The main reason why UI and UX designers do (not) need to code

One of the most common questions I get from aspiring designers is about programming. Do UI and UX designers have to code? Here’s your answer.

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Do UI and UX designers need to code?

Do UI and UX designers need to code?

No. As a UI and UX designer, you do not have to code. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. While it is perfectly fine to focus 100% on design, there are numerous benefits to being able to code as a designer.

As a UX designer, you mainly work during the early stages of the software development process. The project is still in the concept phase, where coding isn’t as relevant. That’s why being able to code isn’t as important here.

Nonetheless, some companies expect you to be able to code. That’s because they combine UI and UX in one role. In that case, you’re also working in the second half of the software development process where there’s a bigger emphasis on UI.

Coding is very relevant for that second half of the project. You’re prototyping and user testing a lot with the software you’ve designed.

Finding a UX or UI job with and without coding

Being able to code is not a strict requirement for UI and UX designers. There are enough UX jobs with and without coding requirements. Here’s how you find the one that’s right for you

If you look at the job requirements or a certain job, you’ll see what a company expects of you. When you see an “HTML, CSS, and JSS” requirement, you’ll likely have to code at this job.

That’s okay if you want to, of course. But if you don’t, make sure to ask about it during the job interview.

The benefits of knowing how to code as a UX designer

If you’re unsure if you want to learn to code, I can share some of the benefits of knowing code based on my experience of not knowing how to code and learning to code later on during my UX career.

Working with other roles

As a UI and UX designer, you build bridges between technology, the business, and users.

You are a facilitator and a connector. The same applies to your role within the office. When you get hired as a UX designer, you will collaborate with technical roles like business analysts and developers.

This means you’ll encounter several situations where knowing how to code is a useful skill to have.

  • You will have to collaborate with developers. Knowing how they do their work makes your work as a UI and UX designer a lot easier.
  • You know the technical boundaries of your design options beforehand. This will speed up your work and prevent you from starting over and doing your work twice. It also makes meetings with developers a lot easier for every participant.
  • You can prototype your work by yourself using tools like Axure or ProtoPie. You could even code a prototype.

More in demand as a freelancer

There’s a higher need to code if want to become a freelance UX designer. As a freelancer myself, I’ve heard the following question all too often.

“Can you also build it?”

My answer was always no; I couldn’t build the designs I made for my clients. I’ve lost many leads because of that. That’s why I learned to use Elementor (WordPress) and front-end coding.

It is a huge benefit for freelance UX designers if you can code. Offering web design and development in one package puts you ahead of many other designers.

On the development side, it is okay to pick a low-code or no-code tool like WordPress, Framer, or Webflow, by the way. 

Which programming language should I start with?

If you want to learn to code as a UI and UX designer, learning HTML, CSS, and JS is the best way to start. You’ll learn the basics of web design. That’s useful because you’ll work on many websites and web apps.

In addition, understand the difference between front-end and back-end, how applications work under the hood, and how servers impact your design decision-making.

I decided to work on the backend development of one of my side projects myself. As a result, I noticed that conversations with backend developers in other projects went much easier than before.

If you want to get that same result, I recommend learning the basics of SQL and databases.

Next steps

UX design is a tech job. However, that doesn’t mean you need to code. Your focus is on the user experience of technology. Yet, knowing how to code can be valuable to any UX designer.

  • You’ll be a better collaborator within your project team because you understand how to connect your design to code.
  • As a freelance UX designer, being able to offer a full service makes you more in demand.

By the way, did you know that someone who can design and code at a high level is called a UX unicorn? Some say that’s impossible, but I believe you can be great at both.

Can you code as a UX designer? Maybe you’re the UX unicorn everyone in UX is looking for!

Do you have feedback on this article? Missing something? Or just a question? Reach out to me and I’ll get back to you!

Profile picture of author Nick Groeneveld, a senior UX designer and mentor for The Designer's Toolbox

About the author

Hi! I'm , a senior designer from the Netherlands with experience in UX, visual design, and research. I'm a UX coach that supports other designers and have completed design projects in finance, tech, and the public sector.

Through The Designer's Toolbox, I'm an Educational Partner for Interaction Design Foundation.

☎️ Book a 1:1 mentor meeting with me or let's connect on LinkedIn, Twitter and Medium.