When it comes to design, be it website design or designing digital products, there are two tools that rise above the rest. Are these tools related to process? Software? Collaboration? I’d argue that crowning a specific process or a shiny piece of software is inherently flawed. Let me explain.

At Ample, we have evolved our process to include many helpful practices including design thinking exercises, user testing, discovery workshops, and more. While all of these exercises lead to great, more strategic products, we only recently began to implement them. Because, as we know, industry standards are always changing, adapting, and evolving.

The same can be said for software. Not too long ago, the only design software tools for digital were ones made for illustration and photo editing. Thankfully, standards have changed in the software industry too, to include Sketch, Figma, and XD. And, while evolving processes and software are great for our industry, the two design tools I want to discuss are far more fundamental.

UX design tool #1: Listening

The preeminent tool in your kit? Listening. Why? Well...hear me out. 

Active listening should be a life-long part of your professional development plan. It’s that important. Being able to pick up what’s said, what’s not said, and the nuances between the two is the foundation for all your research, collaboration, and work. Your understanding of business goals will not only influence your ability to hit the deadline within budget but will also determine if the solution will meet the needs of the user.

Follow these pointers to help you become a better listener:

  • Come prepared to meetings so that you can engage in the conversation. If you can, give yourself a few minutes of rest before a meeting starts. If your thoughts won’t let you focus, jot them down on a Post-it. This simple act will prevent repetitive thought patterns that might prevent you from transitioning to the meeting at hand.
  • Let curiosity drive your attentiveness.
  • Listen from the perspective of your user whenever possible, as this breeds empathy.
  • Silence the interruptions; wherever you are, be there…fully. (Easier said than done, of course.)

UX design tool #2: Asking questions

Like a designer is to black-rimmed glasses, listening is to questions: a package deal. Asking questions is how listening becomes active. It’s where your curiosity can take root, keeping you focused and engaged. This will, in turn, convey an open mindset to those participating in the conversation. And, at least for me, formulating and asking good questions improves my capacity to retain information. 

Here’s some insights around asking questions to consider:

  • Don’t simply summarize a concept or idea. Try to paraphrase with meaning instead of repeating words verbatim. This shows that you grasp what’s said and understand the “why.”
  • If anything is unclear to you, ask questions that drive clarity. Confusion leads to ungrounded work. Don’t walk away wondering.
  • Post-meeting follow-up questions are common practice. Sometimes the best question arises the minute your discussion ends.

The best thing about these tools?  They are both free, and both can be learned and honed. Think about the last time someone deeply listened to you. How did it make you feel? Great, right? These skills lead to building trust – a cornerstone of killer collaboration with your clients and your team.

Speaking of killer collaboration, Ample is always on the lookout for creative talent. Even when our Careers page doesn’t list any open positions, we’re always down to cultivate relationships that might lead to future employment. If that sounds intriguing, connect with us. Trust me, we’ll hear you out.

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