Should designers learn how to code?

Barin Cristian Doru

Should designers learn how to code? In short … maybe. As a web designer, you should first decide if you think it’s more important to specialize or diversify your skill set. Both options come with ups and downs and you should understand all the variables before jumping to a conclusion. Here are a few things you should keep in mind.

Why and how should you diversify?

direction

If your current specialty has a grim future, better diversify

There may be a few reasons you’re interested diversifying your skill set. Are you:

  • In a creative rut? Not feeling challenged?
  • Not seeing yourself going far in just one part of the design industry?
  • Noticing an increased demand from your clients to expand your service offering?

If so, then you may benefit from learning how to code. However, learning a new skill is very demanding and very few of us have the luxury of spare time. So if you want to learn but lack the time, then you may need to work up to it by:

  1. Specializing in your current area
  2. Gaining financial stability
  3. Deciding what you can take on next, and determining the steps to accomplish it

In short, start coding if you feel drawn to it and believe it will improve your value. Think about it in the long run and anticipate the pros and cons. Just remember to work up to it gradually: don’t torture yourself and bite off more than you can chew.

Why be good? Go be great (at one thing)!

false-issue

Great designer or great coder? In the beginning of your career, you can probably choose only one.

Time is both our friend and our enemy. That’s why in the beginning of your career you should only choose one area of expertise. If you’re a designer, you know you’ve reached this level of design quality over a long period of time yet there’s still a long way to go.

The same applies for coding. You can’t become an amazing coder just by learning a little bit of HTML and CSS, and asking Google for help now and again. Would you partner up with a coder who is just okay? Of course not! You’d expect the same level of quality and attention to detail that you invested in the design phase. So to sum it up:

  • If you’re at the beginning of your career, start with only one field: designer or coder
  • If you’re an experienced designer and want to learn how to code, prepare to invest a lot of time
  • Don’t offer your coding services if you haven’t spent an adequate amount of time learning

All things considered, people who are not just good, but GREAT at multiple things are very respected, very well paid and highly valued by others. If you can pull it off, go for it!

Understanding your significant other (your coder)

coders

Coders can often get frustrated when working with the other half of the project (the designer), and with good reason. Some concepts look great in Photoshop, but they’re simply not reasonable to implement. Some designers’ lack of knowledge causes them to pitch ideas to clients that are out of this world. This leaves the coder picking up the slack and fixing issues that weren’t in his job description. This is why so many coders urge designers to learn a thing or two about coding.

To clarify: don’t learn the coding basics so you can quickly start offering coding services, but rather so you can know what can and can’t be done. If you want to start the process of learning, then simply invite an experienced coder to a cup of coffee and I’m sure you’ll get an earful of impossible situations they’ve had to deal with because of an inexperienced designer.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, being an expert in one particular field is great. Some people strive for that their entire lives and still can’t manage to achieve greatness. On the other hand, there are those of us who can juggle multiple fields at once while maintaining a superb level of quality. If you can and want to be one of those people … go for it, but remember: nobody looks for someone who is a jack of all trades but master of none.

Are you trying to specialize or diversify your skill set?

The author

Barin Cristian Doru
Barin Cristian Doru

Barin Cristian Doru aka 'thislooksgreat' is an experienced web designer and proud member of the 99designs community: http://99designs.com/people/thislooksgreat Besides creating awesome website designs, he is also an entrepreneur, an Android App Developer and a content creator. His work ranges from freebie PSD files to small tips & tricks in Photoshop, all the way to a premium 16 hour long course on how to succeed on 99designs.

Related articles

The fundamentals of responsive website design

The fundamentals of responsive website design

The days of designing a website for a single desktop screen are well and truly over. Technology and the expansion of mobile websites are pushing web designers to re-think how their work is displayed across various devices. Think about it: how much browsing do you do every day on your phone vs. your desktop? Enter:…

The new Google Fonts is a win for designers

The new Google Fonts is a win for designers

Google launched Google Fonts in 2010 to provide web fonts free of charge. Over the next six years it grew considerably, becoming very popular with web designers—for the obvious reason of affordability. The original website was definitely what the startup world would call an MVP: minimal viable product. It got the job done, but it…

Current Design Contests

Designers, check out these contests so you can start building your career.
0%