Should designers learn how to code?
A recent TechCrunch column by Anders Lassen, CEO and co-founder of app-design platform Muse, suggests that designers understanding every facet of app-making and website-building—from coding to the creation of art assets—will ease the overall app-development process. No confusion over what’s possible, in other words. No designing a UX feature only to have a wrestling match over whether it can be implemented in accordance with the original vision.
“What’s needed,” he argued, “is an organic process where designers and developers work together to create a vision that’s compelling and exciting—while also ensuring at every step that this vision can actually be brought to reality.”
If you do a quick Web search, you’ll find a number of columns and blog postings arguing in favor of designers who code, as well as those virulently opposed; those in the latter camp feel that it’s too much of a burden to ask designers to spend years learning complex languages and platforms.
“Design and development (both front end and back end) are highly specialized professions. Each takes years and countless hours to master,” Jesse Weaver, director of product design for Gaim TV, once wrote in a widely circulated Medium posting. “To expect that someone is going to become an expert in more than one is foolhardy.”
Most designers—or the ones who can find consistent work, at least—have a grasp on what makes a good app or website. If they also know a little something about the coding that underlies those products, they can streamline communication with the developers tasked with doing the actual building. For that reason alone, it’s worth having an understanding of what languages and platforms can do.
If you’re an independent designer who wants to also build your own apps and websites, and doesn’t want to outsource any of the work, then it’s definitely worth learning to code. For those who plunge into the intricacies of programming in order to appeal more to companies as a “full stack” player, though, prepare to face some hard questions about whether your coding skills can match those of full-time developers. It’s not impossible to master both sides of the equation, but some are probably better off focusing on one part, while deepening a familiarity with the other.