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Should designers know how to code?

[UPDATE: I’ve written a recent blog post about this – check it out here]

This debate recently came up in the web design blogosphere in the last week or so. It all started with a tweet heard ’round the world by Elliot Jay Stocks.

Honestly, I’m shocked that in 2010 I’m still coming across ‘web designers’ who can’t code their own designs. No excuse. – elliotjaystocks

There have been numerous responses to this, ranging from, “designers should ONLY design and programmers should ONLY code” to “designers should ALWAYS code their designs.

I tend to lean toward the idea that designers should know how to code their designs. This is the same as saying an architect should understand how a house is built. Otherwise, the designer or architect has become a meaningless decorator of a medium he doesn’t understand. (On the flip side, coders should understand the basics of design as well.)

Now, this is not to say that designers need to always code their design. I love the idea of hiring a programmer to code a website for me, especially if there are some dynamic things I want to do. If a web designer is going to be successful he needs to understand the medium. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a shallow or deep understanding: whether you can fully write XHTML and CSS or have a basic knowledge of the it’s structure.

The result of a web designer not knowing how to code their own website ends up being a website done in all flash, where flash is simply used for ‘transitions’ and ‘flashiness’. Another result might be a website ‘sliced’ with ImageReady or similar program which results in haphazard tables and inline styles or even worse, tables. Yet another result may be full blocks of text on a website are displayed as images, because, “‘gosh darn it, I want to use a really cool font and am afraid the user may not see the same font.”

CategoriesWebsite Design

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