Earlier today Elliot Jay Stocks commented on Twitter

I’m shocked that in 2010 I’m still coming across ‘web designers’ who can’t code their own designs.

His comment created a great little debate on Twitter.

Personally, I agree with Elliot. I think it’s odd that some Web Designers can’t code their own designs, but only three years ago I was one of those designers. I had been a Graphic Designer for ten years before I ever typed a line of code. Finally learning HTML and CSS in order to code my own designs was the best decision I ever made. Here are five good reasons why I think designers should code.

Reason 1

The combination of a designing in Photoshop (or whatever software you use) along with HTML & CSS is greater than the sum of their parts. Many people view code as a restriction to a designer but when I learnt to code I found it liberating. Far from being a restriction, it opened up a whole new realm of creative possibilities. Basically, learning code made me a much better Web Designer.

Reason 2

Your designs will be executed in exactly the way you want them too. If you completely split the duties of designing and coding there inevitably comes a point in a project where the coder ends up doing bits of design, at which point the design can start to degrade. This isn’t the fault of the coder; it’s just real life. It’s just not practical to go back to the designer for a Photoshop mock-up every time a new section of the site needs to be designed/added.

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Reason 3

The bridge between designing in Photoshop and code is relatively small. It’s even arguable that HTML & CSS is more a designer’s tool than developer’s. I know some people will say thing like “but you don’t see architects building their designs” etc etc, but in their case it’s far more obvious why.

For example, an architect who wished to build their house after designing it would then have to learn how to drive a JCB, lay bricks, be a carpenter etc. Comparing an Architect and a Web Designer just doesn’t make any sense in this context.

However, when I design a website, after designing the homepage in photoshop I’ll often carry on designing in HTML & CSS. It’s at this point where designing and building almost become one and the same. This is something quite unique to Web and Graphic Design. It just can’t happen when your designing products, cars or buildings.

So, if you’re a designer who doesn’t code it might seem like a daunting task to learn, I know, I’ve been there… but it’s not that hard. Learn it, you won’t regret it.

Reason 4

It’s massively time saving to be able to both design and code. Like I said in my last point, once you reach the point in a project where you feel comfortable designing in the browser you instantly cut out all those Photoshop mock-ups you would have handed over to a coder, only to re-do in code what you’ve already done in Photoshop.

Reason 5

If you’re a designer who can’t code, learning code opens up a whole new world of job opportunities, whether you’re looking for freelance gigs or permanent  employment. One of the main reasons I learnt to code was because I was so frustrated by the lack of opportunities for designers who can’t code.

In Conclusion

Obviously there are times when it’s just not practical or the best use of a designer’s time to be forever updating a website, especially with larger projects but on the whole if you care about how the content on your site is presented I think you get the best results with a designer that knows how to code.

What do you guys reckon?