Last week I went to Sapient Nitro for another talk, this time by Andy Budd, Jason Mesut and Aline Baeck. They were talking about their own opinions on how to define a great user experience designer, and gave the crowd a lot of opportunity for questions and discussion. It was a good chance for me to learn, understanding the mountain I have to climb to be a good user experience designer.
The key quality in a great ux designer was passion. They all agreed that the person had to really care about the end user’s experience across all touchpoints of the project. They would be keen to learn and empathetic, getting involved in the detail as well as having a strong understanding of the overarching goal.
Interestingly, within all of the three presentations about what it takes to be good at ux, not one of them listed good wireframing skills or even hard skills at all as the most important aspect. It was agreed across the board that soft skills were much more important – things like teamwork, empathy, pragmatism and people skills. Jason had a slide showing the breakdown of his opinion of the priorities for a good UX designer that he’d shown in 2005, which was very interesting for me, as I think I’m quite good at a number of the soft skills but it’s the hard skills I lack the practice in. Both Andy and Jason were keen to explain that the hard skills can be taught and within their own agencies they would hire someone with good soft skills over someone with only the hard skills.
The next few questions were about how to put across your soft skills in an interview. It’s hard to explain your insight in an interview and much easier to show the outcome of the work than the process that developed it. Again, they all emphasised the need to show your working process, the good ideas with the ones that didn’t make the cut. It’s the ideas that are important.
We finished with a final piece of advice that I’ll try to develop: to be a good UX designer, keep sketching, and try to find a mentor to work with if at all possible.
Event link: http://july2012event.eventbrite.com/