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The fallacy or reality of UX unicorns?

Mtha Ndlovu

November 2018

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With technology moving at such a rapidly fast pace, the competition in the recruitment landscape has become an immensely challenging task.

This complexity has given birth to the consolidation of roles within the UX design field as well as confusion in the marketplace. This article will help iron out the endless debates on whether UX Designers should possess multiple skills-set within their arsenal.

Over the past few years, we have seen the coining of the term “UX Unicorn”. We all know for a fact that unicorns only exist in children's story books right?. So the question that comes to mind is:

Do unicorns actually exist in the physical UX world?

The answer to that question is a resounding Yes, they do exist. To put it out plainly, a UX unicorn is an individual that is able to wear many hats and are usually good at all disciplines of UX design work. In a nutshell, these unique skills include:

  • Data analytics, User research & Usability testing
  • User Journeys, Task Flow analysis
  • Persuasive Design, Interactive Prototyping
  • Information Design, Visual Design
  • Collaboration and Coding.

Wow! So when will you find the time to put all these skills to practice?

The good news is that Rome was not built in a day, and the same applies to UX Unicorns. With that been said, it does take a lot of time to become good at everything in the UX field. Seeing that UX unicorns are well sought after individuals, they make great team leaders.

Their broad skill-sets enables them to take on any UX project and help make important design and development decisions for the team.

The UX unicorn is that square-shaped User Experience Designer that has a good understanding of the skill-sets mentioned above. They go a step further than the traditional t-shaped individuals because they know alot, if not all that comprises of the UX design process.

Seeing that unicorns are a rare breed of professionals within our industry, it has become a daunting task for employers to find a UX unicorn that is readily available right off the bat. It is of great importance to note that UX unicorns are just mere human beings just like everyone else involved within a product development project as they have their moments of weakness.

So what are the risks of having a UX Unicorn onboard and are they really worth the money?

Forcing one person to do all the areas of UX design is a recipe for getting a mediocre product. Yes, UX unicorns may be good at practicing all the above mentioned areas of UX design.

UX unicorns would not be as finely polished in some of the specialist roles such as researchers, visual designers, information architects and content strategist, just name a few.

UX unicorns are a jack of all trades and master of none, just like how decathlon athletes are like as opposed to specialist shot-put, high jump and 100m athletes. They may be able to the 100m event, not as well as the Usain Bolt.

So at the end of the day, hiring a team of specials would reap out the best end results for the product.

I sincerely hope that you enjoyed reading this piece. Feel free to comment and let me know of your thoughts and opinions. You are also welcome to read more of our articles on our Articles page

Mtha Ndlovu