Published: November 13, 2020
Reading Time: 11 mins
In today’s day and age, people are constantly changing jobs as well as changing careers. Gone are the days when we simply had one career and one job until retirement.
Provided you have a set of skills that you’ve developed over time, you can with some work change or adapt those skills in new ways to completely change your career path.
For example, if you are thinking about going into the area of UI design you might be wondering if you need to be able to code. After all, UI design may sound quite complicated at first glance so there may be some coding involved.
Plus, if you are someone who already knows how to code, you might be wondering how to use this to your advantage in a career in UI design.
With that said, if coding seems alien to you, it’s important to see if a career in UI design is possible.
Fortunately, you do not need coding skills to be a UI designer. As a UI designer, you’ll be working with tools like Photoshop or Sketch but you won’t need to be able to code in any way. With that said though, being able to code as a UI designer can open up a wealth of possibilities in terms of the type of work you can do and it may allow for more job opportunities.
You may be relieved to know that you don’t need coding skills to be a UI designer but you may still want to know more about this topic.
In this article, we’ll look at the role of a UI designer in more detail. We’ll also cover the benefits of basic coding skills as a UI designer and how that could help your career. Finally, we’ll touch on how to get started learning basic coding skills as a UI designer so you can get started on your coding journey.
Now that we’ve established that you don’t need any coding skills to be a UI designer, you may be wondering about what a job as a UI designer involves.
By learning what a UI designer does on regularly including the tasks they work on and the tools they use, you’ll have a better understanding of whether a career in UI design might be for you.
If you can visualize yourself working on these kinds of projects and even better enjoy the work, then UI design is something worth considering.
A UI designer works to create designs for any kind of technology that a user interacts with. This can range from the design of app screens to the design of screens on an information kiosk. UI designers work with software such as Photoshop or Sketch to create these designs and they are then presented to the development team who will build the product based on these specifications.
That’s just a high-level overview of what a UI designer does but I think it summarizes it pretty well.
If you would like to learn more about life as a UI designer, I outlined what a day in the life of a UI designer (i.e. me) is like.
Hopefully, this will give you a more realistic idea of what a UI designer does in a day. You can read that article here: Is UI Design Stressful? What You Need To Know.
Now that we’ve established what a UI designer is, another popular career path is that of a web developer.
Sometimes these careers can seem to overlap or cause confusion so let’s try to clear up the differences between these two types of careers.
As we’ve mentioned above, a UI designer will create designs for interfaces such as an app for example. A web developer, on the other hand, uses a coding stack of languages and software to build the finished product i.e. an app.
With that in mind then we can say that a UI designer designs an interface whereas a web developer builds an interface.
While these 2 disciplines are different, you’ll almost certainly find them both working on the same team.
This is because both are required to create a digital product such as an app for example.
Without one the other will almost certainly not succeed.
Imagine for example builders constructing a building without having any plans or technical drawings.
That seems silly, right?
Well, I would argue this is the same case for building a product without having wireframes or mockups to build from.
Having both a designer and a developer on a team results in a better end product.
Being better at our jobs and constantly striving to improve is a great and admirable mindset to have.
If you’ve been a UI designer for a while now and are wondering how to become a better one you might be wondering if learning to code is the way to do that.
In my experience as both a coder and designer, I would say that learning to code does make you a better UI designer. One great example of how this works is that being able to create a design that can be easily understood by developers (due to your coding knowledge) will make the whole process much more efficient.
Of course, there are a whole host of other benefits of learning basic coding skills as a UI designer, but we’ll cover those in the next section.
The trend of “Unicorn Designers/Developers” has become very prevalent in recent years.
These are individuals that boast the ability to do it all, from designing to coding.
Depending on who you ask this ability can be positive or negative.
The most common complaint against this mindset is that these individuals will be spread too thin and end up working more. You’ll be expected to be able to do much more than a single designer or developer.
While I do agree that trying to do everything is a bit too much and should be avoided, I would strongly advocate for a lot of knowledge in one area, say design, but with a basic knowledge of simple HTML or CSS (development).
This T-Shaped development mindset will allow you to work better with team members and see potential design problems from different perspectives.
So now we’ve covered the ins and outs of a UI designer as well as talking about how learning to code can make you a better UI designer.
Now it’s time to talk about the benefits of learning to code as a UI designer in more detail.
By building up even just a basic knowledge of coding such as HTML and CSS, you’ll find that this is an impressive thing to add to your resumé.
It will most likely be the thing that sets you apart from other UI designers who don’t have this skill.
It shows that you are willing to develop your skills and to constantly improve yourself which is something good employers are looking for.
If you can make use of your coding skills when developing mockups and prototypes, you’ll be able to see a design from both perspectives; how it should be designed and how it should be built.
Adopting this mindset will not only improve your designs but it will also make them easier to build for developers.
This point ties in with the last one in that being able to build designs with both a design and coding mindset means you can create designs that are easier to code.
This in turn means that you’ll receive fewer questions from developers making the turnaround time on projects much quicker and more efficient.
As a designer that knows even the basics of coding, you’ll have a much better ability to communicate with developers.
This skill allows you to effectively convey your ideas to team members who can then set about building what you’ve designed.
You may even be able to assist a developer with solving a problem they’ve been stuck on that you can see from a different perspective.
This is certainly very rewarding in my experience.
This might seem very self-interested but it’s worth mentioning nonetheless.
Sure services like Behance or Dribbble exist and are very easy to use, but building your own portfolio to showcase your work in itself sets you apart from other designers that lack these skills.
What’s more, you’ll be able to troubleshoot any issues with your website without the need to consult a developer which could become costly.
Hopefully, by now I’ve managed to convince you of the advantages of learning to code as a UI designer.
With that in mind, there are so many excellent and mostly free resources to get you started in the world of coding.
Here are just a few that I recommend getting started:
This is a free resource with an almost endless list of great content creators including:
If you are like me and enjoy reading, then adding some coding books to your library is an excellent idea.
Some books of note include:
PS: For even more great book recommendations and more, check out my Toolkit page: My Recommended Toolkit.
If you feel more confident in your coding and want to pay for learning resources, there are plenty of excellent courses on platforms such as:
In a lot of cases, you learn the most effectively by simply immersing yourself in something.
Learn the very basics of setting up an HTML page and linking a style sheet then start building a web page.
If you need to look up a property or how to implement a header you can look it up online.
The best advice I can give to you is to simply get started!
You’ve reached the end of this article and hopefully, you’ve been able to learn a lot about the world of coding as a UI designer.
The bottom line is that coding isn’t as scary as it may initially seem and even a basic understanding of some common coding concepts can be very valuable in whatever career you choose.
Hopefully, by now I’ve also managed to convince you of the advantages of learning to code as a UI designer.
With simply a very basic knowledge of coding, you may find a lot of new possibilities start to open up to you.
Maybe you might start building websites in your free time to make some extra money.
Or maybe you’ll switch careers entirely, the choice is totally up to you.
I hope you found some value in reading this article. If you did, please consider sharing it on social media to help others to find it.
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