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Should Web Designers Learn Code or UX?

February 16, 2016

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Can you imagine what the first websites looked like? Nothing was responsive, CSS was a myth and who even thought about design styles like flat, parallax or even animated web designs. As website Designs have evolved over the years, so has the Web Designer Profession.

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In today’s industry, website designers are forced to add more skills to their arsenal of tools, to stay ahead of the game and stand out from the crowd. Employers also demand much more and often look for those with added value. You could say that employers are now looking for Jacks of all trades rather than for a specific person that specialises in a certain field. The UX specialist and Interactive Web designer have morphed into one person, the UX Web Designer, while SMBs are looking for designers with coding skills, the Codesigner, in order to save money.

This has led many traditional designers, whether employed or Freelancers, to ask the following question: “Should I learn web development or UX?”

In this article we’ll try to answer that question and give you practical advise on what works best for one of our partners.

Thinking of Learning Web Development?

Programming work in computer lab

Ok, we have to put this out there… coding is not for everyone! Looking at lines of code will make most people completely depressed. But for some, it’s truly a challenge as it does require a lot of creativity. The question is whether you should dedicate your time to learning code and furthermore which programming language should you focus on?

Once upon a time, all you had to do was learn a bit of HTML and CSS and you were classed as a coding super star. Nowadays, that’s just not enough. There are so many different programming languages out there it’s become hard to count them on just one hand. Furthermore, the complexity of coding has really changed. Responsiveness and different mobile sizes have changed the development game and require developers to have a deep understanding of code. Frequently, codes have to be optimised to cater to different devices. Today there is no “one size fits all” in the world of development.

Now, don’t let us put you off learning code. Here at TechSors all the staff are qualified programmers and we love every minute of it. There is nothing better than developing a new product and being the one that brings the product to life. But remember, coding is a profession, and one that requires you to be constantly updated with development trends. We believe that if your passion is web design, then stick with it, as keeping up with everything and becoming a professional developer is impractical. Furthermore, we often see designers spending so many hours learning the nuance of code that it has a negative effect on their design creativity, causing them to produce poor products.

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While learning code might not be the best route, understanding code is a must. A designer needs to understand the capabilities of HTML, CSS and JS in order to create practical web designs and products that developers can actually build. Products that work well and users love. Furthermore by understand the coding lingo, you can properly communicate your ideas to the people who are going to develop them. Learning the basics of code is easy and there are plenty of sites out there that can help. One of them includes w3schools.

Thinking of Learning UX?

designer drawing website development wireframe

User Experience Design has become a trend over the last couple of years as more and more companies understand that they need to design for users and not just make their applications or sites look pretty. What UX specialists do is architect a solution through user research, workshops, team work and through using a diverse set of skills, such as information architecture.

UX people understand the objectives of the desired project and plan the product in a way so it caters to the end user’s needs. Normally UXers will plan the concept of the product – how screens are consctructed in general, and how the user should operate and manipulate them. for this purpose, they create blueprint (wireframe) using tools such as Axure or Balsamiq, which are low fidelity (they don’t actually look like the final product). There are loads of tools available, simply google the topic.

UX designers also look at the whole processes or funnel within a system. For example, they might study the checkout process of an e-commerce website to see how they can improve the objectives of the site and reduce the site’s abandon rate. They might even dive deeper, looking at interaction points within a system, such as user forms – determining whether or not the process is efficient enough.

UX Design embraces the theories of a number of disciplines such as user interface design, usability, accessibility, information architecture and Human Computer Interaction.

Sounds complicated?

Well, becoming a UX designer is easier said than done. Most people think that you can read a few articles online, play around with a few mockups and poof, your a UX specialist. Only a few UXers reach a very professional level, while most simply add basic UX knowledge to their skills by taking a few courses.

Even if you don’t decide to become a professional UX designer, thinking like a UXer will make you an awesome designer and really take your designing skills to the next level.

What Should Be Your Next Move?

Solution

There is no right or wrong. While some prefer to take the coding route to boost their skill set, others get spooked by programming languages and stay far far away. Some people are simply better at thinking, understanding users and planning the initial stages of a project, while others just can’t grasp the initial planning stage or develop something from scratch, while taking so many other things into consideration. 

During our years of experience, we have seen different people go down different paths. Some of our designers actively wanted to increase their UX knowledge, while others wanted to learn the basics of code.

If you’re a Freelance designer, then you might want take other things into consideration as well. Choosing to learn a set of skills that may take a year or more to master and might not be the wisest of decisions. Sometimes it is better to take a course or two on a specific subject in order to boost your knowledge about a subject and use another company’s services that specialise in that field.

For example, one of our clients increased his UX knowledge, adding prototyping capabilities to his skill set. This allowed him to increase the number of closures as he could present a visual version of the project during his presentations. His words were “ this always impresses the client”.

To overcome his lack of coding knowledge, yet still wanting to offer coding services, he teamed up with us. We provide the coding capabilities and he simply marks up the project. It’s really a win-win situation for everyone as we get to work with a cool client and he gets to offer additional services and expand his business.

If you’re looking to team up with a group of specialists contact us. We are always happy to discuss business opportunities

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