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I am currently looking for a new UX Designer position and I'm seeing more and more positions where html/CSS is needed but it's not a development position ("UI/UX Designer"). I am also not seeing Javascript required along with that.

The part I'm confused about is that even if I can create interactive prototypes with HTML/CSS they are not going to be at a level that a front-end engineer would code and are not going to reflect my designs very well without Javascript/jQuery/Ajax. A tool like Axure for example can do the job much better for a designer than coding. So what's the story? Is there a use for htms/CSS as a designer that I'm not aware of? are these development positions in disguise? are companies trying to turn their UX designers into front-end engineers without paying engineering salaries? where do you draw the line between UX Designer and UI Developer?

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It's largely up to the organization that is hiring as to what responsibility the UX Designer will own. If you're in-house, it seems like a lot of organizations want a catch-all designer that does the UX and the UI development. In some organizations it might make sense to have one person serve both of those roles if the workload is light and proper attention can be spent on both. However, it seems that a lot of organizations do not understand the difference between these two roles. UI Design is only a portion of what UX entails, and UI Development is a separate discipline, that's why the job title is different. There are UX Designer jobs out there that specifically focus on design. It depends on what you want to focus on.

It seems the industry has come a long way from having a "Web designer" that designed and coded everything, to having UX Designers that specifically focus on the user experience, to some degree distanced from the granularity of the production of the end product, and now back to this idea that the UX Designer should be responsible for the production of the UI. It feels like a reversion to me in a lot of ways. I personally have never been to excited about coding CSS and HTML. I am specifically excited about providing optimal user experiences.

  • I completely agree with you, and this is part of the frustration that I have. In order to create interactive prototypes one needs to have very high level of competency in html/cc/js/jQuery and a few other libraries. It is not easy! if you're only using basic html/css then you are limited in the kind of prototypes you can create and you're not creating the true designs that you would have created otherwise. Your designs are limited to the technology you are able to use. – dee Jan 3 '14 at 0:39
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The confusion is created by the fact different people have different understanding of what an UX designer does. I'm exactly the same because I just called it an UX 'designer'. User Experience is a vast concept that enfolds a lot of different aspects, who says that someone who tries to make the User Experience of a website better is an 'UX designer'. I just did, but that's because I copied it from other people who copied it from other people. Companies read the term, create there own job profile around it and put it out there, attracting everyone from interaction designers to user interface designers and communication experts to marketing experts.

My advice is, don't look for a job title, but for a job description. I even went as far as applying to companies that didn't even have a job opening with my particular skillset. I explained what my skills were and what I could mean for them. 9 out of 10 companies don't know about User Experience and 1 out of those 9 might just recognise your value.

Some further reading: http://www.helloerik.com/ux-is-not-ui

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    Well said. The term UX Designer can now almost mean front end developer or interaction designer for some companies. – Stewart Dean Jan 3 '14 at 11:46
  • Thanks for the link. I'm actually a UI designer but I was aware of a few of the concepts the blog post describes, but now I'd like to expand my knowledge. What are good books on the broad subject of UX? – Gabriele Cirulli Jan 6 '14 at 19:23
  • @GabrieleCirulli questions about books get asked here from time to time. I recommend starting here: ux.stackexchange.com/questions/4439/… – Paul van den Dool Jan 7 '14 at 7:39
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Your question is actually two different questions according to my understanding.

1- HTML and CSS skills:

With certain front-end frameworks (twitter bootstrap, foundation, uikit, anybody can come to a certain point by only using HTML and CSS. Front-end developers can re-use some parts of prototype directly.

Axure Html generated prototype is not suitable for re-use. I think that html and css is a strategical decision of the company that you are applying for.

Ownership is another dimension that can be connected to a UX designer. A UX can turn into a product manager too...Which is another strategic decision of the company. A designer should develop him/herself in another dimensions.

2- Companies are looking for team members who have a general understanding about what they are doing:

If you are going to look for a developer, Do not you want to work with a developer who has some design knowledge and read some books about basic design, form design and so on?

It is referred as T-shaped people by Ideo, Tim Brown in 1991. A nice reading: http://coevolving.com/blogs/index.php/archive/t-shaped-professionals-t-shaped-skills-hybrid-managers/

Hope that it helps.

  • Thanks for your reply. The problem with this approach is that the designer is limited to the technology he's able to use. Designers should not have to worry about how to implement their designs (as long as their designs meet some technological feasibility within the organization). If you have to worry about implementing your designs you would never try to innovate. – dee Jan 3 '14 at 0:48
  • I think that it is more about workflow related structure. In IT sector, the main expense is human resources and i can understand why some companies are trying to compensate the need of engineer and designer with one person which can also bring some advantages and disadvantages. The best UX innovations need more intelligence either artificial or human. – Abektes Jan 4 '14 at 1:03
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I agree with @Abektes's answer. To add to it:

  1. UI/UX Designer thinks about builing the user experience, does user research and develops the look and feel of the product using balsamiq, photoshop, sketch etc. Prototypes in html/css/js.

  2. UI Developer/Engineer or Design engineer implements those designs using html/css/js. But will work on mockups or understand what is delivered by the UX designer.

But both of these positions have something in common:

  1. Understanding of UX, design principles, color theory, typography etc (more needed for UX designer, less for UI engineer).
  2. Understanding of html/css/js so that she is aware about the technical limitations of the design. (more needed for UI engineer and less for UX designer).

Shameless plug: We are hiring at eBay and here are two different positions which look similar but have the subtle difference of what I stated above: Design Engineer and UX Designer.

Caveat: The distinction between these two is more at a big company. I have seen that startups hire a person who excels in both.

  • Thanks for your reply. The problem is that UI Engineer and UX Designer are totally different things. To create interactive prototypes with html/cc/js/jQuery/Ajax you need a development environment, testing tools and you are probably a Computer Science major. To be a UX Designer you need more artistic, theoretical and philosophical skills, and are more likely to be an HCI major. – dee Jan 3 '14 at 0:32
  • No. Don't go with that assumption. The best HCI grads I know do html/css/js. They are not expert in it but they get the work done. At the same time the best CS grads who are doing frontend work have a good sense of design. I am am CS grad but took a bunch of design classes and improving my design sense. – zengr Jan 3 '14 at 0:53
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UX Designer is now a term that means many different things. I personally would prefer it not be used. To add my take on the comments above UX designer may mean.

A) User Experience Person.

Someone who does core UX, that is does user research, user testing, does workshops with users and business to understand needs than builds up a strategy for that experience before moving on to user flows and information architecture (with possibly some content strategy and taxonomy work) before starting to sketch up interface ideas and then working with interaction designers and developers to make things happen.

B) UI person.

Is given an interface problem to solve. Will start with sketching up the interface and working that through wireframes / photoshop before creating it in code using bootstrap / jQuery etc. Can put together pages quickly and cleanly and have a good understanding of latest frameworks and visual trends.

C) Mixtures.

Some people who do A can do B but don't have the time to dedicate to that. Some people who do B do a bit of A. I call this 'UX lite' and tends to be seen in marketing agencies.

Whilst I believe everyone is part of the UX process in a team there are a lot of UX people out there that have only ever done the 'surface part' of UX and not done core UX, the stuff that used to be called Information Architecture or Usability.

On a big project it's best to have people who specialise in one or the either. Getting B people to work on, say, an ecommerce site of any scale is a route to disaster.

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Personally never heard of UI Developer exactly. Developers are developers and designers are designers. Also personally I don't agree with that amount of specialization that's happening today, everyone should know a portion of most things to be able to communicate between different fields. And this is why I like most about nowadays, the areas are being more and more mixed up and "forced" to be in contact with each other.

UX Designers could know something about programming for prototyping, for starters, and mind that I used the word "could". Designers are not forced to know that, their basic knowledge ends in its own area, but that also makes you a "Basic Designer" that don't communicate well with any other area. I like to encourage designers to learn programming, since we build things to be made, not to be observed, and that knowledge helps you a ton, to be able to design feasible things, just taking care to not limit yourself too much.

Developers are focused on the functionality and applicability of those designs, they need clear instructions to build what was designed, and most cases today, the knowledge of UX and UI gives a great deal of information for those instructions to be even clearer, and also, they become one more looking for the product with a "UX lens", as well as a designer who knows how to program looks to a product with a "Dev lens".

I say this because I'm one of those, I study and graduate myself as a Designer, specifically a UX Designer, but work in a company as a Developer. Each step of my work here can be clearly separated, when I'm "being" a designer and a developer. It's not the best position, as the only good thing you have is that the communication between Designer and Developer is seamless (since I'm the same person) but comes with the downside that I can't fully commit with any of those areas.

In the end, if you need a designer, focus on finding a UX Designer, but put programming as a "plus", there are great designers out there that doesn't say they know how to "code" but have a great deal of logical thought and could easily be inserted in the developers pipe to communicate with them.

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