Don’t let them know you can write code

There have been a few rumblings in the past year or so in the “twittersphere” from some noted UX professionals that as UX’ers we should learn programming. You may or may not agree with this in principle, but I would like to add this story to the mix. The “moral “to the story is that if you can code, don’t let them know!

Imagine that you are working for a large middleware infrastructure company that had recently acquired several companies. The development team was trying to bundle a complex set of products into a single suite (sound familiar to anyone?). Like most commercial software companies there was a very small user experience team – one person.

After finishing most the work with the developers on the specifics of the project – You decide to begin to focus attention on what we called the Out of the Box (OOTB) experience.

You start to do expert reviews of the entire user experience. You find major flaws in the installation program; you find flaws with the online help. Next you move on to the sample applications that shipped with the package. OMG. These were not changed for several revisions from their original companies and not changed (or even branded) for the new suite of programs that were where now getting ready to ship.

You perform an expert review and create a fairly extensive set of recommendations that would make these samples rock. Here is the problem, you search around for someone—anyone– that might have some time to help clean them up. No one has the time to help, so you decided to do it yourself – why not? You can code HTML and some CSS!.

Hurray, now the product shipped with your version of the samples and everyone was happy, right? Wrong!

Shortly after that release, the word gets out that YOU can create really great sample applications for this system. So what happens? A few other development teams quietly ask you to help them with THEIR sample applications. You now become known as the creator of sample applications and end up spending most of your time writing HTML code for sample applications and far less time doing valuable UX work.

That’s only half of the UX fail. Now that your name got associated with the sample applications, every time there is a change during the build process of YOUR product or any of the other project that include sample applications a bug gets assigned to you.

The moral to the story, “Don’t let them know you can write code!”