The Rise of the UX Developer

This is a repost of my article in Issue 30 of the MailChimp UX Newsletter. Our team publishes a new issue every month so if you enjoy this, please subscribe!

The engineers call us designers. The UI designers call us developers. The research team calls us when they uncover changes to make in the application.

When I started at MailChimp 4½ years ago, my job title was User Experience Designer. Jumping from a career in web design and front-end development to a UX position meant catching up on essential skills like information architecture, content strategy, and user research—which were largely absent in the agency world. I’ve read books, gone to conferences, and participated in workshops on all things user experience. But even when our team was relatively small and we all wore a lot more hats, my primary role was front-end development. Over the years, the UX department here has grown steadily, and so has the need for developers with an applied understanding of user experience design practice.

There are currently four devs on the UX team, along with two brilliant visual designers. While we all work together to plan UI changes, the four developers rarely push pixels around. Calling us all UX Designers is a bit misleading, as the developers rarely do big “D” design. UI Developer or Front-End Dev is more accurate, but it neglects the sensitivity and skills from the UX profession the we employ regularly.

There’s also some ambiguity about whether or not we only work on the front-end. Our team is located in a big open room with our QA and Engineering departments, which has led to some great collaboration. Our pattern library has given the Engineers the freedom to do more on the front-end, and they’ve encouraged us to dive deeper into back-end development and advanced javascript.

In light of all this, I recently changed my title on LinkedIn from “Senior UX Designer” to “Senior UX Developer.”

linkedincongrats
Pro Tip: Don’t ever change your job title on LinkedIn unless you want a flurry of undue congratulations.

Since then, I’ve come across a few articles from UX professionals I respect who are angry about the growing number of UX Developer job listings. I’m admittedly paraphrasing, but the controversy seems to be that the practice of user experience design is well established, and that “UX Developer” is just a trendy misnomer that will somehow dilute and tarnish the UX industry. Baloney. Just look at Center Centre’s holistic curriculum to see that UX is a multi-disciplinary field with a lot to grok.

It’s a requirement that all MailChimp UX developers have a broad understanding of UX industry skill-sets, principles, and techniques. Speaking the same language is what allows us to fill in the gaps and get things done. In the end, what matters most isn’t job titles, but the unique combination of skills people bring to the table, and how those skills fit together to solve problems we couldn’t tackle individually. To quote our Director of UX, Aarron, from his article about building a UX team in Issue #21:

“When smart, capable people with complimentary skills are united by a deep desire to help customers, you can create great things and have an awful lot of fun along the way.”

As a user experience designer who does far more coding than visual design, I’m proud to call myself a UX developer. If you are too, and would like to join our team here in Atlanta, we’ve got a fresh job posting with your name on it.

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