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Should designers learn to code?

By 30th July 2019 No Comments

It’s been an ongoing debate for a while, should designers learn to code? Will it just waste their time when they already have a skill in design? Or would learning the basics assist in adding additional value to their work? The answer isn’t simple, having two skills is better than one at the end of the day. However, what benefits can it provide to designers and is it worthwhile? We explore the pros and cons of designers learning to code with input from our very own Digital Designer, Mark, who is learning code as part of his professional development time.

Understanding and learning the basics of the technology and processes used to push their design to production can be beneficial for designers. It can help them learn how each part of their project and hard work is turned into a working product. Designers don’t need to know code to be great at their jobs, they are designers for a reason and that works for them but knowing about code can help them make better decisions when it comes to their design work.

What does Mark think?

‘Those of us that choose to learn to code will gain a lot from knowing how to take the designs they create and make functioning websites/apps out of them. It’s an important skill to know what’s achievable when designing for a particular medium. As designers we want to create something unique with every project, however, it can be frustrating to discover when a design can’t be recreated in code how we want it to be. Knowing how our creations are built can help us reduce that frustration and help us to become much more effective designers.’

Are designers who can code better value for money?

Designers often think they may be better value for money if they can do both

Lots of designers sometimes think ‘Maybe designing isn’t enough for the growing technological world, I need to code’, but that isn’t true. Design has become a huge sector for business.

The demand for UX designers and coders is growing, in their separate fields. We need digital designers just as much as we need coders. So having a designer who can do both could be an advantage at times, but it certainly isn’t hindering the job market or the need for designers who are skilled in just…designing. If there was a demand for someone who could do both, we would be hiring for it, but we aren’t’. The customer experience is hugely important to companies now. They want happy customers and happy users, which has translated into companies investing more into UX design.

What does Mark think?

‘I agree with the above; designers that are able to code can often prove very valuable in smaller companies where roles aren’t as focused into specific skill sets. Knowing how to code not only saves on having two separate team members but can promote better collaboration with the development team when everyone can communicate with the same language, via code.’

Which designers will benefit most from learning code?

First off, this is someone who genuinely enjoys and is intrigued by the world of code. There is no point learning something that, as a designer, you aren’t passionate about just because you are worried about your future in the job marketplace. It could just tarnish your relationship with the thing you love – designing. Maybe you enjoy playing with CSS illustrations in your spare time? These are the designers that should be learning, the ones that are fuelled by a curiosity about a skill that compliments their own. Being a hybrid designer may be beneficial to smaller startup companies who need someone who can do both, and don’t necessarily have the money to spend on a specialised role. It really depends on the route you want to go down!

Secondly, freelancers or entrepreneurs may benefit from designers who can do both skills.  Clients may have a budget and seeing that you have two skills rather than just one may sway their choice when they come to decide, especially if they are on a budget. If you are thinking of starting your own project or business, then learning to code may also benefit you. It can be annoying to build out an entire project, only to be blocked by your limited knowledge of code. Having to get a developer in to help you out, and who doesn’t know the project as well as you will be more expensive and they will probably be less passionate about your project than you are. Whereas if you had a knowledge of code in the first place you may be able to avoid this hurdle.

Why did Mark choose to learn code?

My choice to learn to code came from the desire to see the designs I create turn into functioning products. Coming from an animation background in my University days I love to see things moving, creating simple prototypes in InVision and ProtoPie was a bit of a stepping stone by making my static images move in a somewhat limited fashion, creating those design in code was the obvious next step.