Mind Your (Programming) Language

Should designers know how to code? The jury is quite divided on this topic. There is one school of thought which believes that designers should stick to designing and leaving the coding to developers. Their reasoning behind it is that designers should adopt a blue-sky approach when they begin the design process. They should not be limited by their technical knowledge on the subject. Also, instead of learning a new skill, it would be time better spent on honing their designing skill. Lastly, development is a wide subject. It includes front-end development and back-end development. Even in backend development, there are multiple languages. For example, currently the flavour of the month is Angular and React. In short, the point is ignorance is bliss because the more you learn, the less you know.

Then there is another school of thought which believes that designers and developers should speak the same language for better communication. It results in realistic and efficient designs which are more likely to see the light of day. The designers would be more confident of their designs as they are aware of what’s going on under the hood. Also, learning any programming language equips an individual with the power of analytical thinking and problem solving. These are great arrows of keep in the quiver of any UX designer. Lastly, how great would it be for a designer if they can develop their own designs as there is a huge demand in the market for unicorns.

Both make excellent points. So, who is right? I guess the answer lies somewhere in the middle. The sweet spot, known as shared understanding, is where designers do not need to be expert coders but have enough knowledge to understand a developer’s perspective. This leads to the next question. How much is too much? If I answer this from the frontend perspective, designers will greatly benefit from a basic knowledge of HTML. They should be aware of various HTML tags and how it’s rendered in various browsers. They should be able to differentiate CSS from HTML and be aware of all the various CSS properties. This would help them decide which elements can be created through pure CSS and which elements require images. They should be aware of responsive layout and how the design will render at various breakpoints. Designers can take it to the next level with JavaScript basics. There are millions of JS codes available online which they can plug and play into their design. Add jQuery to this knowledgebase and voila! you’ve found yourself the mysterious and mythical unicorn!


  • https://medium.com/ux-prototyping/why-i-think-designers-shouldn-t-code-3b8811fe2d33
  • https://skillcrush.com/2017/01/09/ux-designers-should-learn-code/
  • https://www.toptal.com/designers/ui-ux-designers/designers-coding

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