I once wrote about whether UX designers should code. 5 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 the collective sigh of relieve from designers and programmers alike.
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.
So no, UX designers do not have to code. It’s certainly a competitive advantage, but it is far from a requirement.
Long answer: it depends on what kind of designer you want to be.
Now that coding is an option, 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: Career Transitioners, Freelancers and Consultants
The second type of designer who’ll benefit most from learning coding skills is the career transitioner looking to break into UX.
UX is a competitive field. The more hard skills you bring to the table, the more reasons to hire you.
This is doubly true in the freelance market, which is often a source of UX projects. 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?
I grouped career transitioners and freelancers in the same bucket because UX students often pick up freelance work to help build their portfolios. The same logic applies to serious freelancers and consultants: it may be worth to position yourself as a rarer commodity to land more client work.
Designer #3: Entrepreneurs and side hustlers
Entrepreneurial designers types 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.
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
The fear of not knowing how to code was, in my opinion, primarily driven by job marketplace fears. 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, re-evaluate. 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.