Take the 2-minute tour ×
User Experience Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for user experience researchers and experts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I have been a software developer for the past 5+ years and am considering switching to a role that is less focused on coding/development. UX design is one of the paths I am considering.

My two most recent positions were very broad development roles at small companies, where I did some front-end development but also a lot of business logic and data access work. At my most recent job, I was mentoring a junior developer on the team. For several months, I led him in sessions explaining HCI principles that I had learned in an introductory HCI course in college, supplementing it with more material from Jakob Nielsen and Donald Norman. (I have a bachelor's degree in computer science.)

I've always done development work with a UI design book on my desk, made sure that UIs I designed looked as professional as possible, and made sure to follow accepted design principles. But as a mentor, I truly rediscovered my strong interest in HCI and UX - and my passion for making sure that users have the most positive experience that they can while using software.

Before I begin shifting my career toward UX, I would really like to know what it is like to work in UX and what my expectations should be.

  • Within the broader classification of UX, which more specific roles suit themselves well to people with software development backgrounds? What kind of UX-related role can I reasonably expect to get in the near future with my background?

  • Will I need additional education and/or certification(s) before I can expect to land a job in UX?

  • How does a UX role differ depending on which development methodology an organization uses? How do UX roles differ based on the size of a company or company culture?

  • How do UX designers usually fit into their organizations? Who do they report to? Is it more common for them to be the only UX person on their team or have other UX practitioners working with them?

  • If you are a UX practitioner: How have you been affected by crunch times in a project? Is there a heavy requirement for overtime in UX, compared to development? (For a comparison: Most recently, I've worked 40-45 hours a week most weeks - occasionally exceeding 50 - on an agile team that uses scrum. I am also aware of development shops with heavy overtime requirements, and used to work in one.)

I've seen a few other questions here at UX Stack Exchange that address some, but not all, of the same topics:

share|improve this question
add comment

3 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

I think the requirements list for quality UX folks should be this:

  • care about the user expirience.

That's it. If you do, you're qualified.

I realize that's not how all HR departments feel, of course. At that point, your challenge is to just convince those that are hiring that you have a passion for this type of work. It sounds like you do.

Regarding your bullet point questions:

Within the broader classification of UX, which more specific roles suit themselves well to people with software development backgrounds? What kind of UX-related role can I reasonably expect to get in the near future with my background?

As someone with a dev background, you'd be a huge asset to a lot of UX teams. Unfortunately, a lot of UX teams lack any technical folks. For specific roles, out the gate you'd be qualified as someone that could do prototypes, communicate with the development team, help manage customer expectations in terms of what is doable, helping IAs and UI folks build practical solutions that can actually be built, etc.

Will I need additional education and/or certification(s) before I can expect to land a job in UX?

It wouldn't hurt, but doesn't seem to be a requirement, either. Practical experience seems to trump certificates still.

How does a UX role differ depending on which development methodology an organization uses? How do UX roles differ based on the size of a company or company culture?

I'm not sure there are huge differences in terms of general rules-of-thumbs. Like most rolls, a lot of bigger orgs are still stuck in waterfall methodologies. There definitely seems to be a need for more UX folks that grasp Agile (or in UX terms "lean UX").

How do UX designers usually fit into their organizations? Who do they report to? Is it more common for them to be the only UX person on their team or have other UX practitioners working with them?

There's no one single answer to that. Ideally, IMHO, UX shouldn't report to anyone (as they are beholden to the USER first and foremost). In reality, I've seen UX report to IT, report to business lines, report to marketing, etc.

As for how many UX people to have, I think it's less about butts in seats and more about which roles are accommodated. IMHO, a larger UX team should be a nice mix of specialists and generalists. A small UX team is best to have a few talented generalists.

If you are a UX practitioner: How have you been affected by crunch times in a project? Is there a heavy requirement for overtime in UX, compared to development?

I good UX team is working side-by-side with dev, just as they are working side-by-side with the client.

In terms of hours worked, I find that more of a cultural issue than job-title issue. It's more about the company you are working for (or country you live in) then if you are in UX vs. Dev.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Great question, and it's not uncommon for development folks to consider jumping the fence into UX or vice versa.

I work with someone who came from an IT background and he has a great gift for UX thinking. He's largely in an info architecture role and is slowly working his way into the visual design.

I also worked with a really gifted visual artist who worked as a developer. He left the company to go back to school for graphic design, as he was less interested in the user experience part of the job.

Let me preface my responses with to your direct questions (below) by saying your transition into UX depends greatly on your company and its culture. Some organizations are very support of circulating talent, but be aware that you may need to leave your current company to make this dream happen.


1) Within the broader classification of UX, which more specific roles suit themselves well to people with software development backgrounds? What kind of UX-related role can I reasonably expect to get in the near future with my background?

I would look towards either front-end development (HTML, CSS and JS) or Information Architecture. The minimization and refactoring mindset of most developers is a natural jumping off point for cleaning up navigation, page structures and code.

2) Will I need additional education and/or certification(s) before I can expect to land a job in UX?

Depends on the company. I will take innate talent, intelligence, experience and passion any day over certificates or collegiate credentials. I think this is especially true given your background. If you're interested in diving into the visual design part of UX a portfolio is an expectation. Honestly portfolios are an expectation for UX designers in-general. The contents will be wireframes and user flows for an IA vs graphics for a visual designer.

3) How does a UX role differ depending on which development methodology an organization uses? How do UX roles differ based on the size of a company or company culture?

This depends greatly on the company. Some companies have large UX organizations, therefore have highly silo'd/specified UX roles and development methodologies. Start with IA by designing product structure and wireframe the flows. In a large company with lots of specialties it might be: Hand-off to UX designers to skin. Hand-off to visual designers to skin. Hand of to front-end developers to prototype. Hand off to usability to test. Smaller companies might have a single person to execute all these tasks.

4) How do UX designers usually fit into their organizations? Who do they report to? Is it more common for them to be the only UX person on their team or have other UX practitioners working with them?

* There's no good answer for this question. It's totally dependent on the company, and in my experience very hard to change. It's a part of how the company recognized the need for and integrated UX.

I've seen it integrated into IT, business groups and marketing. Front-end developers can sometimes be split from the broader UX group and rolled into IT. *

5) If you are a UX practitioner: How have you been affected by crunch times in a project? Is there a heavy requirement for overtime in UX, compared to development? (For a comparison: Most recently, I've worked 40-45 hours a week most weeks - occasionally exceeding 50 - on an agile team that uses scrum. I am also aware of development shops with heavy overtime requirements, and used to work in one.)

*Sure. UX is a continuous improvement loop and design and design improvements never stop. You only reach the point at which you need to begin development, and it's always a concession.

To understand UX you need to realize that building the right user experience is find the appropriate compromises between what business want, what users expect and what IT can build.*

share|improve this answer
    
sounds like "the exposure triangle" from photography. Achieving the balance between shutter_speed(user requirement), aperture(business necessity) and ISO(platform constraints) ... –  kmonsoor Dec 27 '13 at 23:44
add comment

Welcome to the next phase of your career.

You seem like you have an excellent grasp on Development, which should provide you an excellent aptitude for the UX field.

Based on your interests, it sounds like you would be a great Information Architect. Working with users to define goals, using best practices to design information structures, and aesthetically pleasing wireframes (your development skills will payoff, since you will be familiar with traditional software development lifeccycles).

As far as time constraints, you typically work within scoped phases, so whether it be a paying client or an internal project, you almost always have a fixed start/end date.

Keep up the learning, and get any classes or certs you can get your hands on. Be prepared to explain how your career in development has prepared you for excellence in the UX field.

Good luck!

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.