The subject on whether web designers need to learn programming language has been around since the early days of the internet. Personally, I do not quite understand why a web designer, and a serious one at that, would choose to not want to know how to code, as this could really help on the CV of someone that tries to get a job on a web design firm. Although I have to state with some frankness that just a few years back I was in that lot. Not because I didn’t want to learn, but because I did not see the need for it then. I thought that the tools available to web designers and what we were doing, didn’t really require a knowledge of coding. I was also quite frightened of getting into it as I thought coding would be extremely complicated and I couldn’t determine which programming language is beginner friendly. However, now having gathered some knowledge of basic coding and learning a few languages, I can attest that there is a large difference between a designer that can code and one that cannot.
It is true that even without knowing how to code it is still possible to become an accomplished designer. The advantage you’ll get with learning how to code however is that you get to understand how things actually work; how your designs are transformed into realistic interfaces to interact with users. Once you get this understanding, you are bound to sharpen your skills and you find that your work generally becomes easier.
Knowing Which Language to Choose
If you are a designer and would like to get the basics of coding, the most user-friendly programming language I would recommend is HTML. Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) is the most basic language and every web developer out there probably began with it or knows how to work with it. With a few classes, you should be able to write a few codes by yourself and see how your designs transform into functional websites. After getting knowledgeable with HTML you can begin incorporating CSS which helps you add the life into your websites and create interfaces that are responsive and appealing to users.
The Advantages of Learning Programming
The following are the main reasons why I think it is important for web designers to learn programming and why I recommend it to any web designer that wishes to remain relevant in the competitive world of today.
1. You Understand Your Medium Better
For anyone to be successful and find ease in their work, they have to understand all aspects of the medium they are using. For designers, the medium is a website. Normally, what a designer with no prior knowledge of web development would be doing is designing pages using Photoshop or other publishing software and sending the designs to developers. It is the developers who get into the actual work of coding and creating the page on a website.
A designer, in this case,has no understanding of the process involved in transforming their idea into a realistic achievement. As such they do not know the best way to accomplish an objective and often add additional complexity that is not required. If the designer knows how to program, he does not need to use a third-party source to understand how the finished product should look like.
However, if the designer knew the basics of programming, they would make work easier for the developer. They would be aware of what needs to be done to achieve their goals and they wouldn’t create unrealistic designs for developers. This creates a smooth workflow between the developer and the designer as they are on the same page. They speak the same language and are aware of the demands of each project.
2. It Boosts Your Creativity and Confidence
Coding is a complicated subject that requires a lot of your time to master and perfect. By learning to code, you sharpen your skills and this boosts your confidence. If you were to approach both a designer that can code and one that cannot, you will be able to easily tell who is more confident. Though they may both be able to accomplish the same results, the one with coding skills has an added advantage and this will be shown in the way they present themselves. They will be more confident in what they do and they will talk with a deeper understanding of what needs to be done for the designs to be created. That is the effect learning code has on you.
After investing weeks and even months learning a programming language, your creativity increases and you no longer approach a project naively. You know what works and what doesn’t and you are able to come up with better designs that will better meet the needs of your clients.
3. You Gain a Competitive Edge
Like we said before, a designer that can code their own designs is at an added advantage. By learning a programming language, you have more to offer your clients than when you do not. Basically, clients are looking for quality and they will always opt for the person providing more value. By having your skills crossing many disciplines, you fit this description and it will be easier to appeal to your market.
On the negative, if you happen to find yourself in an environment where every web designer in the market knows how to code but you do not, it will not matter whether any amount of coding is needed in the work; you will already be at a disadvantage due to your lack of value.
4. You Make Work Easier
With coding skills, you get to work more comfortably and this makes your project easier. You are able to communicate with the developers efficiently since both of you are on level ground when it comes to understanding the process of actualizing your designs. There is nothing that developers hate more than having a back and forth with designers who have no idea how coding works.
Having learned programming you will know the limitations of what can be done and you will avoid repetition over the same things with developers. Basically, you have a better relation with the developers and your workflow becomes smoother. That way, you achieve more.
When it comes to the need for web designers to learn programming, it is not a matter of whether it is necessary for their work or not. It is all about self-improvement and the value you offer your clients. It’s a matter of being better equipped to provide solutions that better cover your clients’ needs. Therefore, my advice to any web designer is to be conversant with programming as well. It will surely go a long way in improving your efficiency.