Must-have UX skills (and a few to give you a leg up)

When it comes to usability testing, did you know that testing with just five users can find up to 85% of the issues? I didn’t either until I started working with User Experience (UX) candidates a few years ago. They opened my eyes to all kinds of nuances of this fascinating and fast-growing field.


UX is a very specialized role that demands an expert. And that’s why these professionals are in such high demand. Being in UX requires a unique set of hard and soft skills that are quite diverse, and sometimes, it’s like looking for a unicorn.


But, over the years I’ve found, UX unicorns do exist. And all of them have the following must-have skills that landed them their UX gig.

1. Information architecture and site mapping.

This is a must-have skill for any UX professional. You need to be able to understand where to put information on a website to make it accessible but also to where it makes sense. For example, you wouldn’t try to sell a shoe in the washer and dryer part of the Costco website. It’s like reading a book, you have to put the information in the right order.

2. You must know how to wireframe in a UX role, period.

With lo-fi wireframes – sketching out apps or laying out a website – you’re completing wireframes for every single frame that you’ll have. Wireframes are used early in the development process to establish the basic structure of a page before visuals and content are added.

3. Usability testing and research knowledge.

Having qualitative and quantitative research skills as well as knowing how to conduct usability tests with your users is imperative. Research is done at the beginning and then usability testing is done to test the prototype (after you code it out). This step in the process is to ensure there are no hiccups navigating from one page to the other. At the end of the day, the app/website/product needs to be usable. And as a UX professional, that’s part of your responsibilities.

4. Project management.

You need to have project management skills, but not necessarily be a project manager. Being able to work in an agile team and manage an entire project on your own requires these skills. You need to be the one creating the project plan, so you can be sure it incorporates the appropriate UX tasks.

5. How to create a case study.

Case studies – examples of your design work – need to be a part of your UX portfolio to market yourself as a UXer. And, in most cases with my clients, you either must have one or be willing to put one together to apply for a UX job. Case studies not only showcase your design skills but give hiring managers vital insights into how you think and how you handle problems. They may seem time-consuming but having them will be valuable for your career in the long run.

6. Communication skills.

UXers must be able to convey ideas, explain their thinking behind designs and work well with other teams. Good communication skills help UXers create, collaborate, adapt and improve products and systems easily and effectively. Their work also requires storytelling abilities to some extent.

7. Empathy for the user.

When working in UX, you need to be able to check your ego at the door and step into the shoes of the user. Empathizing helps UXers look deeper into situations in a way that helps them think and create solutions for problems. If there is no or low empathy, the disconnection between UX professionals and the user will show in the outcome of the designs.


While the following aren’t must-have skills for UX professionals, they are ones that can give you a leg up on the competition. So, maybe it’s time to learn a new skill? Then, make yourself that much more marketable to companies.

Nice-to-know skills

1. Front-end development knowledge.

While you don’t have to be an expert coder, having knowledge of front-end development will give you an advantage. Having these skills means you can create your own prototypes instead of having to depend on and pass it on to a developer. This is good for testing purposes or during research so that you can keep the process running smoothly without relying on a development team. It’s also good to be able to speak the development team’s language.

2. Page layout and interface design.

Usually, a User Interface (UI) Designer would be responsible for the page layout and interface design, not a UX professional. But, it’s a nice-to-have skill if you want to be a UX/UI hybrid. Typically, when you’re more on the visual side of a UX position, you label yourself a UI/UX designer and if you’re more on the UX side, you label yourself as a UX/UI designer. Having an eye for design is important, but not necessarily at the level of a graphic designer.

3. Accessibility testing.

This type of testing is a somewhat new focus for larger companies, especially consumer-facing companies. As a result, they are looking for UXers who understand design with accessibility in mind. If you have those skills, you’re going to have an advantage in this industry. More of the need for accessibility testing is on the West coast simply because technology is further along out there. But it will come to the East coast eventually, so get ready!


I regularly recruit for UX roles, so please reach out to me if you’re looking for a position in this field. Or check out our other creative roles on our job board!



About the author

Madison Jinks has been a Creative Recruiter for Synergis for the last three years and was recently promoted to Creative Recruiter II. She connects candidates with their next dream job in the creative space. She specifically focuses on recruiting for UX/UI, social media & marketing positions. To stay on top of industry trends, she frequently participates in networking events around the metro-Atlanta area. Madison graduated from the University of Alabama with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. In her free time, she likes spending time with her dog, Prancer, and cheer on the Crimson Tide.

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