What tools should a user experience designer learn beyond theoretical knowledge of cognitive psychology and a solid foundation in internet/mobile best practices?

This is a really difficult question because of the breadth of the field.  Since UX can’t be pinned down to any one, singular entity the questions about what tools are best to know is not easy to answer.  Additionally, since many companies require a UX designer to be a hybrid, the question becomes even more difficult.

There is one obvious tool that every web/mobile ux designer should know and that’s a mockup tool.  Mockups or wireframes or whatever the new buzz word is for them is another way of saying blueprint.  Websites, like buildings, begin with blueprints.   Blueprinting tools are Axure (the best in my opinion), Visio, Just in Mind, Balsamiq, a few others.  Axure is the best in the industry, but since none of these tools are overly complex learning more than one is a good idea.

Since UX is somewhat of a connector between graphic design and programming, or at least it could be theoretically, it’s good to have a handle on what tools folks in these sectors are using.  Understanding some aspects of the Adobe Creative Suite, especially Fireworks, can be useful.  Additionally, working knowledge of HTML, CSS, and possibly JQuery or Javascript can come in handy.  Understanding how cumbersome interactive design can be for a programmer and later how heavy it will be for a user is often a way to help craft better experiences.  The same is true for graphics.  Sometimes graphics can be heavy and weigh down a web page.  They can reduce loading times.  Knowing enough to simply tell a graphic designer that according to analytics users who will potentially use this website have slow computers and thus require minimal graphics is important.

In general however, I’d love to hear what tools others who read this blog are using and whether they think graphic design and programming tools are important to them.

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