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By Dale Sande January 6, 2014

How designers can survive the future

Today’s interactive web application designers are not being ‘asked’ to be more involved in the coding process, but it is being demanded of them.

More and more employers are increasing the requirements of the elusive unicorn—not only will they posses the skills of a quality designer, but also posses the skills to work closely, and seamlessly, with application engineers.

In some extreme cases, they are being asked to be a full stack ‘generalist’ developer as well.

The definition of what it means to ‘design’ is changing. Popular concepts like ‘design in the browser’ and ‘responsive web design’ are clearly pushing designers out of static tools and into the medium from which they are designing for.

Unicorns do not exist and I do not intend to perpetuate this fallacy. What does exist is the ability to learn a skill set that does not diminish what you have already learned, but build on and propel you into a new and exciting career path, which is why I’m teaching a Front-End UX Design & Development Accelerator.

Protip: Employers are looking for people who can produce assets that are easily consumable into the application development workflow. Handing off static designs, or even digital assets that only take you half way there, are becoming less and less desirable. Without a doubt, a person filling a design role who can integrate with a development team will be wildly more successful and extremely desirable in the workplace.

Where is a designer to go?

Now what? You are on board and willing to learn, what should you do next? What is the best way and how do you gain these skills that employers are looking for? Looking at the landscape of learning opportunities, there are lots of things that you can choose from.

For many, self education has been very successful. There are amazing web tutorials that coach you through the learning experience. There are millions of books on every topic imaginable. Online video courses, and those coupled with online coaching tools, have increased in popularity and user base. But all of these things have one common denominator, one thing that they share, and that is a lack of cohesion. Each resource address one thing, and typically addresses that one thing very well, but how that one thing interacts with another thing is the hard part. How does tab A fit into slot B? Adding to this lack of cohesion, self leaning takes a lot of time and personal commitment.

If you are lucky enough to be in a position where you can glean information from co-workers, if not have the amazing opportunity to pair with another to learn the skills of the trade, you could be in a great position. But even these amazing opportunities come with a cost. Not every work request has the time and resources available to make it a training exercise. Not every problem can be solved by paring an experienced developer with an eager learner. While this is a great way to learn, it is not scaleable nor one that can be consistently depended on.

This leaves us with traditional tech education courses. While these programs aim high, they most often fall short. Having taken many of these courses and spoken with others, the feedback is the same; while the base eduction is solid, it focuses on only the fundamentals and lacks emphasis on the tools and solutions that current working application developers address daily.

Looking at a typical certificate program that focuses on educating junior developers, there are the standard classes in HTML, CSS and Javascript (mainly jQuery). Where these programs fall short is that they fail to provide education in the tools that professional developers are using today. It is commonly felt that there is only the need for these fundamental classes and that learning the more advanced material is left to those who choose to take a program focused on a specific stack, like Ruby on Rails, C#/.NET or full stack Javascript. To a UX’er, this is not helpful. Learning the fundamentals is one thing, but taking the path to becoming a full stack developer is typically not the desired career path.

Where are the programs that respect the evolving career of the designer without pandering to the basics and wasting your time focusing on outdated Integrated Development Environments (IDE) like Dreamweaver? Where are the programs that help designers work closer with developers without telling them that they too need to become a developer, thus losing their identity as a designer? Where is the education opportunity for this next generation of job growth?

What makes Code Fellows different?

With the Code Fellows Front-End UX Design & Development Accelerator we aim to fill this essential career building gap. In a focused two month session, not wasting a year or more, the Front-End UX Design & Development Accelerator will cover the basics and quickly progress into the more advanced concepts that UXers and developers face every day while learning the tools that employers are looking for.

The Code Fellows Front-End UX Design & Development Accelerator doesn’t waste time on entry level skills. You have read the tutorials and done the exercises, it’s time to level up. Combined with your design background, it’s time to add cohesion and additional self confidence to the mix that is guaranteed to increase your opportunities and become more successful in the marketplace.

The Development Accelerator will focus on a desired outcome that other programs do not. I feel strongly that there is a new career path out there that builds on the design skills you already have without asking you to trade in your identity.

The end goal for this course is an adventure of your own choosing. What is attainable for everyone is the ability to quickly move from traditional design tools into designing and prototyping Responsive Web Designs in the browser where it is meant to be. Establishing UI patterns and style guide driven development will be core pillars for this Development Accelerator.

You will learn how to work with the tools that professional web app developers are using today. Tools like version control with Git and Github. We will discuss how to use Terminal and the command line prompt to get everyone comfortable with using these tools. There are no IDEs here. No WordPress or Dreamweaver to manage your environments. The key to learning is to understand the code YOU write.

In addition to tooling, concepts like Kanban and how a designer can seamlessly integrate into a Lean Agile development team will be discussed and practiced. There is no ‘sprint 0’, but we will continuously practice what it means to bring design value to the development story.

Throughout the Boot Camp we will continue to dive deeper into the technologies that drives modern Web App Development. Templating languages, script managers, package installers, preprocessors, and proper organizational methodologies, all discussed in depth and 100% demystified. Guaranteed!

Summary

We all live in a very exciting time. A time where your career path is of your choosing. A time where new opportunities are being created on a daily basis.

We also live in a time where the role of the Interactive Web Application Designer is being reshaped. We are all beginning to walk out of this primordial ooze and staring to create real technologies that shape business. But with this new vision comes increased demands, resources and our skills. Those who rise to the occasion are certain for sure to be successful.