Do UX Designers Need To Know How To Code?

Here’s a question many people who are interested in UX Design asked, “Do we need to know how to code?”. Given that there are many UX designers out there that know how to code and there are also developers turned into UX designers, it makes people who don’t know how to code to wonder if this is the necessity to know how to code?

Lucky you, I am here to talk about it!

Here’s the short answer : no, you don’t need to.

If you have the extra time, why not read more and let me explain why.

It is true that so many UX Designers out there can also code. That is a good advantage but not a necessity.

I got a lot of this question from graphic designers. So let me make a familiar comparison. It is like if you are a graphic designer and you have to know marketing. It is not necessary, right? But it is nice to know.

However, there are some companies that require you to code as well. I mean, this is how the company works. Some want to get the best bang in a buck. But I don’t encourage you to read the job description to define what’s the necessity.

I mean, there are also companies that require marketing people to design, write copy, as well as be the boss’ personal assistant. My main point is, there are all kinds of companies out there looking for all kinds of people. There is no way to distinct what’s the norm that employers look out for and what’s not. Consider also that some job descriptions are not truthful (Some wrote they are looking for A but once you got to work on the job only to find out you have to work on B).

Why is it nice to know how to code?

It is nice to know how to code because then you can help the developer and understand the technical part fully, so you don’t end up making unnecessary custom components that are difficult to develop. It also might help when the developer is stuck, depending on your coding knowledge.

Some people will advice you to learn how certain framework works, which you can learn if you want to and when it is needed (example your project needs to use React, so you learn the characteristic and properties of React), but if you ask me, this is not really something you must master because people use different framework for different project and in the future there might be more (or less!) framework that came up. Basically, whatever technology we have now will evolve rapidly and when you learn all frameworks, they are not essential knowledge that can be applied to any other framework in the future. Even some frameworks might just vanish in the future.

What is UX designers’ job exactly?

Your job is to make sure the user experience is proper. It depends on the user. But for me personally, I usually want everyone’s experience to be good. Whether it is the other designer, the developer, the PMs, the bosses, the client (if any), and all the end users. That is it. UX designers are not developers, they can help, but this is not their primary task. It is dangerous to put UX designers as developers as well because they might not have enough time to find out how to make the best user experience and then overlook some stuff. In short, might as well not hire a UX designer at all!

I wanted to emphasise again that this blog is completely my point of view based on my own experience. In no way I want to shun other companies or designers out there that code. I also am not discouraging you to learn coding. As I mentioned, it is not a necessity but an advantage.

So what would be your necessary skill as a UX designer ?

In my opinion, here are some skills you must have :

1. Visual Art

This is because the UI plays a significant part in the user’s experience. For example, the gestalt principle of proximity, it explains why when certain things seen together it would be interpreted differently. Other examples are typography, hierarchy, color theory, and so many more. So make sure you know why certain visuals ignite certain emotion, because emotion is exactly what you’ll be working with.

2. Psychology

I am no psychologist but I have been learning it ever since I became a UX designer because most of the time I encounter problems that make me go “why this went this way? I wish I knew the human mind”. Psychology also helps a lot in translating your data into actionable items as well as crafting better interview questions or methods to test/measure/interpret your product’s performance. Although the human mind evolves over time, when you do learn psychology, you at least get the foundation and then adjust from there. At the end of the day, you get a big library of human mind knowledge!

Yep, just these two. In my opinion, it needs to be these two, anything else is just a nice to have and depends on the company. But I can tell you for sure that if you are a UX designer, you must have these 2 skills.

If you don’t have these 2 skills, don’t worry! That doesn’t mean you can never be a UX designer. You can take the time to learn while doing as well. In fact, even people who have a background in psychology also relearn their field and discover many new things when they become a UX designer.

I am not a psychologist and I did not learn psychology back in university. I do study professionally in visual art, so that is one skill I already have. I am still learning psychology online. How I learn is that when I encounter something that makes me wonder why the user’s perception is this way, I try to search why and that leads me to theories and proven studies that verify my finding. Probably the simplest and fastest way is to check out Nielsen Norman website (fun fact, Don Norman was a psychology lecturer before he became the first ever UX designer at Apple!).

Just like every other skill, there are so many ways to learn something. So don’t think just because you don’t have a proper degree in a field it makes you incapable. School, university and workplace is just a few methods of learning out of many methods out there! There is always an online course, seminars, workshop, articles, books, and more.

So I hope this answers your curious mind and fuels your interest in being a UX designer.

Thanks for reading this and see you in my next post!

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