In the future, will we *all* have to code?
In Jared Spool’s presentation at the IA Summit, he talked about the “Holy Grail” being a UXer who can code. He didn’t mean someone who could just do both, but someone who could do both really well. Jared posited that in the near future, all UXers will need to know code.
It immediately begged the question, when we talk about “a UXer who can code”, what do we mean by “code”?
I assume we mean front-end development, a good handle on HTML and CSS, and a bit of jQuery, to quickly be able to knock together a clickable prototype. However, if you want to put together a quick prototype, but use real content, then that kind of implies hooking it into a back-end database. Karen McGrane’s suggestion of what is best practice - trying out your new thing with the best and worst examples of your real content - requires that. And if you’ve got something that works in the browser, and is hooked into the back-end, then surely you are just duplicating the work of making production-ready code?
What struck me even more than this, though, was that here I was at an IA Summit being told that the future of the trade is in learning to code. And I’d just been to the “Future sound of music” panel at the Media Guardian Changing Media Summit to hear David Haynes from Soundcloud suggest that developers are the people who are shaping the sound of modern music. And there is a constant debate these days in the journalism world about whether journalists need to learn how to code.
So, are we all going to have to learn how to code?
There are some people who can design furniture, and then build it. And there are some people who can design furniture, and then get a craftsman to build it. I think we should be wary of dispensing with the craft skills that go together to make up digital products.
I can throw a bit of code together in a smattering of languages, but that has taught me enough to know that I am not a specialist in this area. What I think we need much more of is UXers (and journalists for that matter) with a coding mentality, and with a greater technical appreciation of the world that they are inhabiting.
As Karen McGrane put it in her presentation - look at the sheer number of people and job titles that go into making a movie. Why are we seemingly driving ourselves not just to make terms like IA, UX, IxD interchangable, but also trying to assimilate the craft skills of software developers?
“Pair an IA with a developer, so that you can get real prototypes in front of real people, really fast”
I think that sounds like an exciting prospect, that allows both parties to use their areas of expertise to develop something that is potentially bigger than the sum of its parts, rather than dumbing down software development to a commodity level.
Oh, and just a little something to throw into the mix - the pressure seems to be coming from both directions. Last week Tyler Tate posted “Why developers should become UX designers”...