Along with my transition to a new decade in my life (I’m 40, who said age crisis?!) and along with finishing a JS course, I started wondering how to define myself. Not in the spiritual / genderal / religious manner, but in the professional one. Over the years I have undergone quite a few transformations. Some were very natural and kind of “by the book”, like becoming an Art Director after several years of being a web designer, while others were a little less natural like becoming a front-end programmer.

I find myself thinking more and more about my unique situation:

  • I'm a web designer but I haven’t designed a website or an interface in almost six years.
  • I know my way around the ux world - challenge me with a brainstorming session to solve a user experience challenge and you’ve made my day! - but I don’t even want to think about doing user research or creating a prototype in Axure or in any other prototyping tool.
  • I'm a front-end programmer who knows html and css pretty well, but am not so brilliant in JavaScript. To be honest, just let me write only css or scss and I'll be thrilled.

happy unicorn

Yuval Kershtcher wrote a post: The Ultimate Guide To Full Stack Design. The post presents his opinion as to what the designer's area of ​​responsibility and professionality should be. In his post Yuval claims that a good designer is one whose knowledge encapsulates both ux (ie: doing user research, analyzing data, and of course creating interface prototypes) and front end development (ie: html, css, and js), as well as ui design. The one whose knowledge spans the three corners of this triangle will be the ultimate fed designer.

I think Yuval's approach is a bit problematic. I agree with the call for designers to know user experience basics, and to know code (such as what the html structure is, what css is, and how to check elements in a browser), but they don't have to be experts in these areas. It's always good to know a bit beyond your specific area - it makes you a better professional - but you can’t specialize in all of the areas. Dividing these three areas into 3 different professions - ux design, ui design and code - is the right way as I see it. I believe that the approach by which one person can do it all is an invention of employers who want to save on manpower.

So what am I?

Apparently, I’m not alone in the dilemma of who and what I am, or to put it more accurately - what my job title is. Two years ago Lara Schenck wrote a post on css-tricks about the job-title problem. Lara protested the inaccurate definitions of employers because they seemingly turn her into a "Unicorn" - a miraculous creature that doesn't exist. I identified deeply with Lara in her post. Like her, I, too, have a background in design, I, too, know html + css well, and just a little JavaScript.

Two years later, Lara published a repo on Github for creating a definition for front-end jobs. She still defines herself somewhere on the axis between knowledge of html + css on one side and js on the other. For further reading of Lara’s posts I warmly recommend reading Chris Coir’s post Getting Nowhere on Job Titles. Lara also created a nice Myers-Briggs for Web People. As you can see - I'm totally not back-end, and not really JS.

I'm a froud unicorn

Her repo has several links on the subject. One of them is: Is there any value in people who cannot write JavaScript? By Mandy Kerr. When reading the post I strongly identified with what was said, and it reflected so correctly my feeling about Front End in general, and in Israel in particular:

I understand the desire to have people who can do a lot of things. What I don’t understand is why it’s okay if you can “just write JS”, but somehow you’re not good enough if you “just write HTML and CSS”.

I posted a link to that post for discussion on the css-masters Israel group on facebook, and to my great disappointment there were too many responses against it, claiming that there is no justification for coding only html + css, and too many claims that someone who doesn’t know js has no place in the industry. In my opinion, we were too few holding the post writer’s opinion.

Just before I finished writing my post, Lara released another post about her hardships in job searches. I’m adding it because it is totally part of the series of all her insights.

What if I don’t feel like js?

Last July I completed a 'HTML5 Cross Platform Mobile Applications' course at HIT, which was given by Life Michael. The course was mostly js - vanilla and other flavors (like Type-script, Angular, etc.). Needless to say that the HTML, css, and bootstrap parts were my favorite, but I also learned not to be afraid of variables, loops, functions, and if-else statements. I sometimes even read js code snippets and pretend to understand them. I do know js but it's totally not my proficiency.

I managed to finish the course, and had one very clear conclusion: I really, but really love css. I will dare testify about myself that as much as I’m not so good at js, I’m very good at css. I love the challenge of implementing design and thinking about which implementation is best. I like reading posts about new and not-so-new features. The fact that every time I use display: flex on a large scale I still discover something new, makes me happy. I enjoy answering questions in the css-masters Israel group.

css with rainbow unicorn

Unlike Lara who describes herself as a "Non-Unicorn", I actually feel the opposite. I feel like I am a Unicorn, and that being that makes me special. I have extensive knowledge in, and deep understanding of, ux. I have a design background and I understand the importance of making a website look just as the designer intended it to be. I see every stubborn pixel that doesn’t sit exactly where it should. I feel comfortable enough to make up for design gaps between resolutions if if there are, because I have the knowledge and experience.

On the other hand, I feel comfortable opening a PHP or .NET file to add a class or to change something in the html within it. I feel that I’m exactly on the border between design and programming, having all of the advantages of both sides. Not afraid of code and not threatened by design :)

All Unicorns of the world unite - we do awesome work!

I thank Lea Cohen for refining my English in the post.


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