A post about why designers need to be more versatile than ever before. For designers.
I’ve been a designer for.. a long time, and what I’ve continued to hear questioned time and time again, is whether designers need to code.
Another key term that’s popped up in the industry is the ‘UX/UI Unicorn’ – who apparently don’t or shouldn’t exist.
I’m here to tell you that as a designer, I don’t think it’s necessary for you to be able to code but rather it’s crucial if you’re wanting to be the best at what you do.
Just as an architect would understand the building materials she’s working with or an interior designer understanding fabrics, space and feng shui – digital experience designers need to do the same.
I remember in one of my first roles as a designer, sitting in a meeting room with an editorial lead, and a project manager going through the design of a web page. One of the comments that popped up was to have the navigation through the middle of the website, vertically. Now by that time I had designed over 100+ websites and it wasn’t till that very moment that I thought about why we put the navigation in a certain way.
Don’t get me wrong, the usability aspect was immediately clear to me, but just as you get in your car every day and drive off without thinking – the same can be said for experience. Once you’ve done something enough times, it slips back into the subconscious and you forget why and just do.
Designing without knowing how to build (just the framework I might add) puts you in a vulnerable position for error. I would also go as far as to say that UX/UI Designers who don’t know how to code are really just graphic designers. Same goes for UX designers who don’t design – if you’re not creating the thing that people have the experience with, you’re really just a data analyst.
How have you optimised your app, website or dev handoff time without thinking about the building blocks of code, SEO, what’s involved in accessibility, icon/font/js libraries? The truth is, you haven’t. You’ve gone through a methodology to understand a problem/journey and when it came down to the design you ‘researched’ UI and stole those ideas to come up with a solution.
I’ll also add that wireframes are about 10% of the job done. UI is freaking hard to do and should be the partner of UX, not it’s unsuccessful brother.
I have huge respect for people who build things because in a world where everyone has an idea – execution is everything. And in an ever-changing tech space, you have to have the will and determination to continue to learn to stay ahead.
And then there’s unicorns..
Unicorns exist my friend. They existed long before UXer’s. They were called mum/athlete, dad/performer, therapist/part-time runner. Individuals are capable and more often than not – do pick up multiple passions and skills. Being able to do both in one role is completely fine, the issue we should be discussing is workload and pay. Pay people who have more skills and are good at them – MORE money. Expect them to save you time, but not half. The workload needs to be achievable and when your unicorn gets busy, hire more but never stop learning.
As designers, let’s start coding, start creating Pull Requests and figuring out how to make the best of our expertise by integrating and collaborating. This is how truely great products and teams are built.
Have any thoughts on this? Are you an ‘all the things’ designer? Comment below!