Axure RP is my favorite application for wireframing, prototyping, and documenting UX decisions.
There seems to be a segment of beginners in many professions that perceives the competency gap as purely a software solution.
Gives you an idea of where people are going. What other tools are available, how easy it will be to get help, etc.
e.g. I haven't seen a rapid prototyping tool yet that bridges the gap between powerpoint and coding well. (I hadn't actually found Axure yet, but it looks promising)
That should be built by understanding spring physics and going and sitting next to your implementing engineer. The hard stuff to prototype is what I think you're alluding to, larger navigational or IA types of hypothesis testing.
I also haven't found much there...
I want to switch from doing front-end development to UX research, but to my boss that comes down to high-fidelity graphic design in photoshop.
Despite that, I've lucked into temporary design roles on some major projects end to end, have all the wireframes, the design thinking, the compromises and so on, and that helped not one bit.
Let's hope this works out, if you have any advice I'd love to hear it.
If you are a UX designer and cannot code up your ideas it is like being an architect that knows nothing about materials and construction.
Speaking as a UX designer by title and inclination who has to spend most of his time as a full stack dev by economic necessity, I've come to the view that in an ideal world most designers ought not have to code. It works well for me, since I'd personally get bored only implementing or only designing. But every week I feel the tension between very different demands on my limited energy, ability, and time. I feel how I almost subconsciously compromise my design work to get it to something I can implement in a realistic time, how the fact I've invested effort into the implementation very subtly pressures me to not make serious design changes, how my figuring out a cool coding trick or library encourages me to add it to my design when it's actually a superfluous distraction (see the vast majority of products by UI engineers who care about design).
To be honest, I'm hard pressed to say how being able to build essentially whatever I want has helped my design work, especially now that there are pretty good, quick to use prototyping tools like Atomic. Maybe it has in such a deep way that I don't even notice it, but I'm skeptical! :)
That said, I do personally agree with the author that, all else equal, some coding knowledge is a good thing if only to help in communicating with and empathizing with developers.
I enjoyed the high-touch with customers approach that they brought to the table but when it actually came to implementation it was as if I brought an astrologer to an astronomy meeting -- a lot of the same words were said but neither knew what the other was talking about.
There was just no sense of proportion on the UX side.
I am not saying a UX designer needs to code in the course of doing their UX work, but I do think they need to know how and have had some experience in it. Otherwise, the distance between saying something and doing it is too great.
As sort of a joke, I've been on the flip side of that---especially with more enterprise-y Microsoft stack style dev teams---where I propose a design and am told it's impossible and I respond with a detailed explanation of how to build it within their constraints. I think they like that even less! :)
I'm fine with no-coding UX specialists however - I have notice that not being able to code at all while working in a rather "techy" role is often a proxy for not being able to create a coherent mental model of the the processes and features that they are building an interface for.
This might be a bigger or smaller problem - if the system complexity is low, then maybe "superficial" features like readability, flow and layout is more important. It's hard enough to get good at - I suspect that some inherent flair is required to get good at that.
If there is a true inherent complexity, then the more hard-core aspects of modelling and how well the users can understand and interact with the model is of more importance. It's another skill set, but when it's needed it's very important to get right.
Learning to code typically enhances ones modelling skills, and more importantly "failed" devs are probably not suited for UX either.
There are of course plenty of people that are intelligent and smart enough to get god on "modelling" on their own.
That said, there seems to be a lot of UX people around that have read a few books and are practicing some generalized rules they found on some websites, and could fall head first in big pile of good design without noticing it... I doubt it would be hard to compete with them. A cool haircut seems to be enough.
While I am whining, while Personas is a good tool - keep it to a minimum - no full size cutout dolls, CV, background story, accessories, etc. I suggest to keep it to the level described in User Story Mapping (Patterson) and stop there... Anchor the personas with the sales guys, support guys, and people that potentially have met a user.
To the extent coding helps train you to think clearly about complex and---especially in this case---ambiguous things, it probably could help your ability to design. But! I've often been baffled why most developers, who should be good at modeling, are so often unable to transfer those skills to UX design.
The best explanation I've been able to give so far is largely that "modeling" is somewhat equivocal when viewed in terms of day to day work. Think about the very different skills, knowledge, values, habits of mind, etc it takes to construct a useful data model for a relational database, a predictive dynamic model of neuron populations, an evocative persona model of users, and so on. One neat observation here is that if you try to build, say, a persona in a similar form and with similar standards as a database data model it will be a disaster...unable to fulfill it's purpose. (Not disagreeing with your comment about ridiculous persona models here!)
IDK, this is cool to think about and there's a lot more to say but I'll leave it there.
conducting user research, site architecture, wireframing, prototyping, user testing, UI designing
Other than research and site architecture, those are the same things a good broadly skilled front end developer would/could/like to do as well.
My understanding of Sketch is that it is an alternative to Photoshop for hi-fidelity designs.
I don't understand is how are people using Sketch as an efficient wireframing tool in the early prototype phase as an alternative to something like Axure or Balsamiq?
Sketch doesn't do nearly any of the advanced photo retouching stuff. It's mostly vector, mostly shapes. As flat UI gets more popular, sketch can increasingly do all the lifting on a hi-fi design, but depending on how crazy you get, photoshop is still king for that (anything involving texture, noise, pattern fills, etc has to be photoshop)
If you don't feel like learning a "real" workflow, balsamiq is quick because it comes with things like libraries of premade UI elements that you can just drop in without much of a learning curve.
If you're willing to learn sketch as a serious piece of software, it's very fast. Every design project I've worked on in the last 3 years or so has been 90% sketch. I drop back into photoshop for photo editing, or illustrator for advanced illustration (things with really complex paths or layer orders).
If you've got the interest, revisit sketch and try to put comparisons to photoshop out of your mind - sketch is UI first like photoshop is photo first, and it makes a big difference.
Once you get in the habit of building static sites as wireframe prototypes it's hard to go back to "wireframe only" tool.
Pop - iOS app. Draw on paper, take photos, mock up the page interaction. Nice for early demos. https://popapp.in/
If I have to show other people very early stage ideas I still use Balsamiq for the artificial lo-fi effect, but with other designers who have more control over their imaginations I'll just throw something together in Atomic.
Sketch is a more powerful tool (i use it most of the time now), but balsamiq is a great place to start.