UX design or web development...or neither? Both?
October 23, 2018 1:10 PM   Subscribe

Recent insight into myself is leading me to pursue a career in some sort of design. My background is completely in science, data analysis, and coding. I thought web design would be a good option but I'm not sure which branch would be right for me. Lots of details inside.

Since discovering that I am an Enneagram Type 4, I have been looking for a career that would allow me to be more creative while capitalizing on my existing tech-y background (I am currently a GIS Analyst). I thought that front-end web development, where I could do UI design and use HTML/CSS/JavaScript, since I enjoy coding to an extent, would be a good option, but after doing some searching around it seems that front-end dev as a career is going away in favor of either the separate UX designer or the full-stack developer. I'm having a hard time deciding what I might prefer, if either.

I have been unhappy with my career choices for a long time now. As a high-schooler I wanted to be an interior designer, but I vetoed that in favor of studying science, since I felt like I should be doing something more "noble" and good for society. I'd never really been happy with science but have kept with it, although I veered off in the direction of doing GIS. The aspects of GIS I enjoy are designing maps and the small amount of coding I get to do, but I am completely and utterly disinterested in the conservation science aspect of my job, and I find reading scientific articles and having to pretend to be interested and engaged has begun to become unbearable.

Since discovering I am a 4, it has given me a lot of insight. I have always been interested in design, although I am not particularly good at the fine arts (drawing, etc.) I would like to have a career where I get to do some design and that gets me away from science. I looked into interior design but it seems it would require going back for another degree, which I'm not interested in doing at this time. I became interested in web design since it combines my interest in design and light coding, and have been taking some Lynda courses in it, but after looking at job postings online and reading some articles it sounds like web design/development is not really much of a job anymore, and you either have to be a UI/UX designer or a full-stack developer.

I'm finding that UX design doesn't seem to use a lot of programming and is more design and client interaction. Development, at least full-stack development, seems to go farther into the programming side than I'd prefer and doesn't seem to touch much on the design aspect. I am not very outgoing or good at presentation skills (mostly because I am very self-conscious and am rarely called upon to present anything) and so the idea of client interaction and presentation makes me nervous, although I'm not opposed to it if I can learn the skills. On the flip side, I would be nervous to go into a full programming position since it doesn't address my interest in design much nor do I really want to be embroiled in the software developer culture that I have been around currently and in the past.

The reason why I feel I'm seeing this dichotomy is that after looking into boot camps in my area (just in case it got to that point), they only seem to offer one or the other, no combinations of the two, and the same for job listings as well. Is UX design really what I'm looking for? Or is development the better choice and involves more creativity/design than I think?

TLDR; I want a new career that involves design, is not related to science, doesn't require another bachelor's degree (individual courses or boot camps are fine), where I don't feel worthless and talked-down-to every day, and that takes advantage of my software skills so I don't feel like the past 5-10 years are down the drain. What would that be? Is there a completely different career I haven't thought of?
posted by majesty_snowbird to Work & Money (5 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
There are development positions where there is no corresponding UX designer to work with, and you could move your own position into one that uses both your skills - assuming your manager/company is in agreement. I think the opposite is a lot less likely (UX designer with no development). Full-stack is more of a small company thing and UX designer is more a large company thing, so that might shift your view a little bit. I still see front-end positions are larger companies, where there are several layers of development.
posted by meowzilla at 1:31 PM on October 23, 2018

Congrats on being a Enneagram Type 4 - I don't think front end developer is going away, if anything is expanding as js frameworks continue to grow in popularity and complexity. Specialists in angular or react are doing very well indeed so don't be put off going down that path if it appeals to you (although you do need to keep up to date, it changes fast!)
posted by JonB at 1:32 PM on October 23, 2018

Sounds like you might be happy to be a UI Designer or a Front-end Developer. Both of these are a mix of design and development and are *very* different from the extremes of UX and Full-stack or Back-end Development roles.

There will always be a need for the range of roles between UX and Dev. I'm not sure where you got the idea that that's going away or could be replaced by the others, but it is not true.
posted by iamkimiam at 1:50 PM on October 23, 2018

In ye olden days, we used to call this kind of work Human-Computer Interface (HCI). I have no idea if that's still the commonly used term. (I imagine UX is probably the closest now.) You would be in charge of user-testing of interfaces in order to produce one that had the highest likelihood of a user performing their intended task successfully. Read Steve Krug's "Don't Make Me Think" and or Norman's "Design of Everyday Things" (buy 'em used) to get a sense of what's involved.
posted by Wild_Eep at 2:16 PM on October 23, 2018

HCI! When I was in grad school, that's what it was. Hey, it's better than its predecessor, Man-Machine Symbiosis. (I am not joking.)

I am a senior user researcher at a bank; one of my most valued team members has been someone who was a GIS analyst in one of the armed services for most of a decade; now out, he's looking for a civilian career and has the combined strategic mindset, analytic brain and warm empathic personality to be very successful. I think he's easily bored by rote dev work, but I also know that it's not all rote dev work.

My perpetual standing offer: I'm happy to talk about what I do, what I don't do, and what I like about it. There is a cognitive science aspect, but you don't have to focus on that piece.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 2:33 PM on October 23, 2018 [2 favorites]

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