Henry Ford once said “If I asked my users what they wanted, they’d have said a faster horse.” 

If only he’d asked a UX designer, he’d have known not to ask what they want, but rather find out what they need. Most companies have figured this out. And that’s why it’s never been a better time to develop your UX design career.

Proving your mastery of UX can be difficult when more people seem to understand what you don’t do than what you can do. A deeper dig around what tech hiring managers (and UX experts themselves) are looking for shows that the best candidates have a blend of technical, research and communications skills. Assuming you know your toolsets, let’s take a look at the other qualities:

The ability to articulate your thinking

Nice visuals speak for themselves. UX isn’t self-evident – indeed, the best designs are practically invisible. Which is why you need to be able to explain exactly what you’re designing – and why – backed by data and experiential insight. Good UX designers are able to walk people through their processes in a way that’s both understandable and persuasive.

Park your ego

The best UX designers know it’s not about them – it’s mostly about the user and the problem. UX hiring managers are looking for people who can talk about and explain their work in terms of research, user profiles and use scenarios – not just tell them what a great portfolio they have.

Do your homework

What can you tell the hiring manager about their organisation’s current design – and can you point to specific aspects that can be improved on or might be limiting their overall success? Can you underline your expert opinion by explaining what makes your designs different, and why that difference is so important?

Knowledge beyond testing

Can you talk about real user research that you conducted before you developed your design strategy? Usability testing is about user response to design, it’s a reactive process. Can you demonstrate a proactive approach to UX design? Can you show how you used user research to explore different possibilities before refining and iterating the best user experience?

Look both ways

Your knowledge of standards and best practice is only as good as your ability to place things in context. Designer Peter Hornsby has written about how design standards can cause problems for user experience, specifically when designers try to substitute standards for good, old-fashioned research. Yesterday’s solution might be elegant, but might not address today’s problem. Your ability to learn from the past while being flexible enough to question how things can work now and in the future demonstrates your expertise.

Be responsive

It’s a multiple device world. Experiences break in different places on different devices. User requirements differ. Good UX designers can move with this fluidity and work with modular designs as well as being able to step away from wireframes and into rapid prototyping territory as needed.

User experience designers (and their colleagues on the UI side of the fence) have traditionally had a hard time explaining their roles to the uninitiated.

Because of the multi-disciplinary nature of their work, UX career paths have often suffered from a ‘jack-of-all-trades’ designation. Now that companies have figured out that there’s no point in building something people don’t want or can’t use, UX designers are in demand.