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3 Critical UX Skills to Improve

3 Critical UX Skills to Improve

jon pynes

By Jon Pynes

Curious about what it’s like to be a Kenzie Academy student? Jon Pynes, a UX design student, recently reflected on his first quarter in the program and the UX skills he’s learned. This post was originally published on Medium

I’m blessed to be a part of the User Experience (UX) Design program at Kenzie, as I take my first foray into the world of user experience. 

UX design is an enormous responsibility. A good experience can create a lifetime customer, while a bad experience can push that same person away. I’m working hard to learn the first principles in providing amazing experiences. As I continue to learn I will be focusing on these 3 things:

  1. Present in-progress work more often. This is important because you need outside feedback. You don’t know the things you don’t know.
  2. Crank out many more ultra-low fidelity solutions. This is important because you want to start out on a good path. You’ll need to make adjustments, but the least painful adjustments are made at the start.
  3. Prioritize tasks for maximum impact. Rank tasks so you work on the most important ones for the most time and the least important tasks for the least. This is important because it’s very easy to get into a habit of focusing on minutiae while neglecting the high impact activities.

Present in-progress work

Sharing work with someone for the express purpose of having them criticize it is the worst. Okay, public speaking is actually the worst, but critiques are up there for designers. While criticisms are uncomfortable, painful criticisms are usually the most important. You don’t want to continue with something that doesn’t work. That’s silly. It’s much more painful to have a failed final design than to have someone help point out the flaws before it’s too late.

“Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.” — The Princess Bride

In order to improve this skill, I think the best thing we can do is schedule reviews. If these aren’t scheduled they will be put off until the end. We want the reviews to inform our direction, not make us dejected right before presenting or launching our project.

The second thing we can do is come up with a mantra like, “I am grateful for the help, the design can die and be reborn.” I love the idea of a phoenix – the death and rebirth motif. Come up with your own mantra and schedule the damn review sessions at the beginning of the project. That’s how your final design rises up like a phoenix.

Crank out many more ultra-low fidelity solutions

Sometimes we want to create something and just get going because there’s so much to do. But, if we consider very few solutions to a problem, then the probability of having one that will work is low. I usually dislike math, but we get along when it’s on my side.

In order to get math on our side, we better crank out more than 1 solution. What’s the perfect number of low fidelity solutions? I don’t know. Some people have recommended at least 3. Here’s what I will try: work on solutions for 15 minutes before bed and then crank out another 15 minutes first thing in the morning. My end goal is to have a minimum of 9 sketched solutions.

Prioritize tasks for maximum impact

I was looking for a quote for the above section. I couldn’t find the one I wanted, but I spent 23 minutes perusing the web looking for it and getting distracted. This was a waste of time, I do this a lot. In order to improve, we’ll look at 2 things others have discovered for us.

First, Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto discovered that “for many outcomes, roughly 80% of consequences come from 20% of the causes.”

And secondly, let’s consider Parkinson’s law. It’s the adage that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” 

Focus on the 20% of tasks that actually matter and limit the window of time for their completion. While it’s easy to say “focus on the most important tasks and limit their time,” how does one actually go about this?

I have no way of telling the future and haven’t done UX long enough to have developed a data-informed system. 

This is roughly what the rules look like in a play-by-play:

First, I enter a moment of lucidity, I realize that I have spent 23 minutes searching for a quote, I stop and ask myself “How important is this?” I decide to move into the more important and more difficult task of finishing this article in a timely manner.

Designing a fantastic user experience is an enormous responsibility. I’m blessed to be an online student at Kenzie Academy. I’m learning the UX skills required to excel in this critical responsibility. As I continue into the final 3 quarters of Kenzie, these 3 areas will receive special attention.

  1. Present in-progress work more often by scheduling reviews and using my mantra to adjust my attitude toward them.
  2. Crank out many more ultra-low fidelity solutions. I’ll do this 15 minutes before bed and 15 minutes first thing in the morning, producing a minimum of 9 solutions.
  3. Prioritize tasks for maximum impact. I will rely on the principles observed by Pareto and Parkinson, to guide my usage of time and focus.

This is my game plan to become a successful UX Designer. What’s yours?

Want to learn more about UX skills needed to succeed as a designer? Check out these blogs:


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  • Date
    October 26, 2020
  • Posted In
    Student Stories
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