User Interface Engineering: Why the Valley Wants Designers That Can Code

An excerpt:

We've proven for years that you can ship a product without a designer. Many companies have done that, and while it doesn't make for a great result, it does ship. However, it's much harder to ship a software product without a coder, if not near impossible.

That's why, right now, there are dozens of startups looking to pay big bucks to find the coding super designer. The demand is high and those designers who have proven, practiced coding skills can demand a higher salary than those who don't.

But how much of an extra salary?

What about the non-startup portion of the hiring world? Right now, the established organizations find it easier to have larger teams with separate developers and designers.

Yet, that doesn't make the designer that can code any less valuable to them. A team with two coding designers is more flexible and capable than a team with one non-coding designer and a non-designing developer. The flexible team can produce well-designed results better and faster.

I had a conversation with a recruiter about this regarding a position they were hiring for. It was a fairly large organization that was looking for someone who could do user experience, design layouts, illustrate icons, and code.

The mythical unicorn.

The pay was good, but not even close to what that person could make freelance, nor much more what most of the people with two to three of those skills are making. I told the recruiter that.

There’s nothing that’s come across my desk that would pay enough to force me use both skills. I can do visual design. I can do HTML. But I enough User Experience the most. The technical and visual skills help me understand the constraints, but I don’t go much further than that.

If a recruiter calls me about that mythical unicorn position, and isn’t paying at least a 25 percent premium over market rate, they don’t understand what they need.

What hiring managers really need is a diversity of skills:

Coding and designing are collections of skills. What we've learned is teams with a better distribution of skills, not segmented by roles, produce better results. Having a team filled with individuals who can both code and design will be more effective in the long run than a team where the skills are divided up.

Maybe we should be asking developers if they get user experience and visual design.

In today’s environment, you can get by with good but not great developers early on. You can’t get by on poor design, and that’s why user experience skills are more valuable now.