There has been a big debate in the world of web designers, regarding if they need skills to code or not. There are lots of opinions in the internet, with a bunch of project managers and developers stating a web designer should have at least basic coding skills, if not advanced.
Most of the Web design University Degrees teaches both coding and visual design, so you will have to learn both of them to pass, but this does not make any difference. I, myself started the Multimedia Design Degree thinking I want to be a full web designer, but it didn’t matter at the end.
Before reading the rest of the article, do not forget to check these related topics:
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Beginner designers may realize they do not have enough vision to do the graphic work only, so they might turn their attention to coding. It is difficult to become a designer if you are not born for it, many specialists say, and it is actually the other way around as well. Maybe you have a great vision, you know hundred of designs, laws and create stunning PSDs, but you just don’t get the code.
Don’t believe learning the code is easy. You need to be born for it too. You need to be patient, capable of handling several white nights in a row when you realize you are on a tight deadline and so on. Learning coding is not easy. Moreover, mastering the code is way more difficult, with so many browsers out there and so many design practices.
There are lots of web designers not knowing how to slice a PSD or to code a page without a WYSIWYG application, and there is plenty of work for them too. With the web designers world divided by the ones who can code, and the ones who can’t, there is enough to do for you, although you have no idea how PHP works.
Web designers Do Not Need Coding Knowledge
One of the most well-known web designers in the world, Jeffrey Zeldman, stated on Twitter a few years ago that real designers have always been able to write codes, and will always be. But the term of “real” designers is vague. What if you only work in the visual department of the company, produces designs for all the projects, but has no idea how to code them? Mister Zeldman will assume you are not a “real” designer. Well, regardless of what he says, you are. You are just doing half of the work.
Several important designers believe coding skills are not a must anymore. That’s why you have the coding department. Both tasks, designing the layout and coding require years of experience to be done properly, and why not divide the world into two pieces; this way the designers will be able to focus more on the layout and will produce better looking results, while the coders will focus more on the interaction and will send out there clean and quick coded websites.
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Good designs can be made by someone who has no idea how the system behind a website works. They do not need to be educated in the domain either. They just have the eye for it. They take a piece of paper, walk into a quiet room, and after three hours of thinking and sketching, they come out with a stunning layout.
Instead of spending lots of weeks with learning HTML and CSS, a graphic designer could just focus more on typography, illustration, layouts and so on. He could learn design rules, understand better how those work, and create stunning layouts. In this time someone else will have to think about the code.
The example with the architect is often given as a reason why designers do not need coding skills. An architect doesn’t have to be an expert in electricity, kitchen appliances, plumbing or painting, because there are people who can handle this tasks better. And yet, the houses are not designed by the “on-field experts”, but by the architect. Web design can be the same.
Designers Should be Able to Code
Most of the polls in the internet get positive results. Making a layout is not actually making a website. It’s just putting it on the paper or in Illustrator. There’s a long way from here for it to work, and if you do not know how to properly code it, how are you going to transform it into a fully working site?
How would a web designer be able to create a layout that can actually be coded, if they have no idea of the technical part? Let’s put it straight. Many people can design a layout on a piece of paper or in Photoshop. It doesn’t have to be a brilliant layout, just something basic. But how many people can actually create a layout that is actually good to go on the web? Without no consistency or usability, a layout is not ready for the web. You will just give the developers a hard time and end up with a page looking too different than the one you have thought of.
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The first time I created a layout and tried to code was a living hell. It took me days to realize that when working in Photoshop or Illustrator, there is an easier way to do stuff than with the Dreamweaver. It was exactly because I didn’t have coding skills; almost not at all.
I ended up spending lots and lots of days to only find out the lines can’t have the same height and proportions, colors are different because we were working with the web-safe type, non-styled borders look awful and, what was most frustrating, to realize that each browser shows the website differently.
By knowing how to code, you will always be able to communicate with the developer. He can explain to you why this and that can’t properly be shown in a browser, you will make your magic and change the design and everything will work just fine. Not only that, there is going to be a better working relationship but, the departments will be able to work faster as well.
Now, let’s say you have a design company. Who would you employ? Would it be the graphic designer who can only produce layouts, or the full web designer, who not only can do the graphic work, but also the coding?
Though I would like to put it straight and conclude this article by not writing a vague paragraph, I can’t. There is just no right or wrong answer. Web design is such a large domain that is difficult to say who is a web designer and who is not, who should code and who should not or how should the companies work.
There are lots of big companies in the world having different departments, one with graphic designers and one with developers, and they produce fantastic websites. In my opinion, this is the way to do it. I have experienced it myself. I am not that talented at sketching, but once you give me a PSD, I’ll go into an application and code it by the book.
Image by shutterstock
By not being talented enough to create a good layout, it doesn’t mean you are not a web designer. No one says I am not a web designer because I can’t create layouts, and there are only few debates about this in the internet. No one actually cares if you can code, but can’t design. Then why should we care if we put it the other way around? It is exactly the same thing.
Graphic designers should have basic coding skills. They should be able to code a few lines, especially if they have a degree, but more than that is not necessary. No one says the graphic designers have to be proficient coding workers, but just knowing how CSS or different attributes work should be in every designer’s book. I would work anytime with someone not being able to code a line, but who is capable of creating a layout from a scratch.
However, I would rather work with a geek coding ninja, who can even make it possible by himself, than with an artist who will always ask why the website looks different in Firefox and Internet Explorer. I would always prefer someone with basic knowledge, so he knows when he is crossing the line of usability and gives me too many not useful coding to do. So, what do you think? Are web designers required to know how to code?