Pixels with a Purpose: Some Soft Skills in UX

Macmillan Employee
Macmillan Employee
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Perhaps a career in UX is right for you, too!



User experience (UX) encapsulates how people interact with and feel when using any digital product. A UX designer often works with researchers, product managers, developers, and users to understand how to design seamless, engaging, useful, and hopefully delightful experiences.

I’ve always been curious about the impact of design and was inspired to pursue UX, specifically within the edtech field after interacting with young learners and, more specifically, special education students who couldn't necessarily vocalize their frustrations. I am fascinated with understanding how not only learners but also users learn, interact, and adapt to utilize tools. With a not-so-traditional background in biological sciences, teaching, and as a self-taught UX and visual designer, I would've loved to hear more about transferable skills that lead to success as a UX designer.

What I learned is that soft skills can vary based on the industry and specialization. After chatting with countless designers and designing myself, I’ve found that there are some specific skills and qualities which may suggest an aptitude for this field:

You're willing to embrace a user-centric design approach.

Having a sense of empathy should come naturally. Understanding user needs, wants, and frustrations is essential as both a UX researcher and designer. Any bootcamp will teach that, but it’s something that can often take a conscious effort and practice.

Focusing on discovery, a step in which pain points, goals, and the problem are defined, will help prioritize tasks and narrow down a broader scope. It may even indicate that there may be other solutions that aren't necessarily design-related. Be prepared to figure out a process that works for you, your team, and stakeholders.

You're willing to collaborate and accept feedback.

Taking into account user feedback is an integral part of the UX design process, but reaching out to designers as well as researchers and those on other teams can prove useful. Receiving and considering feedback early on, especially from those who are more senior, can save you time and effort and ultimately lead to better-informed designs. Sharing your progress, no matter how early, can also help you uncover similar initiatives already explored.

Being able to effectively communicate ideas, concepts, goals, and designs, especially to stakeholders and non-designers, is something that comes with practice and if done well, can set you apart. "Articulating Design Decisions" by Tom Greever is a must-read for all creatives.

You can go with the flow.

There are various UX design processes, but understanding that there is no one perfect process for every single project is important. Depending on user needs, business goals, time constraints, and more, the process can quickly shift. Staying adaptable and even being ready to let go of designs can be difficult but is just part of the process. Focus on embracing design thinking and not worrying too much about the details initially.

If you resonate with these qualities, you may have the potential to thrive in the field of UX! (There are of course technical skills that are needed.) To learn a bit more about the field, explore this page on NNGroup or check out this Starter Guide from Workshopper.

Although I have a ways to go, I’m grateful to have had a manager in the past who recognized my skills and introduced me to the intriguing world of user experience and for the brilliant UX team that I worked with at Macmillan Learning.

*One last point-

You’re willing to use a variety of tools.

I had no idea what to title this, so AI helped out.


Mariam Mughal

Mariam is a UX Designer based in the Dallas area. She interned with Macmillan Learning to research and design new features within Achieve to help students stay on track. She also loves planning events and travel itineraries, experimenting when baking and decorating cakes, and listening to audiobooks on long walks. You can find her portfolio at mariamsmughal.com.