9 free online courses to learn the top skills for UX design

SOURCE: Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty Images for WIRED25 / AFP
Known for his creative eye, architectural designer Jony Ive (left) is known for designing Apple products such as the iPhone, iPad, MacBook, iMac and parts of the user interface of iOS.

By Shekinah Kannan 

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With technology permeating just about every facet of life, UX design has never been more important. UX design aims to fulfil a users needs by creating a positive human-device experience.

Often referred to as “user interface design” or “usability,” it involves the entire design process of acquiring and integrating the product, including aspects of branding, design, usability and function. In our world of smartphones, tablets , smart TVs, and laptops, companies need great UX designers to help them stand out from the crowd.

Since the field of UX design is user-centred – designers do not just focus on creating products that are usable — they concentrate on other aspects of the user experience, such as pleasure, efficiency and fun too, notes the Interaction Design Foundation.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics does not have specific details relating to UX designers, but notes that web developers and digital designers, which loosely covers UX design, is projected to grow eight percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. “Demand will be driven by the continued popularity of mobile devices and e-commerce,” it said.

Reports suggest UX design professionals can earn up to US$74,000 a year. Designing web and user interfaces has its challenges, which makes it essential that you have the right skills that will help you infiltrate the field.

According to Coursera, these are some of the top skills aspiring UX designers will need hone for a successful career:

Prototyping, wireframing, user flows, mockups

“A huge part of the product development process is envisioning what a product will look like. Depending on the stage of development, you might do this by creating wireframes, low or high-fidelity prototypes, mockups, or user flows,” notes Coursera.

For the uninitiated, a wireframe is a web page layout stripped of visual design used to prioritise page elements based on user needs. A prototype is a sample or simulation of a final product used to test and gather feedback. Low-fidelity prototypes might be sketched on paper while high-fidelity prototypes are typically computer-based and allow for mouse and keyboard interaction.

A user flow is a diagram that maps out each step a user takes when using a product or service while a mockup is a realistic visual model of what a final webpage or application will look like.

“Prototypes and mockups often require special UX software. If you’re just getting started, consider working with a free option, like Origami Studio. Popular paid prototyping tools, like InVision, Sketch, or Adobe XD, typically come with a free trial that allows you to design some prototypes without having to subscribe,” notes Coursera.

Recommended free course: Design and Develop a Website using Figma and CSS


Visual design / design software

All UX designers are bound to use visual design software such as Figma, Sketch, Photoshop, and Illustrator to create the visual elements of a product. Apart from getting accustomed to these tools, you will need to get accustomed to the best practices of visual design. This will include upskilling in typography, colour theory, layout, icons, and general design theory.

Recommended free course: Create and Design Digital Products using Canva

User research and usability testing

Understanding users is essential in UX design. This is where research comes in handy. To become an in-the-know designer you will need to conduct the right type of user research for the product or feature you’re strategising. In the process of developing prototypes, you’ll come to find that this practice will help you validate your design choices. 

The skill is critical that some companies are even hiring UX researchers to join their team and focus solely on sharing key findings.

Recommended free course: Using Google Forms to Analyze User Research Data


Agile is a set of project management practices, based on an iterative approach to building a project – used commonly in the software development world. Understanding it is key for UX designers as many software development teams adopt the agile methodology. 

Recommended free course: Agile Project: Product Prototype Touchpoint Analysis in Miro

Information architecture

Information architecture (IA) revolves around effective organising and structuring content – both of which UX designers take into account. IA is used to help users find the information they are looking for. Since UX design comprises crafting enjoyable digital journeys, mastering this skill is crucial.

Recommended free course: Streamline User Experience Flow with Sitemaps in Miro

Application development

While writing code is the job of a developer, understanding the basics can help UX designers tremendously. By picking up on simple frameworks and languages such as JavaScript, CSS, and HTML, you’ll be able to communicate with your team better; expand your toolkit, possibly move into UX engineering or development; and more.

Recommended free course: Introduction to Javascript: The Basics


Soft skills

Technical skills are essential for every UX designer, but so are soft skills. Aspiring professional will need to master the art of collaboration as UX designers frequently work in teams. 

They will also need to communicate effectively to get more valuable data from customers and present their ideas to stakeholders. 

Time management are just as important. While it depends on the project or task, companies will always appreciate UX designers who can manage their time and prioritise critical matters. Once these professionals find their footing, they might even find themselves juggling multiple projects at once.

Coursera offers a number of soft skills courses on their platform — click here for details.