Should UX Designers Know Code Too?

ux designers learn code
Should UX Designers know code too? I’ve been involved in corporate web design for almost 20 years and have never needed to. But that’s changing this week.

I finally bit the bullet and signed up for a web development course on Udemy. I’m excited to dive in and explore what’s possible. It’s taken me a while to get brave enough to take the leap, but I think it will be worth it to sharpen my skills. In this post I’ll explain why I’m doing it and, if you’re a UX designer, why you might also want to head in this direction.

Constant Change

One thing that stays the same about the web is that it constantly changes. It’s an ongoing challenge to keep up with current technologies, especially as more and different web-enabled devices become available. While I’ve always had a basic working knowledge of front end HTML/CSS/Javascript and back end web technologies, I think a refresher is in order.

Thankfully I’ve always been curious about how code works. In the late 90’s and early 2000’s I experimented a lot building my own websites from scratch in Dreamweaver and using online templates. Then a few years later I launched this site in WordPress. But so much has changed since then. While most of the UX design process must indeed focus on the end user, I believe it’s more important than ever to also understand what’s under the digital design hood.

You Complete Me

When working with web teams I’m usually paired up with a tech lead and a design lead. Working with these brilliant people over the years has allowed me to pick up a lot of web design best practices. But it also means there are sometimes gaps in my knowledge. It’s time to fix that.

While I realize that taking an introductory web development course won’t make me an expert developer, learning to code should lead to more productive discussions with my colleagues. The more you understand about how something works, the more likely it is that you can create a realistic vision of the final product. Effective collaboration is critical to building the best product possible. So anything I can do to improve communication with my teammates is worth it.

Are You A Unicorn?

The internet has basically become the modern day equivalent of the telephone dial tone. A 24/7 web presence is expected for any business to be taken seriously, so if you’re not online you’re not here.

That means more and more clients are looking for turnkey solutions. They want a web designer and developer all in one package. So it may also make a lot of business sense for UX designers to learn how to code. 

Someone who can design and build a website or app from soup to nuts is called a “unicorn” in our industry. These so-called unicorns are elusive and exist in the far reaches of the web. I’ve only met one so far, but I believe it will be the trend moving forward. Just having a little bit of unicorn ability might make the difference between snagging your next client and getting left behind.

Keeping Perspective

Lastly, Matthew McGain over at UX Mastery put together a great explainer video that explores this topic in even more detail. I watched it several times as I mulled over my decision to formally learn coding skills. It helped a lot.

So, do you think UX designers should learn how to code? Take a look and let me know in the comments.

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5 Responses to Should UX Designers Know Code Too?

  1. Ben MillerNo Gravatar February 4, 2015 at 11:23 pm #

    Good thoughts! I love the idea of making the area of different practices a little more blurred. Understanding the different capabilities of the people that you’re working with from a departmental standpoint really helps the cohesiveness in executing great projects. I try to integrate the same philosophies in my work as well and I think clients really appreciate it!

  2. Mary February 5, 2015 at 6:33 am #

    Thanks Ben! I’m really enjoying the course so far. It’s The Complete Web Developer Course by Rob Percival. PS – Congrats on your new site. It looks great!


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