Transitioning from Front End Developer to UX Designer


Hi Everyone!

Mostly be chatting off/on on the Slack vs forum. However for this question, I feel like I’d get more traction and diverse answers here. I’m a front end developer with about 10+ years of experience. The past few years, I’ve had more of an interest to learn more about UX. I read books and talk with other friends within UX roles. I’m currently taking a UX Research & Strategy course through Designlab and loving the interaction I get with my mentor.

I currently have about 2 years of A/B testing experience but not quite as UX focused as I’d hope. I’m wondering what would be the next best steps for me. Since I don’t quite have much of a UX portfolio, should I find internships or freelance contracts to build a portfolio or straight out apply for a Junior UX Designer or Researcher position?

Thanks in advance!


UX is a whole spectrum of skills. What area do you want to work in?


Do you enjoy that? If no, tuck it away in good to know and then focus on something else.


I do enjoy the research aspect of it but I also enjoy creating wireframes, user flows, and testing the things that do/do not work.


Is it less UX focused in that you spent more time implementing the tests in code and less time organizing the material being tested? If this is the case, I think it’s super useful.

This sounds like it might be in the area of interaction design. I worked as a developer for some time before moving to IxD (it was completely incidental)

If I heard correctly, you have a mentor, you’re taking courses, and you have totally relevant dev experience, and you’re interested in IxD?

  • Your dev background could signal rigorous thinking, a capacity to work across scales from user-facing systems to individual pages and components, deep familiarity with interface elements and opportunity cost of making particular technical decisions (loading time vs ux choreography, required development time vs cost :smiley: )
  • Familiarity with the tech could possibly help you think of simpler user flows, which I personally think is the case, but that’d depend on you being able to showcase it.
  • Taking classes and having a mentor help signal your interest in recontextualizing the system level thinking from code to people and use contexts.


We only did a couple general surveys to get user feedback on our site overall. We used that to create designs and then code it up to A/B test it. What I meant by UX focused is 80-90% of our tests have been the sales department wanting to test a new feature (without any specific research or data for the reasoning) and maybe 5-10% around some improvements we wanted to try based on the research. We didn’t do other forms of research like usability tests, interviews, storyboard, wireframes, etc.

I have a mentor through Designlab and Interaction Design is definitely something that I think I could do well with my experience. Right now when I look at UX Designer positions, I sometimes feel like I don’t have that 3+ year experience in the sense that I haven’t built many wireframes or conducted a lot of research. I made a few random sketches here and there for work and other random but not really completed projects. HTML/CSS/JS, I can easily use Foundation or Bootstrap to build somewhat of a prototype or just vanilla code to build a website in general.


Hi, I’m a front-end developer with 10+ years of experience who transitioned to UX. Do you already understand interaction design, information architecture, etc?. If not, you should brush up along with reading up more on UX. You’ll need to build your portfolio up. Work on personal projects as well contract jobs to build your portfolio. Did you do any UX related in your previous jobs i.e. sitemaps, user flows, spec documentation etc. you could show?

Transitioning without UX experience isn’t easy. Everyone and their mom wants to get into UX. You will be competing with bootcampers and UX designers already in the industry. It took me about a year and a half to land a full time UX job. Junior positions are few and far between. Most companies look for mid to senior level UX designers. Also a lot of companies have wised up and won’t hire bootcampers since they have oversaturated the market at an alarming rate.

So my best advice to tap into your network and find out if anyone you know would be willing to bring you on as a UX consultant for some projects. Also, hit up recruiters for freelance UX work. Let them know you’re a developer looking to transition to UX. They love pitching UX designers who know how to code.

Good luck! It’s a long journey and not easy. You will get frustrated often and potentially give up, but if you’re passionate about UX, you will make it. Perseverance is key.


Okay, so this is most like conversion rate optimization. Everytime I think of CRO I think of Nick Disabato from, and that agency I think there is definitely a solid overlap. The sales dep probably had some reasons, you tested those. Meanwhile, perhaps you have some ideas on a better approach. Where to look, how to get inputs, vetting inputs, testing them, etc


I second @ux_dude


hi, i started out a front end developer too! Here’s my route into UX

front-end development - html/css/js, wordpress. Learnt design in my spare time

web design - built wordpress/bootstrap sites, designed them, gained exposure with CRO, AB testing - introduced wireframing, prototyping processes to the team

ux consultancy - wireframing, prototyping, gained exposure with ux research/usability testing

ux/product design - where i am now - taking all the skills ive learnt over the years and making a SaaS tool as usable/beautiful/awesome as it can be

Work to your strengths, fill in skill gaps in your spare time, get experience in different jobs. Sometimes you have to move sideways/down before you can move up again. I would say start applying to these junior/alternative roles, speak to recruiters and see what opportunities pop up, and then evaluate whether it’s a path that can eventually lead you into UX.


Are you in touch with any good recruiters? I feel like ones in my area are just looking for buzz words and matching them with job descriptions.


i only know recruiters based in uk, sorry!

what have recruiters said re your experience? Have you had any UX interviews so far?


No worries. thanks anyways!


Where are you based?


I’m in Virginia, USA.


I have to be honest and say I’m surprised you want to switch considering front-end devs have higher salaries. And I believe it’s a great decision!. I’m a hybrid or unicorn as some people say cause I’m a web-designer, I do some front-end stuff, and I also do the regular UX stuff.

You would become a super valuable asset for any company if you start learning about UX. I work for a startup as a full stack product designer and I’m working with design systems at the moment, I touch a lot of HTML and CSS, but I also design mockups and I do user testing and participate in the UX design decision process. Working with design systems has been so amazing and I kind of became the point of contact between the UX design team and engineering. I believe you can definitely do it! go ahead!


Though the salary is nice, front end dev doesn’t spark my interests as much as researching about the users and understanding more about the design process. I have learned that because I’m good at it, it doesn’t mean I have to do it for the rest of my life. I think it’ll help me collaborate with devs better since I would be able to understand where they are coming from.


I think it’ll help me collaborate with devs better since I would be able to understand where they are coming from.

Having started out as a front-end dev myself, I can attest to this. You really will have the opportunity to be valuable as a translator between developers and non-developers.