I once wrote about whether UX designers should code. Years later, my answer remains mostly the same. This article will help you stay away from fruitless “should you code” debates into perpetuity.
If you’re transitioning into UX, you’re probably wondering whether you need to learn how to code. It used to be one of the most contentious topics in the design community.
Now, the question of whether designers should code is a choice.
Short answer: no, UX designers do not have to code
For designers, the pressure to code has lessened. *Cue collective sigh of relieve from designers and programmers.*
Companies now understand that being customer-centric is a competitive advantage (say that 3x fast). This understanding has translated to companies investing more in UX design.
Verdict: UX designers do not have to code. It can be a competitive advantage, but it is far from a requirement.
What type of designers benefit most from learning to code?
Look at top tech companies’ job descriptions for UX and product designers.
You’ll find that most of them do not ask for programming skills – they’re concerned about getting high caliber design and strategy skills.
The question shifts from “should designers code?” to “what type of designer would benefit most from coding?”
Coding is a serious skill that requires a huge amount of time and energy to learn.
These are the 3 types of designers who’ll benefit most from coding.
Designer #1: The Code Enthusiast
The first person who’ll obviously benefit from this is the designer who enjoys coding. She has a knack for code. Loves playing with CSS animations in her free time. She gets a kick out of designing in Sketch as she does in HTML and CSS.
Do you find yourself really enjoying interaction design at a technical level? You might be the type of person who loves building out complex states in Framer and beyond.
If this sounds like you, there’s no reason not to leverage your passion to become a hybrid with a job title like UX Engineer or UI developer.
A designer with coding skills will also fare very well in the startup job market, which tends to demand a wider breadth of skills compared to the more specialized roles at large enterprises.
Designer #2: The UX Design Consultant
There’s a saying in the consulting world: “the riches are in the niches.”
If you’re interested in carving out a niche as a UX consultant, pairing your core design skill with another skill like coding, user research or writing can make you stand out among other freelancers.
One of these niches is advertising oneself as a UX consultant who can create designs and implement them in code.
Imagine the startup business owner who needs a quick landing page built – why not get the design and the page built out with one hire instead of two?
Pursuing a career as an independent design consultant? If you love code, it can prove to be a profitable niche.
Designer #3: The Designer-Founder
Entrepreneurial designers who want to bring their side project to life have a strong incentive to learn how to code.
It’s frustrating to build out an entire experience, but be limited by code or at the whims of a programmer.
Learning code can have a dual benefit for designer-founders:
- Cheaper cost to launch an MVP (minimum viable product)
- Some experience for hiring a software engineers or technical cofounder
Whether it’s a custom UX portfolio, simple landing page or an app idea, some designers will benefit by being able to implement their ideas in working code.
Settling the should you code debate
UX beginners often worry if they need to learn how to code because they are drowning in a sea of information of how to become a UX designer. At it’s core
Will I be obsolete if I don’t know how to code? What if being a designer isn’t enough?
Now that the design field is a pillar of business, those worries shouldn’t drive away someone who wants to become a UX designer.
Dig deep to discover your motivations for wanting to code.
- If you’re driven by fear of rejection, refocus your efforts. Know that there’s more than enough room in the design industry that doesn’t require you to code.
- If you’re driven by passion and curiosity, dive in.
Either way, the case for coding is no longer a binary yes/no argument. But let’s just settle it once in for all.
Question: Should designers code?
Answer: Only if you want to.