One of the best parts of becoming a UX designer is that you can immerse yourself in a wide variety of work. From research to interface design, UX professionals get to be both analytical and creative, and many enjoy working as UX generalists.
However, there are a few specialized skills that you can acquire to take your UX career to the next level. All UX designers can conduct research, run tests, and make wireframes, but only some UX designers can create virtual reality experiences, work with voice design, or write exceptional microcopy.
Gaining additional skills makes you a more competitive candidate during your UX job search. Growing your skillset can also make you a better team player, and it can help you find a rewarding niche tailored to your passions.
If you’re ready to master your craft as a UX designer, try one of these 5 specialized UX skills. With these guacamole ingredients, you’re in for an extra-zesty career!
While Agile/Scrum workflows are common in engineering and software development, many different types of teams can adopt an Agile or Scrum approach, including UX designers.
What is Agile?
Agile is a production strategy used in software development. It embraces an iterative mindset and encourages working through stages of revisions to build an effective product.
Rather than trying to deliver a finished product all at once at the end of a project, Agile developers deliver newly-made software incrementally, creating room for feedback throughout the process.
What is Scrum?
Scrum is one popular type of Agile workflow. Scrum involves working on close-knit teams and conducting “sprints” to crank out high-quality work in record time. Scrum and Agile methods both emphasize learning by doing, working in teams, and promoting continuous improvement.
Agile was developed for software engineers, and there is much debate about how well Agile translates to UX design workflows. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth learning!
Incorporating Agile/Scrum strategies into your UX team allows developers to provide feedback earlier in the design process. Potential problems and setbacks can be addressed before they derail a project late in the prototyping stage. Additionally, working together on a Scrum team helps UX designers and developers learn from one another.
By getting familiar with Agile/Scrum workflows, you’ll set yourself apart from other UX designers in any applicant pool. You’ll be a stronger team player and well-prepped to collaborate with software developers before, during, and after handoff.
Learn Agile/Scrum for UX:
Agile and Scrum techniques come with a lot of jargon that can seem complex, especially to outsiders. To start learning Agile terminology, check out online learning resources, like Atlassian’s Agile Coach or this Scrum Glossary. We also have an Avocademy Design Masterclass: Agile for UX/UI Designers coming soon!
Once you’ve read up on the basics, try incorporating Agile/Scrum techniques in your daily workflow. This is the hard part. Mastering the Agile technique takes time, but with patience, it can help you be more efficient and effective as a designer.
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What is Voice UX?
People all over the world are using voice assistants more and more. In 2020, there were an estimated 4.2 billion voice assistants in use, and that number is expected to skyrocket to over 8 billion by 2024!
With Siris and Alexas (and other voice tools) set to outnumber us humans, it’s not surprising that demand for voice UX designers is also rising.
Generally, voice design involves analyzing the natural patterns of human speech and carefully observing how users interact with voice tools. As a UX designer that specializes in voice tech, you’ll craft potential conversations by mapping flows through the user’s questions and device’s answers. Much like normal UX, you’ll strive to identify user problems and help build information hierarchies within the voice tool’s collection of responses to help them find a solution.
Voice UX is somewhat uncharted territory. The technology is still rather flawed, but UX designers can play a key role in making voice assistants more intuitive and user-friendly. By learning voice UX, you can influence the future of this burgeoning tech and help establish best practices.
Learn Voice UX:
Luckily, voice design involves many familiar UX processes, like conducting research, crafting user personas, and running tests. The main difference is the medium.
To become a voice UX designer, start learning key concepts with books, like Designing Voice User Interfaces by Cathy Pearl. Many online UX bootcamps also offer short courses specifically for learning voice UX.
As with all UX design skills, the very best way to learn voice UX is by giving it a try! The sooner you can get your hands on a voice UX project, the sooner you’ll gain the skill. Consider embarking on a self-guided project, or reach out to a UX mentor for project inspiration.
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Like voice technology, augmented reality and virtual reality technologies are growing in popularity. While we may associate VR with the entertainment and gaming industries, virtual reality is the next frontier for interaction design across all industries. From medicine to travel to business, the applications (and implications) for virtual reality are nearly endless.
First, a clarification: virtual reality refers to a total inundation experience, where the user sees entirely unreal surroundings through some gadget or digital lens. An example of virtual reality might be an immersive Oculus video game.
In comparison, augmented reality provides a view of the real world, but with extra digital elements. A Snapchat filter is a great example of augmented reality.
Currently, UX designers in the VR/AR industry work to make user’s interactions with their “unreal” creations as seamless as possible. They strive to make the experience immersive, explorable, interactive, and believable.
Today’s users are still somewhat unfamiliar with virtual reality experiences, and so UX designers must ensure that users are safe and comfortable throughout the experience.
UX designers in VR/AR might complete projects like:
Even when working with virtual reality technology, the UX designer’s main objective is constant: They still strive to help users achieve their goal with a solution-oriented product.
Learn AR/VR Design:
If you haven’t already, start by playing around with VR/AR tools. You’ll probably struggle to create virtual environments without exploring one yourself! You can try the Google Cardboard viewer to turn your phone into a VR machine for less than $15.
After playing around a bit, we suggest the usual method for learning any new UX concept: doing some reading, taking affordable online UX courses to learn the key concepts, and then jumping into a project! Check out this curated list of resources from the UX of VR to get started.
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While some UX designers consider themselves wordsmiths, many detest creating copy. UX pros would rather do the fun stuff, like solving puzzles with research or playing around with visual design tools.
However, whether we like it or not, writing is a huge part of creating a good user experience. Words are the signposts that guide users through an interface and the vehicle for answering some of their toughest questions.
If you want to take your UX career to the next level, polish your writing skills. UX writers are in high demand, and they can make great salaries, with an average base pay over $100,000 a year.
As a UX writer, you’ll use language as a method for making a user’s experience with a product more efficient and enjoyable. Unlike other types of writing, UX writing should be as concise and simple as possible.
Successful UX writing is part of the design itself. It becomes “invisible” to the user—they don’t notice what they’re reading because they are too busy accomplishing their task!
Important note: UX writers, UX copywriters, and general copywriters are not the same thing. UX writers craft the copy that goes in the product, such as buttons, labels, instructions, and more. Copywriters write content about the product, often to be used for marketing emails and blogs. UX copywriters might do a little of both, but if the role is a true UX position, the primary responsibilities should focus on crafting helpful in-product text.
Learn UX Writing:
Start by paying attention to the writing in products you use every day. Are there instances when the text seems “invisible”? Do you notice when text is confusing or awkward?
While you’re observing, check these great UX writing resources to learn more key concepts.
Next, start a text-based project to dig into the world of UX writing. Don’t be afraid to iterate on your UX copy to see what language works best. Once you’re on a roll, seek out a mentor who can provide honest feedback.
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If you’re a UX designer, you know that prototyping is part of the package. It’s pretty typical for UX design generalists to craft low fidelity and high fidelity prototypes before handing off their work to developers.
However, most UX designers only brush the surface of prototyping. Too often, we rush through low-fidelity prototyping and miss opportunities to fix small problems before they become big problems.
At the high-fidelity stage, we also fall into the trap of relying on a few design staples and never exploring the impressive array of interactions at our fingertips. Design tools like Figma and Sketch offer powerful, beautiful ways to take your designs (and prototypes) to the next level.
Learning more advanced prototyping comes with many benefits. Better prototypes mean better, more accurate user testing opportunities. The closer you get your design to the real thing, the easier it will be to observe how users will interact with the finished product.
With a stronger understanding of prototyping, you’ll also be prepared to craft well-oiled designs that help reduce time and stress for your development team. Becoming an expert at all stages of prototyping is a great way to incorporate developer and user feedback earlier and more often.
Finally, exceptional high-fidelity prototypes are a great tool for impressing stakeholders and potential investors. If you want to win over your boss and your users before the product is even complete, advanced prototyping is the skill you need!
Learn Advanced UX Prototyping:
Already a UX designer? Start honing your prototyping skills by building more time for it in your existing UX workflow. Sometimes, UXers on a deadline rush the later stages of the design process, which leaves little room for prototype experimentation. If you can, spend more time iterating on your prototypes!
If you’re still a UX newbie or just looking for more structured instruction, you can explore UX prototyping courses. Here at Avocademy, we’re working to create a new Design Masterclass in Advanced Prototyping for UX/UI Designers!
You can also read through the vast tutorial libraries that design tools provide, such as these helpful prototyping tips from Figma’s blog. As always, get feedback from your UX mentors to stay focused as you grow your prototyping skillset.
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It’s time for less talking, more guac-ing.
If you want to take your UX career to the next level by gaining a new skill, we recommend these steps:
While these 5 advanced UX specializations are in high demand, there are many other niche competencies you can explore. For instance, you could become exceptionally knowledgeable in any of the core areas of UX design, such as user research, information architecture, or user testing.
You can also hone your creative skills by learning more animation or visual design skills. That’s the beauty of UX; there’s something for everyone! All it takes is curiosity and patience.
We love UX design, and we love helping people discover new skills. Whether you’re new to UX design or looking to level up your UX career with a specialization, schedule a mentorship session today.