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What exactly is a UX-Unicorn?

In this article we will be looking at the role of a UX-Unicorn, also known as UX-Engineer.


  • What is a UX-Unicorn/UX-Engineer?
  • What tasks does a UX-Unicorn/UX-Engineer deal with?
  • Skills
  • What I enjoy about the role

What is a UX-Unicorn/UX-Engineer

You may well be familiar with the term UX-Design and Frontend Engineer - this role combines the design capabilities of a UX-Designer and the tech-savviness of a front-end engineer. Hence the term UX-Engineer.

They have foot in both worlds and are comfortable designing user-centered solutions and translating them into code for use in the actual product.

What tasks does a UX-Unicorn/UX-Engineer deal with?

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As a UX-Unicorn/UX-Engineer you are looking at contributing to every stage in the design process above:

  • Empathise: Conduct User Research
  • Define: Identify your user's pain points
  • Ideate: Generate possible solutions
  • Prototype: Select the most viable solutions and create prototypes that can test your ideas on real users
    • Feedback: Here you will look to get feedback for your designs and well as give feedback to others on the design team
  • Testing: Test your potential solution with real user
  • Hand-off: The design is then handed off to the development team, where you have a pleasure of turning your design into live code.

As mentioned in the definition, at this stage you will use your front-end engineering skills to breathe life into your designs.

You may well also be asked to use your front-end engineering skills to build live prototypes using code, to further test the viable of solutions.

Depending on the company and your team, you may well also be the maintenance person for the design system your design and development teams use.


A role such as this one, where you will be wearing many different hats, will also include a wide range of skills.

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The skills outlined below are just a few that I have view as. being beneficial to working as a UX-Engineer. These skills are however heavily influenced by the tasks you will be performing as part of your product team, so these may will vary.

Skills from the UX-Designer's Toolbox

The skills here all relate to the UX-Design process which looks very similar to the Design Thinking process:

  • Empathy is pretty much at the core of what makes a UX-Unicorn/UX-Engineer a valuable team-member
  • Being able to communicate and collaborate with different teams
  • Creating wireframe mockups and prototypes
  • Conducting user research
  • Principles of UI-Design such as visual hierarchy
  • Analytical Skills for data analysis

These skills will enable you to gain insights into how your users are using your product and help you define what it is your users want. These insights are then poured into wireframes and prototypes that you give to your users and test whether they improve the experience of using your product or not. With this you can be sure that the designs that leave your desk are actually ones that users will want to use.

This was the "Design" part of the role, now for the "Engineering" part (which also makes you a unicorn).

Skills from the Front-End Engineer's Toolbox

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Seeing as you are not only the person running through the entire UX-Design process, but are also responsible for front-end development related tasks, it is safe to say that you will need a good working knowledge of the core web-technologies: HTML, CSS and JavaScript.

There is a reason these are so important - they make up the foundation of any front-end tech-stack. With these you can build any type of website or web-app your heart desires.

Other pieces of web-technologies which are always good-to-haves in your toolbox include:

  • Singe-Page-Frameworks (Angular, React, Vue and Svelte)
  • jQuery (if your company has legacy-applications it can be very handy to know jQuery)
  • CSS-related technologies (Pre-processors such as Sass, frameworks such as Bootstrap or TailwindCSS)
  • Version Control (Basics of what it is and how to use git to perform version control)
  • Software Testing (Testing the UI-logic, debugging any side-effects of your code)

Apart from HTML, CSS and JavaScript, where a good foundation is very important, having a good understanding of the concept of single-page-applications is a lot more important than learning the ins-and-outs of the framework. Frameworks and requirements change over time.

As for resources, I used different formats - lots of videos in YouTube, but also articles I found on the topic on google. Important is that you have a build around with them, to learn what it is all about.

To learn HTML, CSS, JavaScript and React, you can have a look at freeCodeCamp. I have used their curriculum when I first started out as a web developer and I learnt a lot from the content there.

What I enjoy about the role

For me the role is something I enjoy because I like to contribute to a product from concept to actual code. I can analyze the data collected, make design-decisions and test these using a prototype.

Once the design is user-approved, I then tackle the challenge of coding it all up.

I hope this gave you a good idea of what the UX-Unicorn/UX-Engineer-role is all about.

Give the article a like if you enjoyed it and leave a comment telling me what your take on this role within a product team is and where you see it heading in the future.

Top comments (1)

rjzauner profile image

Thank you for contributing to the discussion!