What should we learn next?

We’ve partnered with Udemy, a global marketplace for learning and teaching online, in order to answer the question that is plaguing so many of us in the tech industry.

Introduction

We are working in an incredibly fast-paced industry. New tools, software and frameworks burst onto the scene and compete for our attention every day. It's not clear which will become mainstream and essential for our jobs. Moreover, it's not even clear what will be required of our jobs in a few more years.

Designers constantly debate the value of learning to code. Developers are equally burdened with full stack anxiety, and encouraged to learn everything from front-end to big data. That's not to mention that both roles are often expected to have business knowledge, marketing prowess and content skills.

In an attempt to put some order to the chaos and give us an idea of what topics, trends and tools will be worth investing our time in, we decided to conduct a survey of our audience. We asked them questions about which topics they would like to learn in several different subjects, as well as how they prefer to learn and how much time they invest in learning. Of course there is no “right” answer, but we made the assumption that if a lot of people are interested in learning a certain topic, then it is likely that the topic will become more important than it already is. We hope this report helps you have a bit more clarity and helps you make an informed decision of what you should learn next.

Yours Truly,

Sagi & David
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Who took part in the survey?

We polled Hacking UI readers, as well as shared this survey in several other newsletters for designers and developers. We also shared it in popular communities such as Designer News.

949 total participants.

46% developers, 41% designers

In order to analyze the survey results, it's important to look at the experience level of the participants. 42% of the participants identified their current career level as “intermediate”. The remaining 58% varied from entry-level to the most senior management, which gave us a nice range of voices and ensures that the answers are not relevant to only a specific subset of career level.


It's also important to consider the current employment status of the participants, as that likely has an effect on what they would like to learn. 67% of the participants were employed full-time by a company.

Why do you learn?

We asked the participants several questions about their educational preferences, as well as the reasons why they choose to learn new topics. We wanted to understand if people were learning for professional or personal reasons, and how this might affect the topics they wanted to learn about. We also wanted to understand how frequently they were engaging in learning and educational activities.

The majority of participants, 60.1%, learn for both personal and professional reasons. However it was surprising to see that only 6.2% claimed personal development was their primary reason. This may say something about the lack of time or focus people are willing to put into things that are not directly correlated with getting ahead in their careers or making money. In a future study it would be interesting to explore this deeper and see if the amount of time spent on hobbies and recreational activities has declined recently.


It's also interesting to look at how frequently people are investing time in learning. Most of us don't have tons of free time, so finding the time to learn can be difficult. That's probably why the ability to learn and develop on the job has become one of the most sought-after traits by employees. A recent Gallup poll found that a staggering 87% of millennials said this is an important factor for them in choosing a job. The survey results support this claim.

71.9% of participants spend time learning at least once per week.

So what should you learn?

Answering this question was the primary reason we conducted this survey. We broke the topics down into 3 categories, design, development and marketing. Participants were allowed to select multiple skills or topics for each section, therefore the sum of the percentages for each item can add up to more than 100.

Design Skills

When it comes to design skills, user experience and web design were neck and neck as the two most desired skills to learn.

75% of participants wanted to learn user experience, while 73% wanted to learn web design. Interestingly, both of these skills are considered more traditional than some of the other options such as 3D animation, digital painting and even prototyping.

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Design Tools & Software

With 73.3% Sketch was the overwhelming choice of software that designers wanted to learn. This is not surprising, as it correlates with the 2016 Design Tools Survey that we conducted.

However, among developers we saw an interesting break from that trend. 48% of developers chose Sketch, while 50% said they want to learn Photoshop. This dissonance is definitely worth exploring, and is something developers should take note of.

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Development Skills

91.3% of developers want to learn web development and 82.6% of the overall participants said they want to learn it as well. This made it the overwhelming choice for most desired skill in all of design, development and marketing. In fact, amongst designers it even slightly beat out Sketch with 74% reporting they want to learn it.

Mobile app development was the second most popular choice, however AI is a topic that should be monitored closely as it is a relatively new and hot topic and already had 46% of participants reporting they wanted to learn it.

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Development Software

Among development software and programming languages, Javascript was the overall favorite.
81% of participants want to learn Javascript in general, and a significant portion also chose Angular and React, two popular Javascript frameworks.

It was interesting to see that so few participants want to learn Xcode, a popular development tool for iOS, even though a relatively large portion of participants reported wanting to learn mobile app development. This is something worth diving into further, as it could be because they prefer to develop for Android, or to learn to develop apps using other methods.

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Marketing Skills

Even though marketing skills are not usually considered part of the core responsibilities for a designer or developer role, it was interesting to see that a large portion of participants wanted to learn several marketing skills. Content marketing and email marketing were the two most popular choices.

Conclusion

Both personal and professional development are clearly important to the majority of people in tech-related fields. We saw that a significant portion of people spend time learning each week, and this is something that not only individuals but also companies should take into consideration.

When it comes to what topics or skills are worth learning, there was a lot of crossover between professions. Designers wanted to learn web development skills, and developers wanted to learn design skills. Although there were a wide variety of skills that people wanted to learn about, there were some skills that clearly led the field such as Javascript and user experience.

We'd like to thank our partner, Udemy, for helping us conduct this survey and for promoting professional development. Udemy has thousands of online courses on every topic that was covered in the report, as well as many more. It's the best way for you to start learning something new today.


See all of Udemy's courses