The rise of the ux engineer

The UX designer role has been a unique job attracting people with a wide range of skills and experience, often dependent on the team and expectations in the role. We may soon see a shift in the UX designer’s job description as a change has begun within tech and design, caused by a shrinking economy, over abundance of UX designers, and the possibly that artificial intelligence will take over some of our tasks.

While UX engineers are currently undertaking front-end web development, the ux developer focused on mobile apps should be considered. It will all depend on the skills acquired and the career plan in mind.

The paths for evolution and promotion within UX have often been limited to lead or management roles, shifting into product or moving into teaching. There have also been fewer individual contributor roles to grow into (lead, staff or principal designers), or roles on the management side. Our industry is a pyramid—the more senior the roles, the fewer there are. And with more designers joining the industry in junior roles, the pyramid has shedded positions.

Many career changes are logical, including leveraging our understanding of customers’ needs into product decisions. Increasingly product managers are required to have a background in UX, not just an understanding. This has become a natural way for UX designers to evolve. To combine their UX skills with the experience and fundamentals required to succeed in product. For those who cut their teeth as UX designers in small startups, they may have already handled many of the core tasks.

The latest role to emerge in industry is the UX Engineer, someone who combines UX principles with front-end coding. Where the product manager leverages business skills with UX, the engineer takes a different path. This may also be a natural evolution for the designers who picked up Framer or Webflow—the designers who play and design in the real environments. Or for designers who have always experimented and played around with code, often to test the edges of our understanding with web technologies.

At the same time we’ve worked closely with and alongside front-end engineers, the coworkers who have that deeper understanding of the technology and who can play around in code more quickly. And like everyone on the team they care about the customer.

Already the AI powered tools are emerging to augment both approaches to building. Anyone, from product, design or development, can ask ChatGPT or Copilot to write the code for them. A product manager (or designer), could take customer needs and translate them into AI prompts, removing some vital roles.

Maybe one approach to UX engineering will be to combine customer needs with understanding of the technology. While that’s happening today, the industry may not shift so quickly, after all we’ve seen plenty of businesses struggle to change and adapt in other ways.

For those who came to UX with a technical background, or even some experience with HTML, the next skills to pick up are to build on that foundation. Engineers can easily pickup UX principles without taking a full bootcamp.

The evolution may taken longer, depending on the day job and the skills required to get your work done, and the tools your team already uses. If your team is using Figma, spend more time with the Dev toggle on, and work closely with your developers who build off your designs.

Others may already be using or be able to switch to Framer or Webflow, a useful step that will add skills along the way. And that works for designers focused on the web. Mobile app designers may wish to pick up some of the skills needed for coding those apps, starting with Swift.

But the singular focus may not be the wisest move, especially if AI tools will write code for us. An understanding of development principles, and a foundation in multiple coding languages may be necessary. Swift, and SwiftUI, may just be one of many languages to learn, mainly so you understand what to ask to get the AI generated code and how to implement it. That is until we can ask Siri to make us an app based on the prompts we give.