Should Developers Learn UX?

Should Developers Learn UX?

There is a lot written about whether or not user experience (UX) designers should learn how to code, but comparatively little written about whether developers should learn UX. Developers make a lot of decisions about the user experience, whether they want to or not. And, yes, some developers have UX skills. But it’s not the norm. So, should developers learn UX?

At Voice+Code, we believe developers are—or should be—deeply embedded in the UX design process. In fact, now more than ever, we think developers who embrace a user-centered design process are the key to making technology more secure, accessible, and easier to use. Let’s face it, we’re asking technology to interact with humans and solve complex human problems. That’s why everyone on the product team needs to be a champion for the end user—especially developers. Here’s why:

Product teams that emphasize the user experience maximize opportunity and minimize risk.

By involving users in the design process, teams can naturally maximize opportunity and minimize the risk involved in creating digital products. The team uncovers insights that put them ahead of the competition. Simultaneously, teams are able to validate assumptions prior to wasting time building products or features no one wants. These benefits are amplified when the design and development teams work collaboratively to uncover solutions. When designers and developers work together seamlessly throughout the UX design process, they can collectively uncover the best possible solution based on the business’ goals, user goals, and the constraints or capabilities of the technology. When developers better understand user goals, motivations, and behaviors, they can architect far more impactful solutions. The UX design process is a truncated one when designers simply hand off design files for the developer to build.

As an analogy, think about how a print designer works with printer to produce a book. The designer knows how the book should look and feel in the users’ hands—but they only see the digital reproduction onscreen. Making that book a reality is the printer’s realm of expertise. Yes, print designers generally understand the materials and processes that go into a high-quality end product. But the printer can suggest the paper and print processes that make for a book that is both visually stunning and structurally robust. While they have different areas of expertise, they collaborate with one another towards a common end goal. Both are required for a successful end product.

Developers are the linchpin for organizational change.

The developers we have spoken to are eager to learn how the UX design process can help them make successful digital products. Unfortunately, the organizations they work for often rely on processes that exclude the end user. These organizational roadblocks make it difficult for the process and cultural shifts that are necessary to employ a user experience design process. This is especially true in organizations that are technology-focused. These organizations have far more developers and engineers working solely on the technology than UX researchers or designers. In this situation, developers have strength in numbers to advocate for a user-centered process. Frankly, as companies continue to compete on the user experience, it’s vital for the technology team to advocate for a user-centered process. Organizations that continue to place technology ahead of the the user experience are putting their businesses at risk.

Developers make user experience decisions, whether they intend to or not.

This scenario might sounds familiar: the design files have been delivered but they omit certain pages, interactions, or features that are part of the final digital product. The designers haven’t thought through the sign up process, onboarding, how the user will manage their account, error messages, and more. Or the client or project manager tells the development team to “just add this feature…” As the last people in this dysfunctional assembly line, developers are expected to just make things work. But it’s these forgotten, but vital, pieces that could make or break a user experience. In these scenarios—which are not going away anytime soon—it’s essential for developers to be able to embrace a user-centered process and fall back on UX best practices.

Building digital products is increasingly complex. Teams that embrace a UX design process have much better odds in creating successful digital products than teams that don’t. For teams that have yet to champion a user-centered design process, developers play an important role in driving that change. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, developers are already playing a large role in making user experience design decisions. Because of that, it’s essential they embrace the UX design process and have a basic foundation in UX best practices. Want your team to create better products that help users achieve their goals while also reducing wasted resources? Encourage your development team to learn and embrace a user-centered design process.

Need everyone on your team to think like a UX designer? Our in-house workshops help your entire team understand and embrace a user-centered design process.