12 most underrated skills that'll make you a rockstar in digital experiences
What skills do you really need when working with websites, design, and digital marketing? See if you’re still on top of your game.
When working with digital experiences it’s fairly obvious that you have to have some proficiency in digital media and marketing, and to be able to read and write.
But the times they are a changin’, and you need to stay updated on what skills you need not just now, but in the future of digital experiences as well.
Here are the 12 most underrated skills that will make you a leading star in the digital experience scene.
Surprised to see this one here? Just doing things automatically because that’s the way they “always” have been done is a bad habit. Every now and then you should pause, zoom out, and think. Think about what you’re trying to accomplish and why, and whether or not your current activities support or detract from your stated mission.
You don’t have time for this, you say? Then you should regard this a serious red flag in your life. You should ALWAYS have time to evaluate and reconsider your position. How else are you going to learn from your eventual mistakes and keep on moving forward? Also, as Inc.com writes: work smarter, not harder!
A rockstar should choose the right CMS. Let our checklist help you:
There’s no use producing all glitter and gold if you can’t be found by potential customers. Having skills in search engine optimisation, SEO, doesn’t necessarily entail that you have detailed knowledge of all the technical ins and outs, Google algorithms, and other maddening stuff.
First and foremost: Write and create content for humans, not for search engines, crawlers, or spiders. If a human can easily read and understand your content, chances are that a machine can too—probably even more efficient in some ways.
However, it doesn’t hurt to research keywords, search engine page results, URLs, pillar pages, quality content, meta descriptions, speed optimisation, and other snacks that the SEO gurus at Moz talk about. But, as a rule of thumb, if you have quality content and have control over your metadata, you’re already way ahead.
3. Inbound marketing
Digital experiences is all about creating awesome and delightful experiences for your visitors and customers. To know how to pull this magic trick off, you need more than knowledge of zeroes and ones. This is where a marketing background can come in handy, and some familiarity with inbound marketing.
Inbound marketing is a marketing strategy that aims for a holistic experience for your target groups, from being unknown visitors to happy and promoting customers. This is achieved through various mechanisms and processes, like the inbound methodology, sales funnel, buyer personas, workflows, blog posts, premium contents, and emails, all fueled by marketing automation software.
If you haven’t heard about inbound marketing, we suggest you start educating yourself about it at HubSpot, one of the pioneers in the field.
4. Front-end/back-end development
We get it, not everyone is suited for programming, either if it’s front-end or back-end. But having at least a cursory knowledge of the topic can help you tremendously. When you’re working in e.g. a CMS, you will quickly know which colleague or agency to contact if you run into a bug, and you will appreciate their work even more.
Gaining more knowledge about software and digital technology will further aid your rockstardom in digital experiences as you now will know the possibilities that are present in your web platform. Maybe you one day get a bright idea for a solution and notify your developers? Be courageous! But again: you don’t have to be a hardcore coder to draw upon these advantages.
5. CMS skills
It is easy to overlook the obvious: To rock digital experiences you usually have to work with a content management system in some form or another. Being savvy with such CMS tools might consequently be taken for granted.
But teaching yourself complex tools is in fact no easy matter. Sporting great CMS skills involve understanding the essential structure and operations of the CMS, as well as understanding the differences between page-orientation and content-orientation, and content and presentation. Knowing exactly how a given CMS works, including all relevant strengths and weaknesses, is a major factor in succeeding as a digital experience lead.
Read more: The history of CMS – what has happened?
6. Technical interest
Closely aligned with the previous point is that you should have a technical interest. It sort of spells itself out: digital experiences professional—to be a digital rockstar you need to be DIGITAL in one way or another.
An obvious perk in having a technical interest is that you one day might need to be able to adapt quickly to new technology and tools. If you’ve kept yourself in the dark, you won’t be able to rise and shine in the light. In other words: Pay attention to trends and development, and maintain a healthy interest for all that fancy tech that’s out there. Be curious!
7. Design and design systems
Another skill you might put to good use is design. No, we don’t mean you should go back to school to get an education in design, but you should know what design entails.
Being able to use Photoshop or other tools for basic tasks saves both you and your design team a lot of time, as you no longer have to send an images or a video back and forth in an already busy workday. Also, having an understanding of basic design elements, colour theory, the golden ratio, and so on enables you to speak with designers and improve upon your collaboration.
Not only should you have an eye for design and some skills with design tools—today you should also make yourself familiar with the concept of design system. A design system gathers both visual and functional elements in one place—i.e. logos, colours, brand compliant images and ready-made code to implement these elements in your digital experiences.
Understanding what a design system is and how it can both strengthen and protect your brand is paramount for digital professionals.
Be inspired: Best practices for building a design system »
8. Information architecture
This sounds like a heavy thing to get invested in, but hear us out. “Information architecture” only means that you should be able to see the whole picture, in this case of your organisation’s digital experiences.
Gaining and maintaining this skill allows you to more carefully assess the structure of content in your web platform, as well as review organisational matters. The latter can help you in determining whether or not your organisation consists of bottlenecks which strangle your efforts in digital marketing.
9. Project management
And speaking of organisational matters, to be able to manage projects is also a skill that cannot be emphasized enough. Running smooth operations and projects requires a person with analytical skills and a faculty to see the big picture, thus ensuring the effective management of projects.
Modern project managers employ the agile method in their workplace, which essentially consists of having regular, informal meetings, launch so-called “sprints” where all team members iterate their work, before everyone meets again to assess—then repeat. Managing others is, however, not your most important project. You are yourself a project, and in order to think clearly and be a team leader (basically a rockstar) you have to stay in full control of your goals, plans, and operations.
You may start to see a pattern here. Once again the present point is closely linked to the previous one, as you can’t manage projects without a firm strategy. A strategy is not just a fancy concept, it’s the stated, long term goals and executions you, your team, and your organisation are working towards.
Strategic skills enables you to see ahead and plan accordingly—e.g. what should you prepare for, what scenarios are you likely to encounter, and what should you do then? A digital strategy should be aligned to the marketing strategy, which again should align closely to the overall business strategy. Having the skill to control and maintain all these factors will make you even better at delivering top-notch KPIs.
Accessibility isn't just about being inclusive to people with disabilities. While this certainly is what any serious organisation would strive for in the name of decency, accessibility actually poses as an advantage for your digital strategy.
Making your digital experiences accessible to a broader range of people is a gold mine for search engine optimisation. Major search engines rank accessible pages and apps higher—thus increasing potential leads and revenue.
Teaching yourself some basic accessibility tenets and adhering to government regulation is part of the new reality for digital professionals. You better catch up now.
Learn more: Accessibility in Enonic XP »
12. … Reading and writing
Although we mentioned this in the introduction as a no-brainer, there is and will always be demand for people being able to read a wide assortment of literature, and to use literary devices in their writing. Poor writing combined with poor understanding of how the web works will fill our digital world with so much bad content that it will be hard or impossible to navigate in a sea of dirt, so to speak.
So, pick up a book, read, read some more, and write—then write some more. It’s good practice and fun, and it’s necessary in order to market the product or solution you’re supposed to market.
This list of underrated skills in digital experiences is in no way exhaustive, but they do indicate an essential point in all creative endeavours: Think, be curious, be courageous, be flexible, see the big picture, and practice your skills every day!
This blog post was first published 17 December 2018, and has been updated and republished 16 September 2019.