If you want better chances of landing your first or next UX job, you need a competitive skillset. But what makes a competitive skillset? We analyzed 90 UX job descriptions and interviewed 12 senior designers to pinpoint the most sought-after hard and soft skills in a UX designer in 2024. Below, we’ll list them alongside short descriptions to clarify what’s actually required of you:
I. Hard skills
If you’re looking to boost your chances of getting hired, you need to set yourself apart with a strong toolbox. When speaking solely of “getting hired” hard skills weigh more. This is because they are easier to screen for during the hiring process with design exercises or through the case studies in your portfolio.
Please note that you don’t need to acquire all these skills to land a job. Instead, you should strive to pick up and develop a competitive and distinctive toolbox that compliments your existing skills.
1. Design systems
Design systems are all the rage. Everybody wants one, especially since leading tech companies started publishing theirs. So it’s no surprise that most recent UX job descriptions mention working with or building design systems. Understandably so, since – if done right! – design systems can save an incredible amount of time. So, put some effort into examining all the available examples and try creating one for yourself or your current job for the valuable experience.
2. Visual design (UI)
UX designers are trying very hard to separate UI and UX (for a good reason), but it’s just not happening. At this point, the sensible thing to do is to develop UX and UI skills simultaneously, as most companies consider it a package. Is it fair? No. But if you want to have a smoother ride to the next stage in your career, you need to focus on the realities of the industry instead of a utopia. So, you should start polishing your UI design skills.
3. Data analysis
Most products collect an incredible amount of data, yet only use a very small percentage of it. You can differentiate yourself by developing the necessary skills to dig deeper for more insights that inform better decisions product-wide. Acquiring these skills (as well as the data) takes time. However, having this in your toolbox can make you indispensable. If you know how to find and interpret data, and you also know what data you’ll need in the future you’ll be the designer who everyone goes to.
4. Information architecture
Information architecture (IA) is one of those sleeper skills, that’s way too underrated in UX circles but comes with huge advantages. IA means organizing information in a way that’s easy to find, understand, and use. Working with basic IA principles in mind will result in a much better user experience but there’s more to it! Being good with IA will also help you build better design systems and presentations, and also make you a better communicator. These are crucial skills for career development in UX design.
5. UX writing
Becoming an effective UX writer is achievable even for those who are not confident in their writing skills (especially today, with the power of AI). And this is a fact, so there are no excuses. UX writing is about being straightforward and descriptive. It’s not poetry. You take a message and shave it down to its absolute clearest and shortest. You can do this on your own with iterative AI prompts or through practice.
Most digital products come with micro-interactions that are just as important for UX as for decorative reasons. Knowing how to design these interactions is an extremely valuable skill, that not many designers have. Now, you don’t need to become an After Effects expert. However, knowing how to create basic, popular interactions will make your designs way more impressive and it’ll also lead to smoother design-dev collaboration/handovers (, which is one of the most valuable soft skills to have).
7. HTML/CSS basics
Though designers don’t have to code, knowing the limitations and possibilities of HTML/CSS is something that can have a huge impact on design-dev collaboration. What’s more, you should also keep an eye out for CSS developments, as it will widen your horizon as a designer, by inspiring you. You should regularly check sites like Awwwards, Codepen, Behnace, and Musli to keep yourself aware of possibilities and to encourage innovation within your team.
8. User research
With research, we have a similar situation as with UI design. Most companies don’t hire separate UX researchers as they consider it part of the designer’s tasks. Most of us are not happy about this, but this is our industry’s reality, especially in the era of mass layoffs. Therefore, you should work on your user research skills and (especially) collecting experience.
There’s basic prototyping then there’s pro-level prototyping. Pro-level prototyping means fully functional prototypes. These allow you to collect precise insights during user tests. With better insights, you make better design decisions, need less iteration, and ultimately save time. Also, high-fidelity prototypes look more impressive and make for a clearer picture team-wide. Therefore, they’ll make you look better.
10. User testing
This goes without saying, so let’s focus on presenting user test findings. The mistake most designers make is that they cannot convey the importance and influence of user testing during meetings, let alone interviews. You must be prepared with very specific examples of how user testing affected the outcome of your design. And remember: design leads don’t care about scenarios when everything went right. They want to hear about cases when you had assumptions that were proven wrong and how you used the results to proceed. Before going to an interview, think and prepare stories of such experiences in detail.
II. Soft skills
If hard skills get you hired, soft skills will help you keep the job. Developing soft skills takes experience, feedback, and self-work. And, unfortunately, some people are just better equipped with these than others. But with ample introspection, self-awareness, and effort, everyone can improve on these:
11. Business acumen
The cold hard truth is that everything you do in a for-profit company is for profit. The faster you understand this the better. For the most part, great UX drives profit. However, sometimes you need to realize when your vision doesn’t align with business goals and do what’s best for business. The more experience you have, the clearer it’ll be to you, that this is one of the most valuable skills a designer can have.
The banana peel of inexperienced UX designers is collaboration. Though most of them consider themselves good collaborators, they don’t actually know what it means to be one. The foundation of good collaboration is good listening and comprehension skills. What we’ll see is that junior designers are super excited and full of ideas. So much so, that they forget that they should listen to people around them, which is detrimental to collaboration. What’s more, you also need to have the skills to communicate your ideas to people of various backgrounds, fields, etc. This sometimes requires deliberate code-switching, time, and patience. So learn to read the room and be as receptive to other’s ideas as you would expect them to be to yours.
This might be a controversial one, but that doesn’t change how true it is. The design field is riding trends. Whether you like these or not, as a designer it’s part of your job to put your taste aside, keep yourself in the know, and examine trends like a clinician. Most companies want to appear modern and trendy so if there’s a design trend sweeping the internet, you should be familiar with it and ready to experiment with it if necessary.
14 Continuous learning
As you can see from this list, there are many skills that you can add to your toolbox to make yourself increasingly marketable and valuable. Nobody starts with all of these skills under their belt. However, with continuous learning and curiosity, you can expand your skillset to a point where you can be confident about your marketability and value as a designer, which is an amazing position to be in.
How to use this list
It’s one thing to know and acquire what’s expected of you, and it’s another to present it in a way that gets you what you expect. When you’re applying for a job, you have to optimize your entire application package so it resonates with the job you’re applying for. Here’s how you can do it:
1. UX skills in your resume
Before sending your resume, you should optimize it for the job you’re applying for. This is a pretty simple process. You should begin by analyzing the job description. Highlight every hard and soft skill mentioned in the description. Based on these, you can edit and reorder your skills and experience on your UX designer resume. There’s no need to lie. It’s all about optimal presentation and wording.
2. UX skills in your portfolio
When choosing projects for your UX portfolio, you should go for the ones that highlight the widest range of your skills, especially those in demand. Depending on your experience, you can approach this from two sides:
- Include fewer but longer projects/case studies that showcase a wide range of skills individually.
- Include more but shorter projects/case studies that showcase different skills.
When presenting a skill, whether it’s a soft or hard skill, you should always focus on why you applied that particular skill and how it affected the outcome. If it’s a visual skill, you should dedicate ample space to present deliverables in the most fitting fashion (carousel, grid, video, gif, etc.) In UXfolio, you have a wide range of flexible sections to choose from to present various skills, including interactive prototypes, galleries, videos, and more.
3. UX skills during your interview
Before you go to an interview you should think about specific cases when you had to apply the skills that differentiate you from other applicants. To better communicate these, you should note down the whole story for yourself touching on these crucial questions and points:
- What was the problem at hand?
- What were your options?
- Why did you choose to go down that specific route?
- How did you validate your choices?
- How did your design/process change based on feedback and tests?
- What were the quantifiable results of your solution (if there were any)?
- What feedback did you get on your solution (if qualitative)?
Following the above tips will boost your chances of landing a job in the increasingly competitive field of UX design. Remember: if you have a specific career trajectory in mind, create a plan that’s tailored to that. There’s no uniform plan for succeeding in UX, besides continuous learning and improvement.