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Should designers be coders? (v2.0)

I’ve talked about this in the past on this blog. I was reminded of this debate from a past professor who re-blogged a post by Frank Chimero.

So, should designers be coders? The answer is, “Yes, to an extent.”

I say ‘to an extent’, because we can’t expect a web designer to be able to do everything a programmer can. These are two different career paths. We can and should expect there to be an overlap between these separate fields. This overlap mainly lies in knowing HTML and CSS. (now you know what the question marks are for in the graphic). So designers should understand code and be able to write HTML and CSS.

Adobe’s recent release of Muse has surely stoked this debate even more. Muse promises to rid the need for a programmer/coder (you know, the way that Microsoft Publisher rids the need for a designer). The problem with this is that Muse promotes a lack of coding knowledge and as a result web designers are still uneducated about coding and their websites are worse off because of it. Websites are not digital versions of print design. They are living documents in 4D – changing based on user interactions, responsive design, dynamic elements etc. For more on why Muse is not the answer to web development, read Elliot Jay Stocks’ assessment.

The point here is that web designers should understand and be able to write HTML/CSS. As a comparison, take this example I mentioned in the aforementioned blog post,

…an architect should understand how a house is built. Otherwise, the architect has become a meaningless decorator of a medium he doesn’t understand.

Frank Chimero says it like this,

Design decisions are not only affected by the characteristics of the content being designed, but also the qualities of the format. The best way to understand the characteristics of the web is to speak its language.

What are your thoughts on this? Should web designers know how to code? How extensively?

Want to know where to start learning how to code? Check this out: Don’t Fear the Internet


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3 comments on “Should designers be coders? (v2.0)”

  1. It really goes both ways. Programmers need to know some design and designers need to know some programming. And both absolutely need to know HTML and CSS.

    When that sort of overlap is missing, it has a major effect on communication. I’ve seen designers come up with things that looked good, but couldn’t be implemented in HTML. For the problems programmers have design, we need look no further than much open source software.

    Dontfeartheinternet looks very interesting. Hadn’t seen it before.

  2. I’ve also seen designs that looked good but couldn’t be easily implemented in HTML. Most of the time I find a way to do what they are asking but it just takes longer… (I sometimes do coding for other designers)

    What do you mean by the open source software? wordpress? Or do you mean software like GIMP?

  3. Oh, GIMP is an excellent example. I haven’t used it in years, but it did have a horrible interface. WordPress has gotten better in recent years, but most open source content management systems are horribly designed. Throw in a non-technical user to say, joomla, and unless the person setting it up has gone through great pains, they’re going to have a hard time knowing what to do.

    Of course, it’s been years since i’ve used joomla as well, so that might have changed.

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