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.
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.
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
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