Two reasons designers don’t need to code

From a designer who used to code

Okay, truth time: I was never much of a coder, but back when websites were less complex, I could build a (simple) one myself. I also knew my way around the Flash ActionScript editor, if that means anything (and I know it doesn’t). It was great fun. I learned a lot.

But this topic of designers needing to code is a tired one. I’ve written about it myself at least once or twice. But articles like this still get my goat. So let me say it one more time: designers don’t need to code, and here are two compelling reasons why:

1. You’ll never be a great coder

Sorry, it’s true. If you think you’re going to be a top-notch UX’er, with all that entails, and also be top of your game at coding, you’re delusional. I work with great frontend engineers. Yes, engineers. The stuff they’re able to pull off is scary complex (and cool). They’re at the top of their game, and staying at the top of their game is their full-time job. And staying at the top of your game as a designer is—or should be—your full-time job. 

2. You’ll end up limiting yourself as a designer

You want to build what you design? Great! It’s a solid instinct. But when you sit down to design, you’re going to start thinking about what you can reasonably build yourself. And, inevitably, you’re going to think of some fantastic feature—the one your users really want and need—that’s too technically sophisticated for you to code yourself. And so you’re going to limit your design. Trust me, I know: I realized my days coding websites were coming to an end when I started to change my designs based on what I felt comfortable building.

Look, I’m not saying you shouldn’t learn to code; I’m taking a Processing class myself in a few weeks. Nor am I saying that keeping up on the latest technical advances is unnecessary: you most certainly should. I’m not even saying a talented designer can’t be a decent coder; I know some who are.

I’m saying that the imperative—designers must code!—is bogus. Know your trade; learn your tools; understand the technology; communicate with your engineers early and often; and dedicate all your energy to your craft. Trust me, it works.