Episodes Recorded

Ep.14 Coding (Sep 10 2020)

Do UX people need to be able to code? It’s not our primary responsibility, but is it a useful skill to have?

Stickynotes episode 14, September 10 2020

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Details from this session

Do UX people need to be able to code? It’s not our primary responsibility, but is it a useful skill to have?

Knowing how to write code definitely helps have good conversations with and gain respect from other team members.

Even if you’re not a great programmer, knowing how that stuff works (from the IDE to code repositories to release strategies) gives you a foundation to know whether your recommendations are achievable.

Then, there’s the ability to use that code knowledge to help make your designs or recommendations go live by being involved in the development and bug fixing process.

So, overall, it looks like although coding isn’t a requirement for many UX jobs, it’s useful to have at least some knowledge of how to make it happen.

BUT … and this is a very big but … if coding isn’t something that makes you happy, it’s probably not worth learning how if you want a user experience job. There are plenty of designers, researchers, and other UX professionals who have never coded and never intend to. One of the core competencies for UX is a degree of emotional intelligence, and that most often outweighs the need to be able to program.

Most UX jobs do not require coding skills, and so long as you are happy to work or pair with others on the team who do, then you’ll be just fine.

Some job postings seem to require coding even for UX roles. That suggests one of three things:

  • You’re going to end up overworked because the company is employing one person to do the job of four
  • The recruiter doesn’t understand the actual job requirements, so they slid coding into the description
  • There is an element of coding involved, but probably no more than creating interactive UI prototypes using a design tool.

During the session, we heard from some viewers who said that in certain new areas like AR/VR, there does still appear to be a requirement to code even in UX roles. That’s probably because the role is so new, and the tools don’t yet exist to take the coding burden away.

Unless the job you are looking at is in a field like this, Amanda’s advice is, if you think you meet 60% of the job requirements, it’s worth applying anyway. Often, companies will have a generic job description they use when hiring for each job role. The hiring manager has a specific set of skills in mind. Those are probably only a subset of the full range of possible skills for that role.

If we could send a message to recruiters, it would be: “Don’t require coding skills for UX roles” – for almost all roles, it’s a nice-to-have rather than a necessity. Because programming is still a very white-male-centric occupation, you may even be introducing an unconscious bias if you add this requirement to what is most obviously a non-programming job.

What’s your take? Are you a UXer who can code? One who can’t? How has it affected your career and your relationship with other team members?

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