Is the ‘UX Developer’ job title really a problem?

There’s been a lot talk lately about what the job title ‘UX Developer’ means and whether there is a place for it in the industry.

Leisa Reichelt and others in the ‘yes’ camp think it’s fine – a perfectly valid term for people whose skillset and role includes elements of coding as well as having a hand in design decisions. Andy Budd and the ‘no’ camp think it makes unmerited use of the term UX as if it’s some kind of mark of quality, and waters down the complexity of the discipline of user experience design.

In some ways, I agree with Leisa Reichelt. I don’t really see the need for the absolutist categorisations and the militancy that often seem to crop up when people are discussing this industry’s job titles.  If you have a mixed skillset then why not use your job title to describe what you do as succinctly as possible? Isn’t that what a job title’s for anyway?

I also don’t agree that a developer with an interest in UX activities is just a ‘good developer’ as Andy Budd argued, or as Whitney Hess said, ‘a developer working in 2012’. There are plenty of good developers who know a lot about code and technical engineering, but don’t  have much knowledge of (or interest in) psychology. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. After all, the UX designer is there to represent the user. I’d rather work with a developer who I could rely on 100% to code a robust product than one with one eye on the design.

However, where I do agree with Andy Budd, and my only problem with the title UX developer, is that in some ways it does cause some damage to the meaning of the phrase ‘user experience’ because it contributes to a trend which seems to be happening anyway:

It makes people think UX means ‘web’.

Nearly all of the UX Developer job descriptions I’ve seen are focused around front-end coding.  Similarly, I’ve noticed many freelance projects looking for a ‘UX Designer’ and even ‘UX Consultant’ are basically looking for a visual designer and front-end coder, who, as a bonus, should give a passing thought to the usability of the thing before they build it. I think this is worrying because it narrows the role of user experience design right down, making it a subset of web design.  It makes it seem as if we can only design for the experience of people using a website and ignores the huge range of non-web-based interactive products and services out there. And in turn, this makes user experience less about strategy, less about people, and more about a particular technology.

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