Engineers are Engineers

This may seem obvious, but based off of the amount of recruiter emails I get looking for a UX Designer, I don’t know that the industry has fully accepted this detail just yet. On the day to day, the primary tasks that I carry out as a UX Engineer are the tasks of a front end developer. My primary stack includes HTML, CSS, JS, docker, vim, github, etc. In lieu of this, when I get these UXD emails I think to myself “I hope they find a designer!” and decline the inquiry.

Since I’ve placed you in the center of my responsibilities, let’s take a step back in the process and talk about that difference.

UXD and UXE Are Interdependent

Before a website is developed, designers have to go through the process of user research. This discipline in itself is an extremely vast area of expertise. (In some cases, UX Researcher is a completely separate role that precedes the design process!) Once the user research is done, designers move on to the actual design process. They have to consider the look and feel of the entire product. What will be our primary font? What color palette will we use? What will our icons look like (in many cases, designers create these icons from scratch!) Once an overall theme is established, they are tasked with designing a feature. Let’s say, for example, that this feature needs a control that toggles 3 themes: light, dark, and retro. This is where the UX Engineer enters the process! When a designer presents me with a wireframe of this new control, I think about how technically feasible this control would be to implement and if there are any more efficient ways to toggle this theme. In addition to this design collaboration, I will actually develop a prototype of the control to take back to the designer to try out. We may decide “Yes, this 3 way toggle is awesome!” or “You know what? This would be a lot simpler and more intuitive as a dropdown button.”

You see, UX Designers have so many skills and responsibilities that UX Engineers do not possess. In this process up until now, here are some of the tools that might have been used:

These are 2 very different toolboxes, but together these 2 roles are able to create a very strong product before the implementation process is even reached.

Anyway, back to our new toggle control. Once a decision is made about this control, I turn around to the rest of the development team and continue the engineering process.

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