Designers Should Code

There have been several good articles lately that largely, or partially, encourage designers to learn to code. Here they are:

  1. Designers vs Coding by Frank Chimero
  2. Web Design is Product Design by Andy Rutledge
  3. Adobe Muse Lets You Design Websites Without Knowing Code by Alissa Walker
  4. Cameron Moll shares his thoughts in part of an interview with How Magazine

My own thoughts on this are pretty similar. Designers should code. HTML and CSS are the language of the web and trying to create sites without knowing it is like trying to get by in a foreign country by hanging out with other Americans instead of natives. You can do it, but never as well as someone who takes the time to immerse themselves in the local language and culture. Print designers can’t get away without knowing what 4-color process is, should those who design for the web not know what semantic markup is?

This is not to say that web designers should be developers or build complicated heavily scripted sites. In many cases this would not be the wisest use of resources or talent, but having people who can communicate effectively with developers and understand what is possible or advisable in web technology makes a huge difference. In my experience this has been very helpful. While working with an outside development team on a project at Push our feedback wasn’t being communicated effectively, so I sent them the exact CSS necessary to get what we wanted across. No confusion, code is great that way.

Many designers think that learning HTML is beyond them and that their brains don’t work that way. Here’s a secret, HTML isn’t actually code, it’s a markup language. There is no easier web technology to learn. It takes some getting used but if given a few weeks it really does come quickly. Pick up a book, read A List Apart, visit Don’t Fear the Internet, make a simple static site. You’ll feel good, and who knows, you might catch the bug!