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Ask DN: Job title for Product Designer who writes Javascript?

almost 5 years ago from , Helping startups w/ product design @ Directed Works

Hi all,

I'm putting together a new job description for a designer at FarmLogs, and I'm having trouble with the job title. Essentially we want a designer with code chops to focus on building prototypes for data-heavy designs. This would not be someone shipping production web code, but someone to write interactive prototypes during the design phase.

For example, this person would:

  • Build working prototypes in React or Vue.js to test a budgeting tool wizard with users
  • Build charts in D3 to show rainfall, fertilizer runoff, etc
  • Build prototypes of map interactions using Google Map and Mapbox APIs
  • Create mobile microinteraction prototypes in Framer using Coffeescript

Even though it's a code-heavy position, none of this would have to be robust enough to ship to production directly. We really want someone who's a designer at heart--someone who wants to sweat over details like easing functions, data visualization, and the delightful details that make a product really special.

What would you call this position? Design Prototyper is one obvious choice, but I haven't heard it used much. UX Engineer seems too technical.

EDIT - Kevin Ports saw this post and joined FarmLogs as our "Design Technologist"!

41 comments

  • Felix MeadowFelix Meadow, almost 5 years ago

    unicorn

    21 points
    • gary ryan, almost 5 years ago

      haha, pretty much

      0 points
    • Sam Pierce Lolla, almost 5 years ago

      Ouch, point taken. It's a lot to ask for.

      Even though you may not have seen them in the wild, they do exist though! I've interviewed at least a handful of people like this for other positions--I would even have been a good fit myself a few years ago.

      Here are some things that are NOT required for the job: previous work experience, ability to "own" a UX all the way from concept to execution, illustration and iconography ability, or experience with engineering best practices.

      0 points
      • gary ryan, almost 5 years ago

        absolutely! I previously also would have been a good fit for this job description. Unicorns do exist. It's more a question of how do these people identify, do they look for Engineering jobs or design jobs. I think most likely front end engineering.

        I just thought this was a funny answer!

        0 points
    • Nice ShoesNice Shoes, almost 5 years ago

      You forgot to add 'Ninja' to it.

      Unicorn Ninja is so NOW.

      0 points
    • Luca Candela, over 4 years ago

      and yet... we found our person. I'll add "unicorn hunter" to my Linkedin skills :)

      0 points
  • Tony Jones, almost 5 years ago

    Product Designer is fine. You really need to focus on what the goals are for the title. If they will be shipping production code then they would most likely be a UX Engineer. It not, then designer makes more sense. If the goal of the position is just to prototype, "Interaction Designer & Prototyper" is accurate. In terms of candidates, usually designers with computer science degree will get you what you want.

    12 points
    • Sam Pierce Lolla, almost 5 years ago

      Good stuff, thanks Tony

      0 points
    • Ian GoodeIan Goode, almost 5 years ago

      I am this person, and yes Product Designer is fine. At the end of the day you learn the tools you need to prototype and validate the product, whether that's coffeescript or a hot new animation app.

      Are you looking for someone to raise this up from nothing? Or someone to build off existing design work and just sweat the microinteractions? If the latter I'd look for a front-end engineer who already has an eye for design or who has an aptitude to learn what kind of details to sweat. If the former then a designer who can code (but be warned it's very easy to be sucked into the time vortex that is front-end javascript).

      It sounds like you're valuing production-ready design output over production-ready code output, so yeah Product Designer sounds like a better fit.

      1 point
      • gary ryan, almost 5 years ago

        but be warned it's very easy to be sucked into the time vortex that is front-end javascript

        This would be entirely my concern. If you was to hire someone who just didn't have the technical know how and experience, it could take them hours to execute on something which would take an engineer minutes.

        I know this, as a designer turned software engineer, I remember the early days of spending hours of struggle, to achieve something which is actually very simple for me now.

        There are people who identify as UI engineers. Perhaps this would be a title worth throwing out there.

        2 points
      • Luca Candela, almost 5 years ago

        "I am this person" > You are more than welcome to apply :-)

        0 points
      • Sam Pierce Lolla, almost 5 years ago

        It sounds like you're valuing production-ready design output over production-ready code output

        Exactly

        0 points
  • gary ryan, almost 5 years ago

    Hi Sam, I have spent 5 years as a UI designer and 4 years as a software engineer. I would advise that you look for a Front End engineer for this position. In my experience Front end engineers often care about UI and UX. The technical side of executing rich interfaces is unavoidable. Someone who doesn't have the technical ability to execute just wouldn't be able to do it.

    5 points
  • Art VandelayArt Vandelay, almost 5 years ago

    "Product Designer who writes JavaScript" seems applicable.

    3 points
  • Joy Huang, almost 5 years ago

    I think Prototyper, UI Engineer, or UX Engineer?

    3 points
  • Wesley HainesWesley Haines, almost 5 years ago

    Designer.

    3 points
  • Arix KingArix King, almost 5 years ago

    Wait...

    Did you make that company from the "What is GitHub" video?

    Amazing.

    2 points
  • Peter Vogt, almost 5 years ago

    I do precisely this, using the same tools (D3, React) and in the same context (non-production ready prototypes to bring to customers and validate internally). They talked about calling me a Design Technologist for a while as I think that is what Amazon refers to similar roles as. I don't know if this is helpful or not, but it's my experience. I was hired originally as just "UX Designer", which has been my career up until this point more or less.

    2 points
  • Paul PedersonPaul Pederson, over 4 years ago

    I saw somebody's portfolio the other day and they reffered to themselves as a "UX Developer". I had never heard that used before, but it is pretty damn close to what you're describing here.

    1 point
  • Caleb SylvestCaleb Sylvest, almost 5 years ago

    Front-end Designer

    Implies the code side of things and less pixel pushing, while also specifying "designer" so one would think aesthetics of some kind and interaction experience.

    1 point
  • jj moijj moi, almost 5 years ago

    I know a friend who does exactly what you described here and his title has always been Data Visualization Specialist. Specialist or Technologist seems like a better balanced suffix than either designer or engineer.

    1 point
  • Al M, almost 5 years ago

    Aw man, I was looking at FarmLogs during my job search and totally wished you were based over in the UK. It looks like SUCH an interesting product to work on. How do you enjoy it?

    1 point
    • Sam Pierce Lolla, almost 5 years ago

      I love it so much I moved across the country to do it! (Current positions are open for remote work now though).

      Basically I tell people we're taking some of the most complicated kinds of data--geospatial satellite imagery of crop growth, real-time commodity market prices, etc--and distilling it down for an audience that needs extremely straightforward insights in their pocket.

      I think the number one thing I look for in work is meaningful impact. Agriculture's impact on humans and the planet puts it at the top of the list.

      0 points
  • Jonathan SimcoeJonathan Simcoe, over 4 years ago

    I think because it is code heavy you need to look for an engineer with experience doing design-related stuff. Flip it from a focus on design to a focus on engineering because everything you've said above is heavily skewed toward engineering. I know lots of designers who can do come front-end work. It's rare to find one with that breadth of engineering chops.

    0 points
  • James FutheyJames Futhey, over 4 years ago

    Lots of good answers out there, but I wanted to add my opinion since I consider myself a product designer who happens to code (a lot more common in 2017 than ever before).

    I actually wouldn't list this in the title of your job description. I've met quite a few Product Designers who also code, and in 2017, if you're comfortable building things, I would almost say it's something you have to actively resist doing if you love Product Design and you truly believe you are adding more value than you would be doing as a part-time developer.

    That being said, prototyping is a vastly under-used resource in tech companies. Designers with a good handle on Javascript have a lot of value to add here (especially when collaborating with other developers and designers).

    If it were me, I would lead with something like “Product Designer with Prototyping experience” vs. “Product Designer with Javascript experience”, and bet on about 1 in 10 views for your posting having the skill-set you're looking for.

    I would also make it explicit that you are looking to invest in prototyping (a good thing), vs. being vague about your requirements for a Designer/Engineer. Too many startups are looking for that one-person solution to all their front-end & design problems, and you want to be clear that this is not you.

    0 points
  • John Sherwin, over 4 years ago

    Finding a product designer that can use a tool like Framer JS (or other) shouldn't be too difficult. If its for prototyping purposes only and not actually shipping production code, going with a designer with these abilities would be better then going with a front end developer that just cares about design IMO.

    0 points
  • Clay MacTavishClay MacTavish, almost 5 years ago

    Product Designer/Developer.

    Anything more sounds pretentious and makes you look sophomoric. One caveat here is asking too much of one person. Can I ask why there aren't two job openings? Budget?

    In some ways each description here is its own discipline; but I understand trying to be scrappy.

    0 points
    • Luca Candela, over 4 years ago

      No, it's not budget (I'm Sam's boss). We simply want to have a way to prototype and iterate designs without needing to hijack engineering resources. Invision et al. are really great to get some quick feedback but that kind of testing simply breaks down for extremely computer-illiterate users like our audience.

      We need a person that can code well but still participates in the process coming at it with a designer's mentality, not a developer's. As a former designer-developer I can tell you the things you look out for in the two modes are very different.

      It's a hard position to hire for but not impossible, I've done it before.

      0 points
  • Nick MNick M, almost 5 years ago

    UX Prototyper, Design Prototyper. UX Engineer is also not out-of-bounds (this is what they're called at Google, for example)

    I am a hiring manager and I have to strongly disagree with earlier commenters - simply listing it as "Product designer" will get you job applicants that don't have the requisite javascript skills. What you are asking for are not typical skills for your average "Product Designer."

    0 points
    • Sam Pierce Lolla, almost 5 years ago

      I am a hiring manager and I have to strongly disagree with earlier commenters - simply listing it as "Product designer" will get you job applicants that don't have the requisite javascript skills.

      My hunch, too. Very useful, thank you.

      0 points
      • Max Quinn, over 4 years ago

        I think I've also got to disagree with those saying just go with 'Product Designer'. As a product designer who I feel codes slightly more than most (front end Javascript, Framer etc but not to expert level) I definitely don't feel I've got the coding chops for this role.

        I'd feel slightly miffed if I turned up to a product designer role and that was an absolute requirement. If it was made very clear in the job description I'd read enough to know, but I still think you'll get a lot of the wrong candidates turning up.

        The previously suggested Front End Engineer sounds better to me, with more of a focus on UI/UX in the job description.

        0 points
      • Nick MNick M, over 4 years ago

        No prob! I also saw someone use the Amazon role name "Design Technologist" - this works as well. Good hunting!

        0 points