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Should designers code?

This post was previously edited by a moderator.
I saw this article Product designers should say fuck you to being forced to code, and I keep wondering isn't it more useful and efficient for designers if they are able to to code, at least front-end? For the designers out there - how do you feel about coding?

28 Replies

Hong Li
6
0
Hong Li Entrepreneur • Advisor
Lead Designer at drchrono
All designers should learn to code (HTML/CSS). It's an essential skill that can not only boost their value, it can greatly improve the speed at which the product is built.

Nobody forced me to learn HTML/CSS. I wanted to learn it. I also picked up some Objective-C because I feel like I can help speed up the development of apps and it did. It wasn't smooth in the beginning, but as you get better, it'll flow right into the dev cycle. As I got better, I started developing my own apps, which puts me right in the middle of the design & dev process, giving me perspective and helped me greatly improve my design skills.

I've hired a number of designers over the years and I don't hire any designer who can't code. I wouldn't even bring them in for an interview. To want to code is to want to be better. If you're complaining about coding, you're not ambitious enough for most teams, and fairly useless in a startup environment.
Jason Corradino
0
0
Jason Corradino Entrepreneur
Software Engineering Consultant at JPMorgan Chase & Co.
The problem though is when designers are asked to work with languages far outside of their comfort zone. I can understand html/css and maybe even some basic javascript. But asking a designer without much experience in JS frameworks to work on an Angular app is likely a poor use of his time.
Tom Maiaroto
0
0
Tom Maiaroto Entrepreneur • Advisor
Full Stack Consultant
Not required. I found it incredibly useful though.

I went to a top design school for graphic design (BFA). It was all for print. YEARS of typography (my choice).

I taught myself everything I need to know about programming, server configuration, databases, mail servers, search engines, Amazon's products, etc. I know HTML/CSS, JavaScript sure...But also PHP, Node.js, and Go (among others).

I find it INCREDIBLY valuable and am at a point where I can design and build anything I want on the web.

So no, you shouldn't be "forced" to code ... You do what you want. It worked out for me, but maybe not everyone and that's ok.

There is a TON of work to be done with design. Though if you are talking about web product design, you probably should at least understand how web technologies work. You wouldn't be an effective product designer otherwise.

What Scott eventually ends up saying is "complimenting skill" ... He's not saying you can just be a "product designer" and that's it. You need to bring some sort of related skill to the table. It doesn't need to be coding.
Brian Ross
2
1
Brian Ross Entrepreneur • Advisor
Engineering Lead at Haven, Inc.
Not necessarily. If designers want to focus on design/UI/interaction, it's much different than actually coding and implementation. The toolsets and mind space are completely different. No one should be forced or coerced to do anything or be made to feel less adequate because they aren't interested in doing something.

Some people can do both, but to be excellent at them to the same degree is rare and growth mode startups aren't patient enough. In bootstrap mode sure I'd take a dev who can hack up a design or a designer who could code just enough to be dangerous, but as a stop-gap only. When things really get going bring in the people who are passionate about what they are doing--not sidelining in the thing in which they don't really have an interest (or worse, begrudgingly coerced). Quality and morale will suffer.
Alan Peters
2
1
Alan Peters Entrepreneur
VP Product and Technology at BusinessBlocks
How about the other way around - should coders design?
Brian Ross
3
0
Brian Ross Entrepreneur • Advisor
Engineering Lead at Haven, Inc.
@ AlanPeters-only if they have good taste :D
Stephen Cataldo
0
0
Stephen Cataldo Advisor
Drupal | Startups | Green Conferences | Carpooling | Strategic Planning During Conflict
Designers and developers work tangles together enough that both should hack around in the others' expertise on side projects just for understanding. So split the question: "should designers code sometimes as part of their continuing education" ... yes, "should you demand a good designer code javascript as a major part of their regular work" ... not unless they gravitate towards it. The blog article is is about designers being forced to do a lot of production code ... the smoothest running team I've been part of didn't do this, both designers spent more time on ux and the dev team built it.
Ian Maddox
5
0
Ian Maddox Entrepreneur
Machine Learning Architect at MetricStory
As an engineer who came from back-end development and has worked with many designers, I can say that it is most certainly more efficient when a designer can code. If they can produce a functional front-end product (maybe even with with working javascript), that's a lot of work lifted from the other members of the team who will be implementing the designer's output.
However, in the real world, it's naive to expect this sort of output from everyone. Be happy if you have the opportunity to hire someone who can produce valuable products from both left and right brain. Just don't expect all of your right-brained folks to excel at left-brained work and vice-versa.

Think about it this way: It would be awesome if designers all knew how to code, but not everyone is cut out to do it efficiently. Similarly, not everyone is cut out to do design work. You can always tell when a developer did your design because it looks like the web circa 1998. For folks who know what to look for, it's also very easy to tell when a designer has done your development--frequently it's because your site is ripe with security or scalability problems.

It comes down to aptitudes and passions. If you're going to get good results out of a creative intellectual professional, they typically need to be well suited for the job and interested in what they are doing.

Should designers code? Yes. But you shouldn't be paying them to do it unless they're good at it.
John Anderson
2
0
John Anderson Entrepreneur
Senior Mobile Developer at Propelics
I think as long as you draw the line as the author did, showing that they feel that HTML/CSS is part of the design process, I agree. Designers need to know the medium their creations will be represented in, HTML/CSS and be able to develop that as well as the design.

To force a designer to learn to code PHP, .NET, Angular.js, Node.js code doesn't make much sense to me. Design is all about form, style and UX experience. Coding is more about logical thinking, well organized code, making sure there are no memory leaks, etc. Very much different sides of the brain. Although you can bring a high degree of creativity to coding, I would say it's more (more...not completely) following design patterns.

Of course it can make sense for a designer to get to know the UI characteristics of different operating systems, but that doesn't mean they need to know how to write the code to create them.
Camellia George
4
0
Camellia George Advisor
Product & User Experience Leader
On a small team it's helpful when each and every member can extend themselves beyond their core skill set to move a product forward. But as your team grows, you want to be careful to direct each person's (including your own) energy where you get the most bang for your buck.

My caution comes from overseeing designers who, as they learn to code, constrain their own designs to what they imagine technically implementing by themselves. It isn't necessarily intentional, but in the process you end with a mediocre contributor who is neither designing or engineering at their best.

I advocate for a design process that is technologically-informed, and in close partnership with engineering. But I want designers who empathize, strategize and synthesize above all else.
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