The Soft Skills of Exceptional UX Professionals

Ever dreamed of becoming a top-tier fashion designer, crafting runway-worthy collections that turn heads? Anyone else or is it just me? Well, before you start sketching those haute couture designs, consider this: it’s not all about sewing skills and fabric choices. The real fashion icons don’t just create stunning garments; they weave stories through their designs, establishing an emotional connection with their audience that turns fashion into art. They conjure up clothing that is tailor made for people who yearn to express themselves.

So, what can UX designers learn from these fashionistas? The lesson is crystal clear: blend soft skills seamlessly with your technical expertise for a winning combination.

As UX designers, we’re no strangers to honing our hard skills—the technical know-how that gets your foot in the door. But what about the softer side of things? The non specialized intangibles that not only land you the job but keep you thriving in it. These are the skills that breathe life into your designs, empower your team to thrive, and ensure the longevity of your career.

First, you’ve got the famous soft skills—the ones you’ll spot in every job description, the tried-and-tested keys that unlock opportunities. Then, there are the hidden gems—the skills that might not always make it to the bullet points but are the true backbone of your day-to-day success. We’re going to highlight both groups ensuring your success as a UX designer extends beyond mere survival to true flourishing.

The Essential Soft Skills

Critical Thinking

Much like how road signs provide guidance on the highway, critical thinking serves as the GPS in UX design, consistently steering us in the correct direction. It serves as the cornerstone of problem-solving, enabling designers to navigate the labyrinth of user needs and preferences effectively. Critical thinking goes beyond surface-level observation; it’s about diving deep into the intricacies of a design problem, analyzing it from multiple angles, and crafting innovative solutions that address both the obvious and subtle pain points.

Consider a UX designer improving an ecommerce website’s checkout process. A typical approach streamlines steps for speed, but a critical thinker delves deeper. They use user research to find cart abandonment due to trust issues with payment security. The critical thinker suggests not just a streamlined checkout but trust-building elements like security badges and transparent payment processes.

However, critical thinking is just one piece of the puzzle. In UX/UI design, it seamlessly intertwines with the all important soft skill of communication. While critical thinking equips designers with the ability to dissect complex issues and generate innovative solutions, it’s effective communication that allows these insights and ideas to flourish within a collaborative team environment.

Communication & Collaboration

UX/UI design is fundamentally about communication. It’s a silent conversation that starts with stakeholders, including users, managers, sales, support, and more. Every design element conveys a message, just like words in a conversation. Buttons signal actions, colors evoke emotions, and layouts provide structure.

Much like effective verbal communication relies on tone and context, UI design employs visual elements to engage users, deliver information, and facilitate interactions. It’s a language of design that directly addresses user needs and expectations, making communication an essential skill for UX/UI designers.

UX/UI designers are akin to bridge builders, connecting the dots between fellow designers, end-users, engineers, and managers. However, they can’t construct the system in isolation. Collaboration and sometimes negotiation with team members are necessary to implement research or design improvements.


UX designers often find themselves wearing multiple hats on a day to day basis. They serve as competitor analysts, product managers, visual experts, researchers, and accessibility specialists, all within the same role. Your work goes far beyond simply prototypes.

A career in the domain of UX design is fast-paced, influenced by constantly-evolving technologies, and the ever-changing behaviors of users. The strategies that worked in the past aren’t guaranteed to serve you in the present. Attaining long term success as a professional in this field comes at the expense of your stubbornness and resistance to change. Fostering the ability to think on your feet isn’t just an advantage, but a necessity.

The COVID-19 pandemic led to a major shift in UX design, especially in restaurant apps. Initially designed for in-person dining, these apps rapidly adapted to support takeout and delivery services amid global lockdowns. UX designers reworked user journeys, incorporating features like contactless ordering and real-time delivery tracking.

This adaptation not only improved the user experience but also played a crucial role in sustaining restaurants and customer connections during uncertain times, highlighting the adaptability and versatility of UX design in addressing evolving challenges.

The Hidden Gems


Much like the construction of Rome, building meaningful UX/UI requires far more than just a day’s effort. The building of iconic structures like the Colosseum, Pantheon, and the intricate road networks demonstrated high levels of patience and long-term planning. These projects often took years, if not decades, to complete, reflecting their commitment to enduring infrastructure.

This is the nature of work in any field of design. The route to the finish line isn’t always straightforward, it’s more like a maze. The path to completion is paved with countless iterations, each stemming from the valuable feedback of stakeholders with diverse perspectives.

Input from various members of your team -which can be contradictory- paired along with revisions galore is a recipe for frustration. Without patience, you’ll grow weary of staring at the same screen for years. Enduring the rigamarole of product design may ultimately lead to a better design outcome.


Contrary to common misconceptions, UX/UI design goes beyond just the end users. It revolves around attaining a balance between the consumer’s expectations and the demands of particular higher ups within the company. Product teams are often eager to push their big new features, sales teams are focused on positive revenue strategies, while users seek the simplicity of a one-button solution to address their problems.

Designers not only need to wear multiple hats, they also need to be able to put themselves into the shoes of others. Empathy helps designers consider the diverse needs of users, including those with disabilities or from different cultural backgrounds. This promotes inclusive design that accommodates a wider range of users.

For example, when the sales team wants to include more prominent monetization prompts in the interface, empathetic designers work to find stasis that doesn’t negatively affect revenue goals or the user experience. For those of you looking to learn more about this, we have an article detailing our experiences in creating applications for children, where gamification and micro transactions played significant roles.

Ethical Awareness

As budding UX/UI designers, it’s wise to recognize that while businesses have their needs, you play a paramount role in protecting the user’s interests. You’re pretty much a lifeguard preventing corporate interests from drowning out user welfare. Of course, companies need to thrive financially, but your mission is to ensure that the product remains ethical and user-centric.

Imagine you’re working on a social media platform, and the marketing team proposes implementing addictive features that encourage users to spend more time on the platform, potentially at the expense of their mental health and well-being. Your responsibility as a UX designer is to advocate for user-centric design principles, suggesting alternative engagement strategies that enhance user satisfaction without compromising their mental health.

This insight draws inspiration from our previous write-up on the delicate balance between creativity and ethics. As guardians of the user experience, UX designers must remain vigilant about the ethical implications of their work, considering how design choices impact users’ well-being, accessibility, and data privacy.


All in all, mastering these soft skills will enhance your professional journey as well as enrich your ability to make a lasting impact as a UX designer. Remember, it’s the combination of technical expertise and these essential soft skills that truly sets you apart in the field.

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Gcinizwi Dlamini Avatar

Gcinizwi Dlamini / Content Writing Intern @ Phase

Writer, part time super-hero and mint chocolate ice cream advocate.