Good design is one of those things where you know it when you see it. One of the most frustrating things about design is that a lot of people think they can do it themselves. This is particularly true with UX Designers since the end user experience is so intuitive. Just because it seems like ‘common sense’ doesn’t mean that someone didn’t meticulously think through the details of each user flow.

In my experience, there are generally two types of people who think they can “do UX” themselves. Those who sweat the details, and those who don’t sweat anything at all.

Ingredients of a good designer: empathy, critical thinking, and cinnamon.

Ingredients of a good designer: empathy, critical thinking, and cinnamon.

So what makes a good designer so good?

Understanding user needs and behavior is one of the hallmarks of a good designer, but it’s impossible to understand every single kind of user that there is. Good designers recognize this and take steps towards understanding the most relevant user groups for their product.

A good designer knows their limitations and doesn’t just assume that they know what users need. If they do find themselves making assumptions, they recognize it. User research exists to combat assumptions around needs and motivations. Go get some facts.

(PS a good designer does not necessarily make a good researcher)

They understand the business goals and requirements and can prioritize around them

Digital products will always have a business goal. As much as we talk about it, it can’t be 100% about the user’s goals while not considering the business at all. User needs are incredibly important and are the core of the whole profession. However, they won’t really matter if it doesn’t end up driving business value.

Business requirements around technology are another huge factor in designing the user experience. For instance, if your proposed approach requires a brand new CMS that will cost a lot and change very little that’s not realistic. A good designer considers all three of these often conflicting needs: business, user, technology.

They know when to worry about task flows and design elements

Some task flows can be very straight forward and don’t require a designer to re-invent the wheel. Case in point: a standard log in. Tasks that seem straight forward to a non-designer can actually be intentionally tweaked to progress users through a flow.

What should and should not be tweaked depends on the context of the project. If there are budgetary or time restrictions the scope of the design needs to be reduced. The first things to go will be tasks that the designer can leave to ‘best practices’ or out of the box solutions. Knowing when to sweat the details is a sign of a good designer with experience.

They understand psychological triggers and how to apply them to encourage particular behaviors

Psychological triggers in UX design go way beyond calls to action and button colours. There is an entire theory around this: Fogg’s Behavioural Model. A good designer has a firm understanding of human psychology – after all, it is one of the foundations of UX Design. Understanding human psychology and the Behavioural Model contributes to user empathy.

User empathy is about understanding what the user is thinking and feeling when using the product or completing a task. The designer has put themselves in the user’s shoes and can design an appropriate trigger to encourage progress in the task flow. This might be a motivational video before the payment page to combat the idea that their charitable donation won’t make a difference.

A good designer has all of these skills and many more

These four are some of the most important skills for a UX Designer from a business perspective. A good designer will have a solid impact on the bottom line.