Should UX designers learn how to code? According to Brittany Bellanca, UX Design Instructor at DigitalCrafts, the answer is usually yes! Brittany shares the top programming languages that UX designers should have in their skill toolbox, examples of coding on the job as a designer, and what to expect in a career as a UX engineer. Plus, learn how DigitalCrafts is preparing UX design students for today’s design jobs with collaborative coding projects that include coding!
UX designers make everyday products, services, and technology as user-friendly and accessible as possible. UX design focuses on the interactions and flow behind the elements of an interface. For example, a UX designer is responsible for deciding how a button should perform when a user clicks it and where the click should take the user. Drawing upon user research, psychology and design, UX designers focus on more than usability—they also make products efficient and fun to use, too.
A UX designer does not need to know how to code, but a UX designer does need to understand the code that goes into product development. Since both developers and designers work together on product teams, they should speak each other's language. That shared fluency enhances the team dynamic and the product creation, making everything more seamless.
Designers design with users in mind to create an impactful product. These designs live on paper or in a design app, like Figma. But designers need developers to bring these ideas to life. And without UX designers, developers can get something built, but users might not enjoy the experience.
Real World Example: Coding on the Job as a UX Designer
It's common for cross-functional product teams to contain a product manager, a UX designer, and 1-2 developers. The product managers handle the scope of the work and distribute it across the team. UX designers research and design processes to create a solution or idea that meets requirements, then consult with the team’s developers along the way to ensure their design ideas are feasible.
While building a product, the UX designer should be able to refer to parts of a web application in specific terms. A designer might say, for example, "I need to adjust the React component with the class name of hybrid," so the developer understands what they’re talking about.
UX designers should also have a mental model of what's going on with the data in their product flows. If they have a date displayed in the wrong time zone, the questions they need to ask could be, How are we sending the data from the front end of the website to the back end in a database? or What can I do as a UX designer to display the data correctly?
Designing for Accessibility
Some UX roles do not require coding, especially within very large companies, but in the vast majority of cases, knowing how to code as a UX designer makes you more employable. If a UX designer can bring their prototype to life on the web, they’re going to get bonus points in their job interviews or when being considered for promotion. UX designers who understand some coding will get pushed above other applicants without those skills.
Are there specific jobs that require design and programming skills?
Yes! UX engineers know both the UX side of the job as well as front end development. Smaller startups may require coding skills of their UX designers until the company grows and can offer more specialized positions.
A UX engineer is a bridge between UX/UI designers and developers. UX engineers understand the processes and the decisions that create a pleasant experience for the user while also being able to code it and bring designs to life.
What are the differences between a UX engineer and a front end developer?
Do UX design students build projects with the programming languages they learn?
Find out more and read DigitalCrafts reviews on Course Report. This article was produced by the Course Report team in partnership with DigitalCrafts.
Jess Feldman is the Content Manager at Course Report. As a lifelong learner, Jess is passionate about education — She loves learning and sharing insights about tech bootcamps and career changes with the Course Report community. Jess received a M.F.A. in Writing from the University of New Hampshire and lives in southern Maine.
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