’t be able to just be concerned with the UX side of things. As soon as you start looking at the bigger picture you soon realise that the best UX design is always going to fail if the other pieces of the service puzzle are not in place. UX designers are increasingly looking at the end to end user journey and therefore it’s important that they are able to utilise service design tools and techniques, such as customer experience mapping to help design and map out the overall service.
4. Agile and lean UX
Agile and lean software development are both here to stay, and rightly so as they are an infinitely better way to design and build software when compared to the old school waterfall methods still beloved by many organisations. More and more UX designers are therefore finding themselves having to work within an agile environment, and to have to deal with the challenges and implications that this brings. The role of a UX designer is slightly different within an agile team as they are more of a design facilitator and conductor (minus the conductor’s baton and penguin suit), rather than just designer. The pace is also that bit quicker so being able to very rapidly conduct UX research and design is really important. For more about Agile UX check out my Tips for bringing UX to the Agile party article or take a look at the excellent Agile Experience Design book by Lindsay Ratcliffe and Marc McNeill.
5. Rapid prototyping
New versions of software used to be released every few years (and still are by some antiquated software providers). Now new versions are released every few months, if not every few weeks. For many websites updates are made on a daily basis! With the increasingly rapid pace of technology the emphasis should be on very quickly evaluating and iterating a design. It’s very hard to evaluate a design without a prototype, which is why rapid prototyping is a skillset that will need to be in every UX designer’s toolbox. A rapid prototype might be a simple paper prototype, a more elaborate prototype created with something like Axure, or indeed a coded prototype. UX design is all about interactions and these are much better evaluated and communicated using a prototype, rather than traditional annotated wireframes and visuals.
6. Participatory design
Participatory design involves not just opening the design process up to users (which after all is pretty important for user centred design), but opening it up to a much wider range of interested and involved parties. As organisations realise the importance of providing their customers with a great user experience, more and more people want to, and indeed need to be involved in the UX design process. UX designers will increasingly need to become skilled in running collaborative design workshops, in facilitating collaborative design sessions and in generally involving stakeholders from across an organisation.
7. Crowd sourced design
Crowd sourced design builds on participatory design by taking ideas and input from a much wider user base via the power of the Internet. Future UX designers will need to be able to harness the power of the crowd to help to inform and influence the UX design process. There are an increasing number of remote UX tools available, enabling everything from remote usability testing to the capture and discussion of feature ideas and user feedback. UX designers will therefore need to be skilled in not just dealing with users face-to-face, but increasingly online too. Take a look at the Remote research website for an excellent run down of the latest online and remote UX tools out there.
8. Persuasive design
In the future it won’t be enough that a website or app is easy to use and great to look at, it will need to be highly persuasive as well. UX designers will need to be skilled in the subtle art of persuasive design. They will need to know how to utilise psychology and persuasive techniques, such as scarcity, reciprocity and social proofing to nudge users to carry out desired actions. Booking.com is a great example of a site that utilising all sorts of persuasive design techniques to encourage people to book. For more about persuasive design take a look at the rather excellent book called Webs of Influence -The Psychology of Online Persuasion by Nathalie Nahai.
9. Business skills
Providing customers with a great user experience is finally a no-brainer in the vast majority of organisations (even Ryanair, the former bad boys of UX design have seen the light). As the importance and profile of UX design increases, UX designers will inevitably find themselves getting more and more involved in key business meetings, and rubbing shoulders with more and more big wigs within an organisation. Future UX designers will not just need great design skills, but great business skills too. They will need to be comfortable delivering presentations, writing business cases, dealing with key business stakeholders and handling the inevitable politics that are rife within most organisations.
10. User centred design
Good UX design will continue to come out of good user-centred design. This is why user centred design is a skill that all future UX designers will continue to need. The best UX designs come from really understanding users; from understanding their needs and from iterating designs based on user feedback. The sort of design challenges faced; design and research tools utilised; and user feedback mechanisms used might change, but the core user-centred design process will stay remain just as key in the future.
What do you think?
Now it’s over to you… Which skills do you think future UX designers will need? Do you disagree with any of the skills outlined above? Add a comment below to join the debate.