1. Clarity of Purpose
It’s never a bad idea to brush up on design fundamentals. From color theory to typography to UI and layout, these core skills are not only beneficial to your design practice, but they help you think about design on a higher level. Too often, designers fail to see the wood for the trees, focusing on the project at hand instead of a wider picture. The wider picture doesn’t mean your portfolio; it means the whole history, culture, and design context.
Despite the term, design fundamentals aren’t universal; they’re personal to you. For example, should you pair a script with a serif? Your answer is probably, “it depends” because you’re an awesome designer; my answer is “no,” because, for me, that is a design fundamental.
Design fundamentals can be limiting, but by providing default answers to common questions, they also free you to consider larger questions about what you’re doing and why, which leads to clarity of purpose. Many musicians can play multiple styles, but they tend to favor one instrument; they made a fundamental decision that freed them to explore music in greater depth.
2. Decision Making
Life is a series of decisions, from which pair of socks to wear to which crypto to store your life savings in. Each of us has a finite amount of decision-making fuel in the day — the more decisions you make, the sooner you reach decision fatigue.
Most people burn their decision-making fuel by second-guessing themselves; they make a decision and then remake the same decision over and over as doubt creeps in. The ability to make a decision, and stick to it, separates those people who still have the fuel to make strategic decisions after close of business and those people who can’t decide what to have for dinner.
3. Simple Presentation
No matter what field of design you’re in, you’re going to need to present your ideas to someone who doesn’t share your knowledge. Whether you’re explaining the basics to a client or explaining your decision-making to a colleague, presenting your ideas simply is the best way to be heard. Often, a persuasive presentation utilizes the less-is-more approach. Just as a design is finished when you’ve removed everything unnecessary, so too a pitch is most effective when you exclude extraneous detail.
Often you’ll find metaphor useful, especially if you have a passing knowledge of the person’s own area of expertise because it translates a concept into a format the person understands and is comfortable with. “We should…because it will improve [a metric] by approximately…%” is often the most welcome language. If the person you’re selling your decision needs more detail — and they probably don’t need to know details, that’s what they have you for — they can ask.
4. The Holy Trinity
I’m not talking about frameworks, libraries, or the latest build tools. Those things are just macros for coders. I’m talking about understanding the building blocks of a site, so if someone asks you whether you really need the company logo in the site footer, you can answer, and back your answer up with facts.
5. Strategic SEO
SEO (Search Engine Optimisation, for the two people in the world who don’t know what that acronym stands for) is a vast field with as many sub-divisions as there are UX job titles. There are various branches of SEO that a site needs to consider. Technical SEO is the stuff that coders do; if you’re not a coder, you can ignore that. Content SEO is the stuff that marketers do; if you’re not a marketer, you can ignore that. Strategic SEO is a macro-view of a site’s plans; everyone on every project should understand strategic SEO.
Strategic SEO covers topics like landing pages, single-page sites, whether a blog is necessary, how, if at all, social media is employed. Strategic SEO feeds all other branches of SEO. It is so fundamental that it informs the earliest decisions about a site. If you want to do more than make things look pretty, learn more about strategic SEO.