Guide


Do UX Designers Need to Know How to Code?

By Jess Feldman
Last Updated August 24, 2021

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!

Meet the Expert: Brittany from DigitalCrafts

  • Brittany Bellanca is a UX Design Instructor at DigitalCrafts
  • Brittany began her career as a public educator but soon discovered she could merge her passions for psychology and design into UX Design.

What is UX design?

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.

Why should UX designers learn how to code?

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. 

Programming Languages for UX Designers

In the current design field, it would be most advantageous for UX designers to learn front end languages like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. There are a number of reasons why.

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

Both designers and developers should be aware of accessibility in the products and websites that they design and build. There's a Mozilla learning resource on accessibility that walks users through different aspects of HTML, CSS, and Javascript, focusing on designing accessible products. 

UX Designers Who Know How to Code: The Career Path

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. 

What is UX Engineering?

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?

A UX engineer is like a specialized front end developer. Both roles have similar skill sets in HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and React, but the UX engineer also has broad knowledge of user experience. While the front end developer may focus strictly on coding, the UX engineer focuses on coding as it enhances the user experience.

Learning How to Code as a UX Designer at DigitalCrafts

At DigitalCrafts, our goal for our UX design students is for them to understand what's going on in the code driving the app, so that they can effectively communicate within their team. Our UX Design curriculum covers HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. We also introduce back end topics, like databases and APIs, so our bootcamp graduates can have cross-functional conversations. We want our students to fully understand what is happening on the web or within a web app. 

Do UX design students build projects with the programming languages they learn?

Over the course of the bootcamp, DigitalCrafts students develop a UX portfolio on the web. Students will demonstrate their knowledge of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript in their portfolio by creating a unique, collaborative project with our web development students. UX students will be paired with web development students to modify and improve an existing web application. The focus is on critical thinking and effective communication in terms of the users and the functionality. We're working to offer that cross-functional experience to our UX design bootcamp to incorporate real-world expertise.

Brittany’s Coding-for-Designers Resources

  • One of my favorite coding for designers resources is freeCodeCamp because it's free(!) and it offers excellent practice with immediate feedback. Through its 300-hour program bundles, freeCodeCamp allows you to learn at your own pace and grow when you're ready. It's an excellent place for anyone to start learning to code, not just designers! 
  • Another excellent resource is CSS-Tricks.com, which offers news and in-depth guides on front-end technology. W3Schools is one to bookmark for quick references on syntax. 
  • Pluralsight is another good choice, but unlike the others, this one is paid.
  • Sololearn and Codecademy have self-paced lessons for a number of languages, including ones used in full stack web development. 

Find out more and read DigitalCrafts reviews on Course Report. This article was produced by the Course Report team in partnership with DigitalCrafts.

About The Author

Jess is the Content Manager for Course Report as well as a writer and poet. As a lifelong learner, Jess is passionate about education, and loves learning and sharing content about tech bootcamps. Jess received a M.F.A. in Writing from the University of New Hampshire, and now lives in Brooklyn, NY.

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