Why Web Developers Need to Learn UX

By BrainStation February 4, 2020

The vast majority of Web Developers are committed to continuous learning. In fact, BrainStation’s 2020 Digital Skills Survey found that a massive 80 percent of Web Developers feel that digital skills training would make them more successful.

There’s plenty to suggest that Web Developers would be best-served by immersing themselves in the world of user experience design and UX design courses.

Here are a few reasons why.

Learn Skills That Complement Your Existing Talents

As you start to learn UX, you’re likely to find that you won’t have to stray too far from your comfort zone. In fact, the biggest benefit of learning UX might be how organically it relates to your existing experience as a Developer.

Although UX design spans many more platforms than the trusty browser, web design is of course still a massive part of the job; in fact, BrainStation’s survey found that 74 percent of UX design respondents are designing for the web.

Your knack for elegant aesthetics – and the mastery of typography, color, illustration, and imagery – will be highly valued within the UX sphere, as well as your ability to code and conduct some level of testing and research (though, as we’ll cover, you’re about to push deeper into that area than ever before).

You’ll Become a Better Developer

User experience spans every single interaction that users have with a product. While we did point out that there’s a significant overlap between the roles, there’s simply no denying that a UX Designer has to look at products with a broader scope.

A UX Designer must juggle a huge number of considerations – including visual design, user research, content strategy, usability and accessibility, information architecture, and overall business goals – while also knowing how to effectively steer a project and communicate findings to a broad array of stakeholders.

One way to differentiate might be to say that Web Developers are motivated by solving problems for their clients, while UX Designers solve problems for their users. UX Designers, like Developers, concern themselves with the look, feel, and usability of a product or experience, but they also have to balance those considerations with a bevy of other priorities, including broader business goals.

Many Web Developers are likely already involved with designing, prototyping and testing their products, but learning the more thorough iterative UX design process can be illuminating.

A UX Designer usually begins by identifying a problem, before becoming immersed in research – spanning user interviews, experience maps, Task Flows, analytic observations, demographic studies, or custom-drafted personas – to understand the behavior, needs, and frustration points of users. Building from those observations, the UX Designer then creates prototypes and wireframes before subjecting their design to a rigorous loop of building, testing, improving, and re-testing.

Few positions in web development offer the opportunity to become well-versed in all of those areas, but certainly, any Web Developer would benefit from having a more holistic understanding of the products they’re creating and how users are interacting with them.

“Today’s digital products are less about ‘can technology do this’ and more about ‘how well can we do this?’” said Fahd Arshad, UX Strategist with Bloomberg.

“UX as a process, as a set of tools, and as a frame of mind for product development is a huge part of this equation. Hence any Web Developer would find it worth their time to take a formal course in UX. Either they will be better partners later on for UX specialists or have the opportunity to introduce design thinking to their team, radically improving the chances of their collective success.”

Gain Skills That Can’t Be Automated

As we recently explored, Web Developers shouldn’t fear the rise of automation, but instead, embrace the ways in which AI and machine learning can help perform their jobs more efficiently and invest further in the skills that can’t be adequately replicated by a robot.

Those skills and qualities include:

  • Empathy: the core principle of UX Design is understanding what people want and designing products with that in mind.
  • Communication: possessing a better understanding of the end-to-end product lifecycle will allow Developers to communicate intelligently with a broad array of people inside and outside of their team. “This will reduce the ‘wall’ between Designers and (Developers) for them to be able to work together seamlessly and effectively,” said Joseph Vedua, Principal UX Designer at Infor Hook & Loop.
  • Prototyping: though many Developers will have some level of experience with prototyping, it’s not quite the same in a UX context; BrainStation’s survey found that on a day-to-day basis, 52.1 percent of Designers focused most of their time on prototyping.

Ux Designers Are Among the Most Sought-after Specialists in Tech

If you haven’t heard, talented UX Designers are hard to find – and harder to hire.

Indeed ranks UX Designer as the fifth-most in-demand role in tech, remarkable given that many companies are still lagging way behind in shifting the appropriate amount of attention to user experience.

“Increasingly, there’s a huge gap between businesses that embrace UX strategies and those that don’t,” said Andrew Kucheriavy, founder and CEO of Intechnic. “In fact, it can be the difference between surviving or drowning.”

It follows then that an Adobe study canvassing 500 managers and department heads in UX design found that 87 percent of managers said hiring more UX Designers was their organization’s top priority and 73 percent vowed to hire more UX Designers over the next five years.

And it also makes sense that those with UX skills are being rewarded handsomely for that expertise. According to Indeed, UX Designers bring home an average salary of $89,250 compared to $74,450 for Web Developers.

Even if you don’t have a career change in mind, there’s something else to consider when it comes to the shortage in UX skills: if your company doesn’t have any or enough UX Designers, gaining that skillset could make you indispensable at the office.

“Knowing what makes a good user experience would definitely make you a better developer. I think it’s important for Front-End (Developers) to know this, especially since many times companies don’t have UX Designers working on projects,” said Ana Vasquez, UI/UX Designer at Mobomo.

“You are the one making these decisions, and it will make the product better for users.”