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Should Designers Know How to Code? Thoughts From a Developer

posted by Amber Weinberg on Mar 2, 2010.

Should designers be able to code? That’s a big question that has been debated quite heatedly in recent weeks. In this post, guest author and developer Amber Weinberg weighs in with her own views on the subject, based on her own extensive experience coding her clients’ designs.

Last week, Elliot Jay Stocks set off a pretty heated argument, when he tweeted:

Honestly, I’m shocked that in 2010 I’m still coming across ‘web designers’ who can’t code their own designs. No excuse.

Should Designers Know How to Code? Thoughts From a Developer

Should Designers Know How to Code? Thoughts From a Developer

To be honest, I’m not shocked. I know lots of web designers who can’t, or won’t, code their own websites. In fact, I know so many that I built a business catering to them. You see, I’m a front-end web developer who offers PSD to XHTML, CSS and WordPress coding. I don’t offer any design services, and 95% of my clients are web agencies with overflow or freelancer designers. So I know this area quite well.

Should designers be able to code?

With regards to Elliot’s statement, I’m on the fence.  I believe designers should have a basic knowledge of HTML and CSS and a general knowledge of what can and can’t be done on the web. However, I don’t believe (nor do I hope) that they should have to code.

Many web “experts” claim that design and front-end coding are exactly the same. While I agree HTML and CSS simply present the design to the user (unlike PHP and ASP which actually transmit information), I don’t believe it’s the same. Why?

Designing websites is visual. You see how the design looks the whole time. There’s no guessing. You don’t have to worry about browser testing or usability (as far as the website functions, you still have to worry about it from a visual point of view).

Code is not visual, it’s another language. After working for several years with the code, you’ll be able to guess what the website will look like, but you’ll never really know until you test it in the browser. To be able to code, not only do you have to anticipate what the browser will do with that code, but you’ll also have to think about validation, semantics and usability. Code is left brain thinking and a lot of web designers can’t wrap their heads around the idea of it.

Of course, you can still be both a designer and a coder. I went to design school myself, and found that it wasn’t what I wanted to do. While I enjoyed the visual site of making websites, I didn’t enjoy managing clients in the visual stuff. I found what I really loved to do is code.

Coding Designers’ PSDs

Being a developer, I can tell you that I get a ton of PSDs every week and each one is completely different. It’s interesting to see how well (or not) organized the designer is. From about the first glance of the PSD, I can tell you whether this designer can code, or at least knows the basics of the web.

What happens when I get a PSD from a print, or “web” designer, who doesn’t know a thing about the web? Catastrophe.

For example, I once worked for a company that we’ll call Company X. At Company X, the designer quit and the job was forced upon me (who had specifically said I wouldn’t take the job if it involved design) and the only other designer, a print designer. The company got a large project from a multi-national corporation, so they gave the design job to the “print” designer. Big mistake.

The PSDs I got from him were terrible. There were 5-6 different colors for links in just the copy portion of the site alone. Each link had a different hover state, and multiple ones were swapped (sometimes the blue link had an underline, sometimes it turned black). Images stuck out of alignment everywhere, making the CSS even more difficult. It was a nightmare from both a usability prospective and a CSS one.

PSDs from these kinds of designers easily take double the time to code (or more), especially, if it has to be made right in IE6. While other browsers can be forced to render non-traditional web layouts a bit easier, IE6 really hates things that are absolutely positioned and out of the box.

So should they code?

Yes and no. I’ve seen plenty of awesome designers who can’t code more than basic HTML, but know what can and can’t (or shouldn’t) be done on the web. These designers’ PSDs are just as easy to code as the designers’ who know HTML and CSS back to front.

You should at least know the basics, especially about usability. You should know why there shouldn’t be 50 different link colors, why the nav shouldn’t be at the bottom and why the logo is always to the left. These sort of things will make your websites perform better and will save the sanity of your poor developer. Without this knowledge you’re not a web designer, you’re just a pixel pusher.

Your Thoughts

Do you think designers should know how to code? What were your experiences with coding PSDs that came from designers who didn’t understand the web?

Post A Comment

Also from Echo Enduring Media:

An Unfolding Tale

About the Author

Amber Weinberg is a freelancer with over 10 years of experience and specializes in clean, semantic and valid 1.0 Strict XHTML, CSS and Wordpress development. She also writes a web development blog on her portfolio at www.amberweinberg.com.

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Mar 2, 2010

Brad C says:

Good article Amber.

I’m a designer who can code but doesn’t do much. One of the most enlightening experiences i’ve had was when I had the chance to markup another designer’s PSD. Up to that point I had only done my own work so I knew what I was doing. Once you see another person’s design and take a shot at it you start to see where a site will break and it changes the way you approach visual design in Photoshop and gives you more empath to front end designers.

Mar 2, 2010

Daniel says:

I’m a designer that wants to learn how to code, but I find it much more of a chore than to do design work. It takes me 2-3 times longer to code my designs then it does to design them, so if I can get 2 more jobs done in the same amount of time, why not outsource the coding?

I’m trying to create a niche design service where I do just that, create the designs for clients, so they can then either code it themselves or have one of their developers code it. To me, it’s just a specilization in the overall market for web development.

Some designers just do logos all day. Why can’t there be designers that just design for the web all day?

Mar 2, 2010

Amber Weinberg says:

Exactly. You don’t have to code your designs at all – but it’s good to know at least the basics of code and the limitations of HTML and browsers. It will make your designs better in the long run.

Mar 2, 2010

Timo says:

I’m a designer that knows how to code pretty well, but why don’t I do it myself?
– It probably takes me a lot longer to get it right than it does for a person specialized in coding and programming.
– I can do other projects in the time it would take me to code.
– I don’t particularly enjoy coding on a regular basis.
– It takes valuable time to keep up to date with new developments.

But I do think that it is useful to know how to code. I know what the possibilities and impossibilities are with coding, so most of the times I can adjust to that. On the other hand I like to challenge a coder with unusual details in my designs and I want my design pixelperfect, so I can imagine that they don’t like me very much at times.

Mar 2, 2010

JC says:

I am a designer and coder…I do both all of the time. In my experience the most important thing for designers is that they understand how coding works…they may not need to know all the ins and out of CSS/XHTML but they should know what works and what doesn’t…this makes life much easier for the person who actually codes the sites.

PS if you do it all yourself then no worries!

Mar 2, 2010

Alvinthethird says:

Agreeing with some of Timo’s points…
Should a designer code? Not necessarily…but understanding what’s possible helps a lot so there aren’t compromises that have to be made with the final product.
I code my own designs and hate it most of the time, but i appreciate knowing what’s going on. And there is the added advantage of if something goes awry, there is no middleman to contact.

Mar 2, 2010

Brian McDaniel says:

Great article, Amber, and excellent continuation of Elliot’s original stirring of the pot. This is probably not the last discussion we’ll see on the topic.

I believe that regardless of the context it is optimal for a person to know everything about the process in order to achieve the best result. As a self-taught designer and coder, the knowledge of both enables me to do each better. If I were 2 different people – the designer who then passed the design on to the coder – I would most definitely be making the coder’s life much easier because of my knowledge of what can or can’t be done in the context of websites. But the point is not about making each others life easier or less frustrating. The point is that the BEST websites will have the entire concept – design, usability, functionality, purpose, etc. – incorporated into every stage of the project, no matter how many sets of hands it goes through.

If the designer’s job starts and finishes with creating a pretty picture of a website, then I believe he/she has fallen short of giving the client the best possible end result. Good websites can still be delivered this way, but the BEST websites will stand on a more complete and firm foundation that has a more well-rounded understanding interwoven into every phase of the project.

Just my two cents…

Mar 2, 2010

Josh Frankel says:

How well can an architect do his job if he doesn’t understand the materials his building is going to be constructed with ? I tried to resist learning code for as long as possible, but it was only hurting my designs in the long run. The reality is that when you understand HTML and CSS, you start coding before a line of HTML is written. Design informs code how to organize content, the more you understand both, the better that visual organization will be.

Mar 2, 2010

Matthew Craig says:

Absolutely Designers should know how to code… Or at least know of current trends and technologies that are used in the web of 2010. How can anyone possibly design for the web without knowing what is possible within the constraints of coding languages?

Mar 2, 2010

Yogi says:

Great article. I’m a designer & coder (front end). I enjoy doing both equally and probably spend equal amounts of time doing both. Personally, I feel that if a ‘web designer’ can’t code their own designs in XHTML/CSS then they are just a ‘graphic designer’. I’ve coded other peoples’ designs and as soon as I opened the PSDs, I could tell they had no knowledge or understanding of usability and the underlying functions of the way a website operates. The designs were nice but they were done by a ‘graphic designer’ not a ‘web designer’. If you wanna call yourself a ‘web designer’ then you need to be able to code your own design.

Just my Two Cents…

Mar 2, 2010

ximi says:

I design and code and I enjoy both parts equally much. I also think that both parts benefit from each other. I’m a better (web) designer, because I know what’s possible and what not and I’m a better coder, because I’m trying to challenge myself with my designs. I wouldn’t want to abstain from either one of them – they’re exactly what makes me love being a web designer: the versatility.

A designer doesn’t need to code, but he should know a little bit about web standards, usability and common practices of the web and I think a (front-end) coder should also have a clue about basic design principles.

To be perfectly honest: I define a web designer as a person that designs as well as codes. Sure, there are front-end developers and ui or screen designers, but a web designer should do both…

Mar 3, 2010

Catherine Azzarello says:

Good points, Amber.

I get Elliot’s perspective. But then, I’m a designer who codes my own. I enjoy the coding, specifically CSS. Always feel like I’ve ‘conquered’ something when I get what I want with the cleanest code–and the difficulty/fulfillment level rises exponentially when I add jQuery!

But that’s my fun. Winning the tech side as a fine artist>graphic designer>web designer/developer has been my path.

If I began as a designer who worked with a programmer, I might see it differently–separation of skill sets. Though I honestly can’t imagine being completely in the dark about HTML & CSS if web-design is a major portion of business!

Guess I’m trying to say that it’s a grey area and there are likely all levels of coding expertise mixed in with design expertise. Can’t see how knowing both would hurt.

I know some SEO experts who don’t do HTML. I find that a longer stretch than a graphic designer who doesn’t code.

Mar 3, 2010

Derryl Carter says:

YES, they should.

They don’t need to be an expert, and they don’t need to bury themselves in code at all times, but they should at least have a very strong understanding of how their concepts are going to be transformed into a functioning website.

Not knowing HTML/CSS is like having someone design a car for you without understanding how a car works. Except (fortunately) a person who designs but can’t code won’t actually result in human death (most of the time).

Mar 3, 2010

Mahmoud says:

Interesting read!

I personally think that you don’t have to code your designs – whether it’s HTML/CSS or PHP/ASP/etc. coding – However, you should know some coding basics, simply so when you’re designing (a .psd) you take into consideration what can be done or can not!

I’m my self a graphics and web designer (i.e I design identities, business cards, and all the printing stuff, and I also design website layouts and things for web) so why would I code my designs?

Mar 3, 2010

Sneh Roy says:

You hit the nail on the head Amber with this post! Great read and so many like me will relate to it. I also agree with most of the comments just above mine … I think coding is and should be a designer’s personal preference. I think there is some truth to the left-brain, right-brain theory. Having said that, I feel designers even if they don’t code should know what code does [which is not all that difficult to grasp if you have been tinkering with html and css for a while]. I don’t prefer to code, simply because I like my visual stuff too much, but when I design, I always think about how I would put this in css and what design would produce the cleanest code for someone [Nick, in my case] actually coding it.

Once you get addicted to structure, clean lines, small file sizes, transparency, organized chaos and such … you will always end up designing in a manner that would make any coder proud!

Mar 3, 2010

Craig says:

As you’ve eluded to – if you don’t understand how HTML and CSS work, how can you ensure your design’s going to work? There’s a certain requirement of understanding the media you’re going to be working with that’s mandatory. If you don’t have an understanding of how the HTML can be structured, how can you ensure that you’re able to create sections of the design that’ll cope with content overflowing, for example?

As a developer I have only ever worked with a designer that doesn’t understand HTML/CSS once and it was a disaster. In the end we had to get a “proper” web designer in to translate the design across to HTML/CSS. The client had to effectively pay twice because they decided to use a non-web designer in the first instance and the site was completely inflexible.

I can’t understand how a designer can work in the web medium and not understand HTML/CSS.

Mar 3, 2010


Very interesting article.
I agree with quite a few things that have been said.
What I would like to add is that if a pure designer is working with a pure developer, the lack of common ground and common undestandings of each other’s specifications is not a great recipe for success…

The more different people understand each other’s the better the final result. As a developer, I enjoy working with designers that have notions about what I do, and I try to get information on their design process too, so when we discuss a particular point, we are not on a completely different approach.
So to conclude yes, I think designers should know at least what coding for the web implies, but they should not necessarily be able to code it all by themselves. Everyone has its own strength.

Mar 3, 2010

Scott says:

Great post Amber.

I’m a designer with some coding knowledge and experience. I don’t claim to know how to develop perfectly compliant websites and I make it a point to inform prospective clients that fact at the outset. When it comes to coding I’d rather leave that to the professionals.

I’m of the opinion that designers should stick to design and developers should stick to code. I see it as two completely separate roles each with their own skill-set.

I come across many job postings specifically looking for designers but then expect HTML/CSS (and sometimes even PHP, ASP, .NET, etc.) experience and it blows my mind.

Mar 11, 2010

Bea Litao says:

I know exactly what you mean. It’s like they’re looking for superhumans and expect them to get paid less that what they’re able to do.

But that’s from the point of view of an aspiring Web Designer – 1 year experience.

I think I can relate to the post pretty well. You should know what HTML could do and could not do, but be able to go against the flow and be creative. Sure, there are limitations to what HTML/CSS can do but that doesn’t mean we can’t think outside the box.

Mar 3, 2010

Perry Clease says:

As like a number of posters on this article I too code and design.

There is a flip side to this coin; Should coders know how to design.

Mar 3, 2010

Amber Weinberg says:

Yes and no. While you don’t really need to understand design to be able to translate one into a website, I’d say having a background in design (my degree is in it ;) ) Has helped the organization of my code out a lot, it’s also made it easier to understand color. I’ve seen plenty of terrible developers who don’t pay attention to the PSD and end up using weird colors, and those who also don’t know how to do anything in Photoshop, so end up lost if the client asks to add something to the design.

Mar 3, 2010

Sarah Camp says:

I think it is very important for designers to understand the logistics of coding a website. In my experience, those that understand how everything is put together and have the ability to do it themselves are, in general, more effective designers.

While I went to design school, part of our curriculum for web design and multimedia was to learn scripting, while it wasn’t one of my favorite things to do (and I definitely learned more outside of school) it gave me a strong foundation.

When I began my business, I did everything myself. Design, Development, Copywriting, etc. As the business grew, there was less and less time to do everything. As a successful business owner, one must delegate responsibilities to remain successful and truly provide results. At this time my schedule simply does not provide for me to be developing the sites as well as designing.

There is also something to say for someone who specializes, and one who spreads themselves too thin. Since I began working with programmers I not only have made multiple times the amount of money, but my design skills have improved ten fold.

It does also help to know how to code as when my programmers have the site built I can often step in to tweak things so that they look perfect.

I think that in general, it is most important to have an understanding of scripting, coding, and databases (play around, learn how it all works, do a couple of sites) but as a DESIGNER the role is, ultimately, to have the greatest understanding of the best practices for design. If development takes away from that, then you fail as a designer.

And personally, it bothers me when people call themselves a “Web Designer” and can’t design, only develop. That is a “Web Developer” in my mind. They are two completely different things.

Mar 3, 2010

Amber Weinberg says:

I agree. web designers design and developers develop.

It’s interesting you pointed to college. Unfortunately, the college I went to was behind the times and we only had ONE web design class in our graphic design curriculum…and it barely touched the basics of CSS (I think tables were OK’ed too… :( :( )

Mar 3, 2010

Jack Barber says:

I’m quite glad that not all designers code, it puts those of us who can do both into another bracket. I tend to work for small, local firms with small budgets. In providing both designing and developing under one roof I can cut their costs and the time it takes to produce their site.

Obviously there are specialists in any job, focussing on one area or another, but being able to provide a complete web design and development service sets me aside from some of my local competition. It also makes me more appealing to clients who require the whole spectrum of work doing, from web and graphic design to PHP and MySQL development.

Mar 3, 2010

Michal Kozak says:

Great post. I totally agree.

I wouldn’t demand from designers to CODE, but I would demand to have basic knowledge about this stuff so they can design something that later is easy to code for developer.

Theoretically we can code just anything. But why should this take us 4 more hours than it could? I see no point there.

Mar 3, 2010

Christophe says:

Of course designers should know about web dev, databases, technologies…and if you do print design, printing techniques, painting, drawing, ….and everything that can be useful. These are only tools. This is only the extension of your hand. Having all these tools at least in your head when you’re thinking about a project is so valuable…IMO. Knowing how it works gives you the freedom. For me it’s like a movie director. You create your movie imagining the colors, the lights, the atmosphere,…

Mar 3, 2010

Henrik Lissner says:

I’m a big fan of the hybrid approach (a designer that develops and writes :P). Not that it’s always possible, or advisable, I am practically masochistic with how much I’ve spread myself out on the web design process – but I find it fun and wonderfully under my control.

But realistically, I think designers ought to know the basics of markup languages and a summary of programming limitations – but the reverse is true as well: developers should not underestimate (or heaven forbid, forgo entirely) design!

However, I think “Designer” could be an umbrella term for two different specializations in the industry – one being associated with graphic and typographical layout design (a graphic designer), and the other associated with interaction/information design (a front end designer).

The former, at most, should be able to turn their PSD’s into HTML/CSS documents. The latter -will- need to know a fair amount of Javascript (including some javascript libraries and AJAX).

As front-end designers, they’d have a foot in each field while never wholly leaving their designing background. For that reason, I think all graphic designers should choose to evolve into front-end designers. :D

Mar 3, 2010

Jason Lotito says:

Yes. A Web Designer should know how to code.
Yes. A Print Designer should understand CMYK, bleed, and other non-design things.
Yes. A Fashion Designer should understand the material they are using. They should know sewing and… whatever else.
Yes. A Interior Decorator should know how to paint, and how to use that paint.

Does a Web Designer need to be an expert coder, applying all the JavaScript and underlying application code to make the site functional? No.
Does a Print Designer need to be a press-man, laying out the paper and preparing the ink? No.
Does a Fashion Designer need to work in a sweat shop… okay, I jest!
Does an Interior Decorator need to be a master carpenter? No.

Sure, if you are a Designer, and you don’t know how to get your design up on the web, then you really can’t call yourself a Web Designer. Just as much as being a Web Designer doesn’t mean you know how to design for Print (my wife is a designer, and Oh, the horror stories of so-called Designers who didn’t know about bleed, and did everything in Photoshop!).

So, if you only want to be a Designer, that’s fine. But the moment you want to promote yourself as a Print Designer that doesn’t understand fonts, color separation, and other things that my wife has ranted to me about (Dear God, not another MS Publisher story!), you’re basically lying.

Mar 3, 2010

Joe Friedl says:

You designers act like programmers don’t exist! All this talk about “coding” and “developing”, and all you’re really talking about are HTML and CSS.

What do you think makes a website function? Where do you think your beloved WordPress comes from? Do you think being able to write markup and Javascript is as deep as it goes?

Of COURSE a designer should know markup! The job of a web designer has apparently been broken up into the graphic designer (PSDs) and the web designer (markup), and both have gotten incredibly pretentious.

Mar 5, 2010

Amber Weinberg says:

I’m sorry Joe, I didn’t mean to leave backend programmers out. Of course, there are actually some of my clients who won’t allow me to sue any PHP in my coding. They have to be plain static HTML sites :( (which means dup headers/footers :( )

I focus on HTML/CSS because that’s what I do. Of course, I also know WordPress PHp VERY well but could not write a standalone CMS or anything to save my life…thats where my programmer comes in ;)

Mar 4, 2010

Skyrocket Labs says:

So, Amber, are you getting tired of me saying “nice post”? LOL. I mean it this time as well. ;)

I realize this is a matter of perspective and that everyone’s situation and goals differ, however…

It’s 2010, folks, if you don’t know how to at least hand-code XHTML, CSS and, ideally, Javascript then you are *not* a web designer but instead a graphic designer who creates visual mock ups of web sites. I don’t mean that you actively *have* to code your own work but you should at least have a level of competency at it.

An engineer who can build a model of a car but not know how the engine and parts are put together, how the car functions and how the car can achieve optimal performance is certainly not an engineer at all. Would such an engineer be taken seriously by their peers? Would he/she have a solid future in a world where technology evolves so steadily? A nice looking car does not mean the car will make it off the lot.

Side note: I once worked for a guy who was an old-school Classic ASP fan who thought nothing wrong with using tables for layout. He *actually* thought that web designers were simply people who “doodle” and that the only thing that qualifies as “coding” is server-side programming. He no longer works with us.

Mar 4, 2010

Harper says:

“If cars where only designed by designers they’d have no engines. If cars where only designed by engineers they’d just be boxes.”

An old saying the industrial design kids use to say back in school.

Mar 4, 2010

Mel says:

As a Creative Director, I won’t hire web designers who can’t code. To me, it’s like hiring a print designer who can’t talk to a printer and get the results they want. I think it goes beyond knowing the basics. Today’s web is complex and ever-changing, anyone calling themselves a web-designer should be able to write html and css, w/o the help of WYSIWYG editors. Just my two cents.

Mar 4, 2010

Harper says:

Saying “designers should be able to code their own designs” is like saying “developers should be able to do good design.” Some of us can, but not all of us.

For every designer putting together a nightmare of a PSD, there’s another designer writing an email to a developer to please make sure the tracking of the type matches the design.

Mar 5, 2010

Toni says:

Good article, but I think you should really read this article by Josh Bryant. It is, in a sorts, the arch nemesis of your website.


Mar 5, 2010

Amber Weinberg says:

How is it the arch nemesis? He’s basically saying the same thing as me.

Mar 5, 2010

Clustr Media says:

I am with the majority of the commentors on this. Designers need to know what will work and what will not. If they refuse to learn this then they need to be flexible and allow for constructive criticism from the developer to be able to make adjustments to the design during development in order to get close to the original concept. I have worked for several designers that are not flexible and when I would explain to them that their design simply was not going to translate into a functioning website the way they layed it out, they would blow up at me and make it my fault!

Needless to say I don’t work for those people anymore. I work for myself and I do both – design and code.

(BTW – Whoever “coded” this site needs to take a look at the Comment box in Chrome. It is collapsed to the height of a text field and the actual input area is below the graphics.)

Mar 8, 2010

Ted Rex says:

No surprise that this is generating a lot of good comments.

Very good post. I made this page one of my three featured links on today’s Design Thought blog:

All the best, Ted

Mar 8, 2010

Mark McCorkell says:

Good article, Amber! I pretty much agree with most, if not all of the comments above, and the points you made. I am a Web & Graphic Designer, so I design for both Web and Print. I wasn’t always the best coder, and there have been occasions where I have handed stuff off to a developer to make the site I designed. But now, I (think) I am pretty competent in front end coding to web standards.

Even when I wasn’t as experienced code wise, I wanted to be able to do more. Any real Web Designer who can’t code, should be wanting to learn. The more I’ve learned about coding the better my work has got, and being able to make websites “do more stuff” gives a great deal of satisfaction.

Where I’m from… employers want “bang for their buck”, and a Web Designer not being able to code would be hard to employ – especially in Belfast. Over here they would consider that a Graphic Designer only. I’m not saying I agree with that, and obviously in more high-end agencies a sole visual UI designer would be appreciated more.

Mar 10, 2010

Puneet Mehta says:

Hi Amber/all

Thanks for sharing this post and thoughts, this is really very useful for the people who are in this job

I completly agree with this fact, designer should know a basic knowledge of code.

Mar 10, 2010

Scott says:

Know the code…

Mar 10, 2010

Howard Yermish says:

Amber – I think that your post hits it right on. I’ve been involved with website development since it was a profession. I’ve been on the code and the design side.

Really great designers know the parameters of the system. Knowing how to code is one way to understand those parameters, but not the only way. I’d love to see if anyone has put together some resources that can explain the “physics” of HTML code. Perhaps something that explains how some areas can be fixed or flexible, text colors/fonts, interactions, states, sizing of elements, readability of content. Basically, all of the nuances that are intuitive for someone that converts graphics to code.

Mar 10, 2010

Thomas Craig Consulting says:

I have to agree that designers should at least have a basic knowledge of coding as coders should also have a basic knowledge of design, with that said we are in an age of specialization and you need to find what you enjoy most and master it. There is way too much information out there to try and be a jack of all trades.

Mar 10, 2010

Van says:

Good article however I don’t completely agree with the statement that designers should know how to develop. While of course I do agree with most of you that they should have an understanding about the limitations of what can and cannot be done. I have the basic understanding of developing. I can probably put together a simple web page as well and I definitely know how to go in and tweak any coding/css that I need to change.

Like another poster said above how any of you have time to do both is beyond me. Especially when if you are the one doing EVERYTHING for your business. It is all about delegating and letting those who are experts at what they do to handle what needs to be done. You can’t expect yourself to 1) go initiate the meeting 2) close the sale 3) start the design process 4) start the development it is just a lot of wasted time.

I have come across many developers that don’t have one clue about what makes a great design. There is nothing visually appealing about their design and it looks like it’s stuck in the late 90’s. I find that the best combination is to have one person who excels at design and another who excels at development to make the best chemistry relationship.

I don’t know about anyone elses PSD files but I’m pretty anal about my layers and I make sure the layers palette is broken down into each section of the page from header to footer and everything inbetween. All the styling that needs to be converted with css is shown visually as well as the heirachy of the page itself.

Mar 11, 2010

Amber Weinberg says:

Right, well the point was, not neccessarily that they should be expert coders, but that they should have a solid understanding of what can and can’t be done on the web. I’ve had the terrible experience to code some print designers’ PSDs in the past and its been a nightmare, because there are several things you can do in print, but not on the web.

Mar 10, 2010

Web Guru says:

I’m also a designer and I do PSD to html and CSS. But I too want to learn some basics of programming as well.

It is quite frustrating to depend upon other programmers for what you have started.

But basically I want to learn more.


Mar 10, 2010

quottro says:

well, first and foremost…. good points..

i’m designer and yes, I can code a lil’ but not writing them from scratch (which i believe many designers can’t too)…

So what’s the big deal?
Designers does their designs be it in PSD or AI…
Coders code them…
Good designs integrated onto Good codes makes great websites…

If there’s ever a day when Designers can code as well as they design, Coders should be very afraid…haha coz they’ll probably be out of jobs then..haha

No offence intended though…just a piece of mind

Mar 10, 2010

Javier Mateos says:

Well it was an intersting read and I almost laugh at the comment regarding the print designer. Hell cool to have a preview of that psd.

And well yikes, the pixel pusher concept sounds agressive…

Mar 10, 2010

Bjarni Wark says:

I do both, design and front end coding . I do this for employment reasons. One pro and con from each side of the argument is that knowing how xhtml/css works allows you to design in a way that will translate well into code, but that is the con of it too. Its helpful to know what can and cant be done with code though that start to effect the way you design. If you get someone who does not know how to code and they create a design it goes outside of the normal boundaries for that reason at times interesting design/sites come to life.

Mar 10, 2010

Daus says:

I’m a “design only” designer, and my webdesign business is still running smoothly.

So, no worries at all :)

Mar 11, 2010

rod rodriguez says:

Good article, really hits the spot. I really think that web designers should have at the basic HTML and CSS know-how. I mean it’s ok if your a print designer but web designers needs this. I just wish clients could read this so at least they have some idea how it all works. Thanks for this article.

Mar 11, 2010

Henrique Erzinger says:

wow, I really love your articles xD”

well, i’m a webdesigner who code.. Actually I use to call myself an “interface developer”, ’cause I code as much as I design. But I also illustrate and do graphic design as well eventually..

And I agree with your text conclusion a lot. The same goes for developers.. Try put a web back-end development on a desktop programmer and what you’ll get are the some of the worst codes ever.. And I talk for my own experience developing front-ends for those (and ’cause my first professional steps were as a desktop C and VB programmer – but i dropped in time I guess xD”) They, just like the usual graphic designer, just can’t grasp the differences.

Mar 11, 2010

OrlyDesign says:

THERE IS A GOD!!! Amber I couldn’t agree with you more. I am a 20+ year veteran in the design field. I started out as a graphic designer, eventually converted into a web designer and let me tell you the most difficult part of the transition was the coding. I totally agree with you in regards to atleast having a clue about HTML as well as CSS, but when clients (or boss) expect all the bells and whistles that’s when the frustration kicks in. I love the part where you mention how the artists now-a-day are expected to master the left brain right brain simultaneously.

I am glad that I am not alone in regards to designers being coders. Again, great job!

Mar 11, 2010

Marc Pelland says:

I have always had the opinion that the more general knowledge you have around the field that you work in, the better. That being said, designers are designers.. they are not coders… People should stick to what they do / know best and let others do the rest.

If i designer knows a little about flash or html development, it might make the process a lot smoother, but i don’t think they should try to become experts.

Mar 11, 2010

Graham J says:

I generally agree with the post but I will say this: HTML and CSS isn’t coding, it’s markup. Should designers code? I’d say no. Should they be able to translate their designs into markup? Yes.

Mar 16, 2010

Amber Weinberg says:

I never bought that argument from IT guys that HTML and CSS isn’t “code”. It’s code by its very definition. It’s something the common public can’t read and it’s a computer language that manipulates pixels into doing something, i.e it’s code.

Mar 12, 2010

david says:

I’ve pondered this issue for years. I’m definitely leaning to the need for designers to know how to code — or at a very minimum to have done some coding, to that they apply that learning to their designs.

I recently posted about this from the education perspective – and the need for design schools to teach coding ot designers. ie. to not treat design and code as separate things.


Mar 28, 2010

Teena says:

I also am a web designer and I don’t really code but know the basic of HTML and CSS. That way I know what can’t and can be done. I actually want to learn how to code but then, I just can’t cope up with different platforms coming-in but I always to make sure I know the logic behind and the basics.

Aug 29, 2013

Desmin says:

I went to school for web development, but found my true passion in design. However, thanks to my education, I am able to code my designs using HTML and CSS. Heck I even know some Javascript and PHP.

My advice to designers is to expand on your skillset! You don’t have to be an expert. Just play around with the basics and grow naturally from there. Designers and Developers are two different specialties. Never feel pressured or expected to know everything.

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