Essential skills to enter Product Design
As an entry-level product designer, what skill to focus on now, next, and explore later?
Question: Budi, what skills should I learn if I want to be a Product Designer?
First, focus on interface design and problem-solving.
Next, explore product thinking.
Later, consider facilitation skills and decision-making.
The reason I prioritize it this way is to make it practical. You can learn many things, but you can’t learn everything at once. In this post, I focus on basic skills to get you functioning at an entry-level. There are other skills I don’t mention here that I hope you'll stumble upon as you work.
Focus on the interface design and execution skills first.
Typically, an entry-level product designer is responsible for creating a flow that helps users accomplish their tasks and ensure it is visually appealing. You should focus on both to make the interface function well and looks good. Here’s a pointer: In the industry, you can search “usability” as the primary term to learn how to make the interface intuitive and user-friendly.
A few recommendations to develop interface design:
Develop an eye and taste by building a library of interfaces you like. For me, I use Google Slides and dump the screenshot.
Pick your favorite app, choose one major flow, and try to redesign it.
Read Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug
Watch Intro to the Design of Everyday Thing by Don Norman via Udacity
Right away, improve your problem-solving skill
You need to learn about problem-solving in general. At least you can make a distinction between the symptom, the consequence, and the root causes. If your team can tackle the root causes, the product your team builds could potentially become more useful and valuable for users.
A few recommendations to develop problem-solving:
Read Problem Solving 101 by Ken Watanabe
Read What’s your problem? by Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg - so you can develop muscle on how to analyze the root causes and reframe the problem
Read The Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick - so you can develop a muscle on how to ask good questions
Read my simple thread about root cause analysis & apply it. Look at the problem around you and write down the problem so that people who read it can understand the problem. Then try to analyze what causes it (root causes) by asking why is this happens?
Next, explore product thinking
What’s the real user problem? How do we know if we solve it? What’s the success look like? What outcome are we trying to achieve? These are questions you’ll stumble upon later in your journey.
Product thinking will enable you to help your team articulate good outcomes for the user and the business. As a result, your team will focus on the outcome, not the feature.
By mastering a product thinking skill, you’ll help the team find opportunity areas to achieve the objective. This will get you closer to becoming more strategic. But most importantly, the product thinking will help you build the experience more intentionally, so your team can achieve the user and business outcomes.
A few recommendations to develop product thinking:
Read Escaping the Build Trap by Melissa Perry
Read Working Backwards by Colin Bryar
Read Inspired by Marty Cagan
Later, consider facilitation skills and decision-making
As you progress in your career, you’ll need to collaborate with a lot of people. It’s good to explore your ability to facilitate the discussion with the team. I wrote a few posts on my blog: here, here, and here.
Later, as you become more senior in your role, you’ll be accountable for some decision-making. You’ll need to make the decision even when the information is incomplete. Also, you have to be aware of biases, so you don’t fall into a fallacy in the dialogue and the decision-making process.
You can book a paid 1-1 mentoring session if you’re interested in talking further about this and contextualizing it with your condition and challenge.
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