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I've an interview on Friday for the role of a UX designer. The job description says 'require HTML & CSS skills'. While I know the basics of HTML& CSS, I have not done coding. What potential interview questions should I prepare for and what is a UX designer expected to know about in this area?

Also, typically how much coding does the role of a UX designer require?

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Guys! She is asking about CSS in regards to UX. I think that fits here perfectly. –  jonshariat Aug 31 '11 at 23:26
    
Yes Jonshariat. I'm not a native English speaker. Apologies if the question is not clear enough. –  Tara Sep 1 '11 at 0:34
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Hi Tara, The interview part of the question doesn't really have anything to do with UX, and the "typical requirements" part can't be answered, since it differs from place to place. I'm migrating this to Webmasters, where they can help you with the interview part. –  Vitaly Mijiritsky Sep 1 '11 at 5:34
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7 Answers

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I have not done coding

Well, then I'd say you don't have HTML and CSS skills. That's not a deal breaker. But I'd much rather have you be honest about it then try to fake your way through some CSS questions during the interview. State "I understand the basics and am eager to learn more, but haven't actually done front end development work".

Can you share some of the potential interview questions?

They could be all over the place. I don't expect developers to write syntax-perfect code in their head, so would tend to ask questions that were more opinion based rather than specific syntax based. I may ask:

  • What elements of CSS3 are you most enjoying?
  • Have you worked with webkit css transitions?
  • What is your standard way for dealing with IE?
  • What CSS frameworks have you used. What did you like/dislike about them?
  • Have you heard of OOCSS? What's your opinion of it?

But these aren't types of questions that you're going to be able to figure out answers for in a matter of days. These would all show your actual work experience (or lack thereof).

typically how much coding does the role of a UX designer require?

There is no typical UX designer skill set. It depends entirely on the type of UX team you are on, the skillset of the other team members, and the personal preferences/wants of the UX managers.

I, personally, prefer working with UX designers that can also build what they design. But on larger teams, there's certainly room for all sorts of roles and skillsets.

Many UX teams don't touch code ever. Many UX teams do everything including all the HTML CSS and JS.

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This is a great answer. Tara, be honest about what you know. During the interview, ask for advice on where to begin learning CSS and what skills you should know. (A) You'll impress the interviewer by your desire to learn. (B) You'll have a plan to start preparing for the job, if you get it. (C) You'll have a plan to add to your skills, so if you have an interview 6 months from now, you'll be able to say, yes, I know some CSS. –  Patrick McElhaney Sep 1 '11 at 17:03
    
All I can say is that good UX people can code but don't. As soon as you start to think too much about implementation you end up with an engineering mindset - and that often leads to technology winning out over user needs, even when it's not the intention. –  Stewart Dean Oct 4 '13 at 21:59
    
@StewartDean there are great architects that have never lifted a hammer, but there are also great architects that run full design-build firms. In the end, engineering is design so I don't think it's fair to say universally that having the technical skill set makes one let 'tech trump user needs'. –  DA01 Oct 5 '13 at 0:39
    
In fact, I've seen the opposite to be as true...UXers that don't touch code design UIs that don't actually work when you get to the building of the actual interactions. Not that they needed to code it, but having an up-to-date understanding of the engineering can prevent designing antiquated or illogical interactions on paper. –  DA01 Oct 5 '13 at 0:41
    
Engineering is not User Experience Design, it is implementation. The same can be said also for parts of visual design as well! I believe it is about knowing enough about the engineering to not be limited by engineering choices. As soon as you start coding on a project you are now in a position where the technical implementation is increasingly dictating the output. It is the engineering mindset that has lead to so many terrible interfaces in the past. Yet without good engineers experiences don't get out the door. I've done both, it's best to separate them in my view. –  Stewart Dean Oct 5 '13 at 12:05
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If you haven't got any HTML / CSS skills definitely be honest. If it's something you'd like to learn make sure you state that. Back this up with a little bit of research.

and show you're proactive about improving your skills in this area, if this is the job you want.

It's great to be able to test out your ideas and designs in prototypes with representative users. You might need some help from a developers at first, but you can start off simple using image maps to make click throughs of your sketches / wireframes and then gradually add things like drop downs, radio buttons, and other more advanced Jquery type interactions as you learn.

It's nice to be able to try these things out yourself without having to be reliant on developer resources being available. You want to remove as many barriers as you can to getting ideas in front of people so that you can get feedback as quickly as possible.

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It's not W3C Schools its W3 Schools, they have no affiliation with W3C and they are an awful resource! –  Matt Rockwell Sep 1 '11 at 16:20
    
The rest of your answer is helpful, remove the W3C schools part and you get my vote. –  Matt Rockwell Sep 1 '11 at 16:24
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I personally would rather hire eager learners even if their skill sets are not wide ranging yet. So I definitely agree. Be honest and if you truly are eager to learn more about the HTML/CSS side of things, show that eagerness. –  DA01 Sep 1 '11 at 16:32
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@Matt +1 This web site explains what's wrong with W3 Schools. w3fools.com –  Patrick McElhaney Sep 1 '11 at 17:06
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There is not the requirement on my team to actually use CSS/HTML at all. We just make PowerPoint storyboards to explain the details of the feature we want to add to the application.

HOWEVER, I find that the designers who DO know CSS have a better grasp of how the application will be built. It is a degree of technical knowledge that makes one a better designer.

It's not that they need to do CSS. It's more of a background thing. If they know CSS, they understand the browser and the web better.

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I'm a web programmer, and I can tell you that it is extremely frustrating when I had to work on a web project with a graphic/UX designer who knows nothing about HTML/CSS.

The reason is twofold, designers who don't know about HTML/CSS usually fail in two points:

  1. make designs that doesn't conform to best practices since they don't know the full capability of HTML/CSS and thought a modern, best practice design will be too difficult to implement.
  2. make designs that is gorgeous but nearly impossible to implement without a lot of custom Javascript, again, since they don't know that HTML/CSS aren't able to do everything as easily.

Things that are easy to do in a mockuping tool can be difficult to do in HTML/CSS, while other things that are impossible in mockuping tool is trivial in HTML/CSS.

One example is adaptive layout. Given proper considerations to the initial design, it is possible to create a layout that will adapt to the user's browser (i.e. screen size, mouse or touch screen, aural/braille device, etc); this sort of thing is impossible to express in a mockup and designer who knows nea about HTML/CSS usually create a static layout doesn't fully exploit the capabilities offered by HTML/CSS; or they design too much interactions that would require a lot of custom Javascript work and causes a time/cost overrun.

While I do not expect a designer to be able to churn out HTML or CSS codes, I would expect them to design a web application with web technologies in mind. I would expect them to know what is possible/easy and what is impossible/hard to do in CSS. Given these sort of expectation, I don't think it is possible to learn about these without ever getting your hands dirty with writing HTML/CSS from scratch.

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yes! I am a UX and I used to be webdev/master. I find it really helpful if I can explain some UX concepts to my devs in language they understand; it's a massive shortcut. –  colmcq Sep 2 '11 at 15:06
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I agree some knowledge is useful but, ideally, UX design should be about the user experience first and the implementation further down the list. A good UX solution will start with an ideal solution before looking at technical issues and negotiate to see what can be done in time and budget. This is a reason why web programmers are vital part of the UX process but tend to create bad experiences. It is too easy to use the things that are easiest to do rather than best for the user. –  Stewart Dean Oct 2 '13 at 11:36
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But UX is moot if it can't be implemented. I could design an amazing house in sketchup, but if it doesn't meet basic rules of physics, it's not going to get built. :) To say that a UXer that knows code suddenly takes 'the easy route' is not accurate from my experience. In fact, the most solid UIs I run into tend to be built by UXers with strong code skills or vice versa...developers with strong UX skills. –  DA01 Oct 5 '13 at 0:42
    
This runs counter to my experience. It is true that the best experience that isn't built is worse than a not so good experience that is built, that is why engineering is important. Knowing how to code DOES change the way someone solves a UX problem. I would say it's very very hard to be a developer with strong UX skills, maybe strong UI/interaction design skills, but not strong UX skills. After all I have worked on several successful UX projects where the main output was a spreadsheet! –  Stewart Dean Oct 5 '13 at 12:10
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This brings up a problem with the title 'UX Designer'. By adding designer into the title rather than, say, UX Architect, there is an expectation by many, that a person can implement final interfaces.

That is what they want in this case.

Previously UX fell under Usability and Information Architecture titles and there where designers and coders. Now I see UX roles that are NOT UX but are effectively Interaction Design roles - that is Visual Design + Front End Coding + UI + Some knowledge of basic UX.

In short, in this case, they want a coder and designer who also has a mastery of UX. This is becoming increasingly typical but people who can do all three well are very very rare. The term UX Unicorns has been invented for these mythical creatures. Those who think they are unicorns are often talented web designers who know a few bits about UX, so not real unicorns and also limited to only the Web (UX is about much more than Websites).

In my view it means that more projects will get delivered faster but with a much worse User Experience as, if you code, you will be limited by what is easiest to implement.

For my views on this see my article on the Engineering Mindset.

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I don't agree that "UX Designer" means anything more or less specific than "UX Architect". To be fair, titles have never been terribly concrete in this industry. Bottom line, I would not make assumptions as to what an org/group wants based on the job title they use. It varies wildly and, I've found, they often don't KNOW what they're looking for until they interview them. –  DA01 Oct 2 '13 at 16:39
    
I can assure you if you add Design into the title then those, as you describe, who don't know what they're looking for are more likely to be looking for UI/Visual Design/Front End Coders than those that do user research/content strategy/IA etc. The job title is more likely to include 'must have a good knowledge of Adobe tool' than if someone is an architect. For about four years I didn't go near photoshop, these days it's increasingly expected and prevalent in job adverts. This is from a London UX perspective. –  Stewart Dean Oct 3 '13 at 10:31
    
perhaps you brits are a bit more specific with your job titles across the pond. :) Alas, over here, it's still a rather random thing. Part of that is that it's rare that a UX position at company 'a' matches a UX position at company 'b'. The specifics of a UX role seem to vary wildly from UX team to UX team. –  DA01 Oct 3 '13 at 14:41
    
It's the case here in the UK as well, although, what I was getting at, is that recently there has been a very noticeable trend away from the strategic stuff like research, IA etc and towards implementation and low level UI. I'm a contractor and seen the market shift quite radically in the last year or so, it just happens to coincide with the increase of UX people using the word 'designer'. Coincidence? Maybe. –  Stewart Dean Oct 4 '13 at 21:57
    
I don't know if I've seen a trend 'away' from strategic stuff. In Corporate America, at least, strategic UX is, sadly, a luxury rather than the norm. :/ –  DA01 Oct 5 '13 at 0:44
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I am not sure what questions might be asked, how big knowledge should UX guy have. What I can share is what I, as a web developer, think is important about CSS.

Definitely the most important thing is good understanding of block elements (like divs, p, table) vs inline elements (like a, span). You should know how to build layout on divs, without tables (by using float property). You should know, when float blocks element does not take any space (for example, if in DIV1 you have only float elements, and DIV1 does not have specified overflow: hidden, then it will not reserve any space). You should know which statements works in which browsers (or more precise: which statements does not work in Internet Explorer X ;-) ). This is tricky and needs experience, so probably you will find out in practice, while spending X amount of hours trying to figure out why IE displays web site differently. If you want to know something interesting about efficiency, then you should know that CSS is parsing expression from RIGHT to LEFT. It means, that if you write

#divId a{
 ...
}

then what will happen is that for EACH link on the site a comparison will be made, whether one of its parrent is #divId. Hence it is inefficient way of writing CSS, even tohugh the intuition says, that it should be.

You should be aware of following CSS expressions (and be aware that 1 and 2 are the most efficient)

  1. find element by id - #divId{...}
  2. find element by class - .classId{...}
  3. you can join conditions, for example find element that has BOTH class1 and class2: .class1.class2{ ... }
  4. you can take several elements at once by separating them with coma: class1, class2 { ... }
  5. you can take all elements of given type: div { ... }
  6. you can take certain element (for example P) only if his brother is other element (for example H2): H2 + P { ... } (this will match < h2 >< p >... but will not match <h2> <any other element than p > <p>
  7. you can take element that has certain attribute: a[href]{ ... }
  8. you can specify what should be value of attribute: input[type=text]{ ... }
  9. you can use pseudo classes, for example: a:hover{ ... }

this obviously does not cover the whole topic, but gives you impression what you might want to google if you feel that you need to

I hope you will gain (even a little) benefit out of this answer, otherwise please just ignore it : )

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That doesn't look easy. Thanks for your response. –  Tara Sep 1 '11 at 0:33
    
I would certainly learn about CSS if I were in your situation however; it is very important to know the how of whatever design change you want made, both so you know how feasible it is and so you know how to request it, even if you don't know how to do it line by line. In addition knowing the actual technologies at hand is extremely helpful for prototyping. –  Ben Brocka Sep 1 '11 at 16:00
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I've an interview on Friday for the role of a UX designer. The job description says 'require HTML & CSS skills'. While I know the basics of HTML& CSS, I have not done coding. Can you share some of the potential interview questions?

If you're not very familiar with the coding and want a refresh, checking out w3schools css tutorial doesn't hurt: http://www.w3schools.com/css/

Like the post above me says, It's good to know how a page is layed out in HTML with divs and styled with CSS.

I'd also recommend going over some JQuery, as it adds a lot of the magic to the UI of a site. It may be a good idea to know the new trends with HTML5 and CSS3. Check out this site: http://webdesignledger.com/tips/html5-css3-take-your-design-to-another-level for a quick crash course on what's new!

A lot of job postings require HTML and CSS skills so that you can speak the same language with front end developers and know the limitations of implementing a design, how long it would take, whats most feasible, etc. Browser compatibility may be important, in general, not just about html and css skills. I'd recommend googling what features browsers don't support.

Also, typically how much coding does the role of a UX designer require?

It depends on the role, sometimes there's no coding at all, sometimes you might want/need to show actual mockups / prototypes in a browser, sometimes you might design and code!

PS: I see that some questions related to CSS have been closed. Can you please guide me to the right forum to post the question if this is not the right one.

http://stackoverflow.com/questions/tagged/css there's a link to stack overflow tagged with CSS questions asked, it may help to go over them quickly?

Good luck in your interview Tara!

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Thanks for response. Appreciate your inputs. –  Tara Sep 1 '11 at 5:03
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W3schools.com is an awful resource! Don't use it. It's outdated and inacurrate. Read more why here: readwriteweb.com/hack/2011/01/w3fools-takes-on-w3schools.php –  Matt Rockwell Sep 1 '11 at 16:05
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-1 for giving reference to w3school. I regret there is no additional -100 for "doen't hurt" :). No offence of course :) i have recently given few of them too on SO, feel free to vote them down - mea culpa –  mkk Sep 1 '11 at 19:58
    
I think for someone that wants a quick overview of basic html and css syntax, w3schools isn't a bad option, it's obviously not a substitute for learning proper standards. Anyways, it was just part of the question, hope it still helps someone in the future. –  mustefa Oct 29 '11 at 15:56
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