UX Pros: To Code Or Not To Code, That Is The Question.

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Ever feel like you’re beating a dead horse? (By the way, who came up with that saying? It’s horrible.)

I’ve read about 92,763 articles for and against UX pros learning to code over the past several years.

Pros:

1. You’re a double threat and it opens job opportunities.
2. Companies don’t even understand what UX pros do half the time, they expect you to code even though it’s not a normal thing for a UX pro to do.
3. You will understand what your dev team is talking about when they start discussing API calls and jquery plugins and magical javascript tricks during meetings.

Cons:

1. People will start expecting you to do 2 jobs. “Hey look, this person does BOTH things! We can just hire 1 person! Cha-ching!” Which = less time to devote to user research.
2. You’ll get roped into coding more than you expect, which is great if you really enjoy it, and not if you don’t.
3. The already insane amount of free time you spend reading tech blogs will multiply exponentially when you get into sites like github, and suddenly you’ll want to learn every language ever created. Or, you won’t but your employer will expect you to.

So, what’s the answer to the age old question, “As a UX pro should I learn to code?”

It’s simple, really.  Just ask yourself this one easy question:

“Is learning to code something I feel passionate about?”

If the answer is “YES!!!!,” then you should absolutely learn to code!

If the answer is “Ummm… not really,” then you should NOT learn to code.

Just about every UX pro I’ve met is extremely passionate about his or her work. They love their jobs and it shows.

If learning to code will add to your daily excitement and passion then do it!

If you have no interest in it at all, and you’re only considering it because you’re feeling pressured by bloggers who tell you it’s something you should do because they said so, then bag it and continue focusing all of your energy and passion on what you love!

Keep UXing it up, loud and proud! 🙂

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5 thoughts on “UX Pros: To Code Or Not To Code, That Is The Question.

  1. As an UXer who studied Computer Science and thus have solid background in coding I would say that this skill is very useful!

    Sometimes it is hard to explain to developers how the thing should work, look and behave. In such situations an ability to create a little prototype with CSS and JS is just priceless.
    If a picture is worth a thousand words then prototype is worth a million!

    Another thing is tweaking an application front-end to make it more usable. Developers (at least those I work with) tend to feel unhappy when asked for polishing GUI. It’s often much easier (and faster) to apply fixes and improvements by yourself.

    And, finally, the social aspect. Developers are kind of hermetic society and rather don’t trust strangers, especially when they do something the developers don’t fully understand (as in case of UX). When an UXer can code then developers think “this is our guy and we can talk to him and he may even tell something interesting sometimes…”. It’s just simply a better relation 🙂

    But beware. Don’t let people start to look at you as an another coder “with some additional skills”, because you may get stuck in writing code, which is usually very absorbing and time-consuming activity. UX research should remain your primary job (unless you have an army of UXers who can substitute you).

  2. Allison says:

    Couldn’t agree more, Jennifer! It’s a question I’ve struggled with, especially having started off as a UI coder, but I’ve recently come to the conclusion you’ve posted. I simply do not enjoy coding enough to keep up with the trends (ok, I don’t like it at all!), and never was particularly good at anything beyond basic html and css. I find it all a struggle that sucks up my time and energy, leaving me with very little for UX (the stuff I love).

    Having said that, I do think it’s a good idea for budding UXers to get some experience with coding, and some basic programming and database concepts. I agree with Mikolaj that it is a huge help when working with developers. Not only to gain their respect, but also to guard yourself against those who would try to tell you something cannot be done (sadly, I’ve run into this too many times). Developers are also are stakeholders in our designs, so it’s just another language we need to be able to speak besides business and end user.

  3. trasloco says:

    Keep up the good work.

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