Why designers should not code

Why designers should not code

If you’re a designer, chances are you’ve been told (more than once) that you either definitely should or absolutely should not code. The truth is, because the nature of web design and development has changed so much, and continues to evolve around us, the opinions around whether designers should be able to build their own creations will continue to change as well.

It’s 2015, and today the pendulum is shifting more and more towards the position that designers don’t need to add coding to their list of practical skills. Here’s an exploration of some of the most popular and convincing arguments as to why that is the case.

Let experts be experts

On the surface, online experiences are becoming more and more simple, intuitive and user friendly. Of course, behind the scenes, everyone know that this means the work that goes into building these fast, lightweight, compatible and flexible creations is more and more complex.

Staying on top of this complexity, as well as keeping up with – and knowing how to put into practice – all of the conventions that are moving into mainstream development, would take hours and hours of research and practice. If you’re a designer, surely it makes sense that any spare hours you have should be put into developing your own area of expertise.

That’s why it’s so great that there are so many templates available for designers to use – from simple blogs, to magazines, to full blown eCommerce sites. You probably won’t get everything you want from a template, but you’ll certainly get close enough. These templates are built by those who specialise in development. They are here to help you excel at your job.

On top of this, it’s worth mentioning that the general public’s expectations of an online experience is higher than it’s ever been. Not only does everything have to ‘just work’, it also has to look and feel beautiful. Would you rather do an inexpert job of creating your own website or application from scratch, or rely on a template (or combination of templates and plugins) that’s been built by experts and tested by hundreds of users?

Better for you, better for your client

At the end of the day, your job is design: to create something new to solve a problem. If you were trying to solve how humans moved quickly from place to place, would you reject the wheel as a strong place to start? Using templates is the equivalent of using the wheel. By starting from something everyone knows works, you can create a solution that’s even more successful for your client.

As Isaac Newton might put it – you can see further by standing on the shoulders of giants!

This kind of approach isn’t just good for your client, it means a more fulfilling working life for you too. That’s because, instead of working away at a problem someone else has almost certainly solved better than you ever could, you’re spending your (lest we forget: finite) time and energy on the work you really love.

As an aside, if you’re the kind of designer who adores the minute detail of development work, then there is plenty of work for you out there – online product design is probably one of the most rewarding spaces you could get into.

Be a responsible designer

As a designer, you have an important role to play in the creation and cultivation of the best possible online world. You probably already practice that philosophy in your work (even if your client seems to be working against you!), but can you honestly say you’d do the same if you were building everything you designed?

Would you make sure it was compatible with other devices? Would it automatically be mobile friendly? Would you test it across multiple browsers and devices, and follow up on any bugs promptly and effectively? Would you follow accessibility best practice, even if it meant adding a few extra days to your build time?

These kinds of standards are really important as we evolve the web. If you’re more interested in designing beautiful things than making sure they work as well and as accessible as possible, then hand over the keys to someone whose first love is coding.

So there we have it: three solid reasons as to why today’s on-line world is calling for responsible designers who are expert in their field, and who keep pushing themselves to create the best possible work; rather than designers who spend a large percentage of their time learning to code, keeping up with standards and trends and then actually developing their own work.

Of course, a little bit of coding know-how will always be useful – particularly if you’re a one man band and need to pull together templates and plugins without any hiccups. But, as the saying goes, don’t be a ‘jack of all trades, master of none!’


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