Should Web Designers Know How To Code?

Web Design

It has happened to everyone. The web designer turns in an incredibly well thought out design, only for the frontend engineers to make ‘little’ adjustments through the page that ruin the whole look.

Sometimes, the adjustments might be as small as subtle changes in positioning, while sometimes they might entirely remove key elements of the design to make it mobile-friendly.

How on earth is a web designer working on Photoshop to know the limits of what is achievable on a webpage?

Simple. By learning how to code themselves.

HTML and CSS are all about design.

A common misconception among designers is that HTML and CSS are programming languages. They are not. They are markup languages.

The difference is that while languages like C++ and Python are concerned with creating programs that utilize a computer’s resources to perform specialized tasks, HTML and CSS are only concerned with structuring a web page and its visual elements.

As a result, each and every element of coding in HTML or CSS has a direct result on how a web page looks, controlling factors like the text size, spacing, and even positioning. This makes it imperative for a web designer to know at least the basics of these languages.

It’s just plain English

Anyone who has ever dabbled in coding might have come across strange words like stdin and cout which have little correlation with natural language. These arcane ‘magic’ words are the building blocks of traditional programming languages, which makes it very difficult for a non-technical person to make sense of without training.

But HTML and CSS are not like this at all. These languages are based upon simple English tags like head, title, body, font-size, font-text, etc. A few properties use one letter abbreviations instead, such as b for bold or i for italics, but these too are straightforward and easy to parse.

The sole purpose of HTML coding is to ‘mark-up’ normal text to create a visually appealing formatted document and as such it has been purposefully kept as simple as possible.

You don’t actually need to be able to make anything

If you were learning HTML and CSS with the purpose of developing web pages one day, it would take you months, if not years to attain that level of knowledge. But since we are only concerned with only learning enough to grasp the limits of the web format, it is going to be much easier for you.

This means that you don’t need to memorize each and every HTML or CSS tag or what it does; you only need to know the extent of what is possible. Instead of learning the intricacies of Javascript, you can just focus on the elements of responsive design.

By getting first-hand knowledge of the key elements that make up the final web page, you will be better equipped to create more efficient designs.

The Verdict

Knowing the basic elements of frontend coding languages like HTML, CSS, and even some Javascript can help you immensely in designing attractive web pages. Once you learn the constraints imposed by the framework of web languages, you will be able to better understand how to work around them to achieve your vision.

Furthermore, it helps you bridge the chasm between the arty designers and the nerdy developers, allowing you to communicate more effectively with the development team.

By translating design concepts to terms that a developer is familiar with, you not only make their work easier but also paves the way for a greater level of synergy in the whole web development workflow.

So yes, knowing how to code does make you a much better web designer.