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Should Product Designers Know How to Code?

I am a Product Designer with a strong understanding of modern web development languages (such as HTML, Javascript, and CSS), which brought tremendous value to my career when I had an Individual Contributor role, and that’s what this story is about.

Let me start by addressing the elephant in the room; knowing how to code doesn’t mean a product designer needs to code with developers.
I am just talking about having the skill, so, in my opinion, I believe the answer to “Should Product Designers know how to code?” is YES!

Lights with the word Yes.
Photo by Julian Lozano on Unsplash

Disclaimer: Before you keep reading, there’s nothing wrong with not knowing how to code; a good Product Designer doesn’t need to know it; I see this as a complement to the skills of a Product Designer. Doing UX Design and Frontend development is a UX Engineer’s responsibility.

I want to share with you my top 10 reasons that support my answer:

  1. Improving Communication and Collaboration: It becomes easier for you to collaborate with developers; you can communicate better and share your ideas; you can work together to deliver better estimations to stakeholders, and both can develop quick solutions, which helps to reduce the likelihood of misunderstandings and miscommunications;
  2. Deep Understanding of Technology: Coding skills give you a better understanding of technology and its constraints, which enable you to create more complex solutions that push the boundaries of what’s possible, always with this thought — “User needs first — technology second.” — in mind, but sometimes the technology is not ready to support all users needs.
  3. Problem-Solving Skills: Coding allows you to understand the technology better and identify and solve problems more efficiently. You may spot issues and bugs in designs early on and quickly adjust.
  4. Faster Prototyping: You can quickly create prototypes to test some design interactions with your users, and it saves time and resources to iterate more rapidly;
  5. Increase Creativity: It may help you to explore more creative solutions by experimenting with different design elements and seeing how they work in practice;
  6. Increase Autonomy: You can work independently and take on more responsibility. For example, in some companies, I had access to the codebase, and I made changes without relying on developers, which helped speed up the design process, fixing some UX debt, always with the mindset to deliver value faster to end-users;
  7. Improve Experiences: You can create designs that are not only aesthetically pleasing but also functional and efficient; you can better understand the limitations of the technology the team is working with and design accordingly;
  8. Better Buy-in from Stakeholders: You can better communicate design solutions to stakeholders, explaining technical constraints without involving developers, leading to an increase in your credibility inside the organization;
  9. Enhance Career Opportunities: You may work on projects requiring design and development skills, which leads to more challenging work and increases your credibility. Recently, already working as a Leader, I revamped an external website by doing all the code;
  10. Be a Mentor: You can share UX tips with developers on improving User Experience and creating user interfaces that are more intuitive, user-friendly, and accessible for end-users;

In conclusion, the benefits of learning to code are many, from improved collaboration to increased creativity and more efficient design processes; coding skills can help product designers create better products and advance their careers. In addition to this topic, I do believe that great products come from high-performing product teams, having Product, Design, and Tech working together, where Product Designers must wear different hats:

  1. Desirability hat: work with users to understand their needs;
  2. Viability hat: work with stakeholders to understand Business and Vision;
  3. Feasibility hat: work with developers to understand what can be developed and when, what are the technical constraints, etc.;

In my opinion, not only do product designers need to understand more about coding to have a better understanding of Feasibility but work closely with stakeholders to understand Viability, and that’s the reason why I expect to write an opinion on “why product designers should learn about business?” in a future story.

Stay tuned 👋

“The only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work, and the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking, and don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking, don’t settle.”
— Steve Jobs

Thanks for reading! This post was published originally on Medium.

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