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  • Writer's pictureAriana Shives

Skills and qualities necessary to succeed as a UX designer

Updated: Dec 5, 2023

Here’s what you need to make it in an increasingly competitive field!

Image depicts a man wearing glasses standing over a desk with multiple UX-related items on it, including notes, the UX design process, sticky notes, wireframes, and a laptop. Another person (hidden) points at something on the desk.
Photo by UX Indonesia on Unsplash

Thinking about a career in UX but not convinced you have what it takes? As a UX designer, here are some of the skills and qualities I believe are crucial to surviving and thriving in this field:


Empathy is the foundation of UX design. As a UX designer, you must be able to understand the needs, behaviors, motivations, and pain points of your users. This is particularly difficult — and even more important — when your users can’t or won’t tell you those things explicitly, at which point you must have the ability to put yourself in their shoes and see things from their perspective. As I mentioned previously, empathy doesn’t have to come naturally to you, but you have to be willing to develop it as a skill in order to design solutions that meet your user’s needs and expectations.

Communication skills

As a UX designer, you’ll work with different people and teams, including product managers, developers, and stakeholders. Each of these requires a different kind of communication about your designs, goals, and analysis, so it is essential to have excellent communication skills in order to convey your ideas, concepts, and design solutions effectively. You should be able to articulate your thoughts, provide feedback, and present and document your designs clearly and concisely to multiple audiences.

Design thinking

I firmly believe that design thinking is a fundamental and vital part of the UX design process. A good UX designer should be able to apply design thinking to create user-centered solutions that meet the user’s needs.

Visual design skills

Unfortunately, one of the biggest things that holds potential designers back is a lack of visual design skills. UX courses and bootcamps often skip this step when teaching the UX design process, which is why I always recommend taking a graphic design course prior to any kind of UX design course. Visual design skills are imperative for creating visually appealing and easy-to-use interfaces. If you want to become an effective UX designer, you should have a good understanding of typography, color theory, layout, composition, and visual hierarchy. This is one of the most important, and yet most often overlooked, skills necessary for a strong career in UX design.

Technical skills

In addition to visual design skills, you’ll need to have a good understanding of the technical aspects of the products you’ll be designing. This includes knowledge of coding languages, web development tools, and design software. A basic understanding of coding languages such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript will help you communicate effectively with developers and understand the technical limitations and possibilities of your designs — you don’t necessarily need to know how to code, but you need to have enough of an understanding to create designs that your developers can work with. A basic understanding of the web development tools they’ll be working with will also help you communicate with your developers and design with them in mind.

Finally, you’ll need to understand the design software you’re working with. There are a few great options — Figma, Adobe XD, and Sketch are currently considered the industry standard tools. Which one you use might be up to your personal preference, but if you’re working on a team they may request that you use a particular one, so I recommend having a basic level of familiarity with all three.

Analytical skills

You’ll need to be able to analyze data from user research and usability testing in order to make informed design decisions. This requires the ability to gather and analyze user data, conduct usability tests, create user personas, and keep track of and analyze data and results, as well as to use everything you gather to make inferences, data-driven decisions, and recommendations.

Time management skills

Whether you’ll be working as a freelancer with complete control over your own schedule or for a boss who puts your entire day on your G Cal, your job will involve multiple tasks and deadlines. So it’s essential that you have excellent time management skills to ensure that you complete all your deliverables on time. This requires the ability to prioritize tasks, manage your workload effectively, and meet deadlines.


UX designers should be adaptable above all else. Tech culture has become more and more fast-paced and demanding and your tasks and deliverables might change day-to-day (or hour-to-hour). It’s important to remain flexible and cool under pressure and changing circumstances. You’ll also need to be open to feedback and amenable to changing your approach or designs at the direction of your users or stakeholders — even when it goes against what you think your design should look like. The design process involves lots of iteration and feedback and a good designer is able to adapt to changes and incorporate feedback. You’ll need to develop a willingness to learn, a growth mindset, and a thick skin.

A good UX designer should possess a combination of technical, analytical, communication, and design skills — but at the very core of your skills should be empathy. If you can master the art of understanding and empathizing with users, the rest of the skills I listed here are completely attainable as you begin your career. Don’t let this list scare you, let it motivate you!

Check out my ebook How to Become a UX Designer for more tips and information on getting your first UX job!


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