Designers – to code or not to code
Originally posted on Aus Infront – see here.
I've been working as a Digital Designer for three years now. I recently had a moment of realisation about my design process that allowed me to grow as a designer. I thought I'd share some of my thoughts and experiences on that realisation. It all stems back to my first year in the industry and making the decision not to learn how to code.
Year 1: Learning the basics of coding
When I say I was learning the basics of coding, I really mean the basics. I learnt that HTML and CSS were not the only languages of code. I learnt how to update colour in CSS, and to check the size of padding. I learnt that a website is made up of actual files and where to access these files, edit them and re-upload them. Followed quickly by learning to make a duplicate of anything you're editing. Whoops!
These were the types of basic things I learnt in my first year as a designer. I remember the joy that would run through my body when I changed a colour on a website or fixed padding that was off. It was this feeling that led me to believe that coding was a skill I needed to have as a designer. It was incredible!
I started to teach myself through online tutorials and reading as much as possible on coding for designers. I soon realised that my brain wasn't built to think the way the world of coding needed me to. I'm sure I could have trained it to be over time – but looking back, choosing not to pursue this extra skill has helped me become a better designer.
Year 2: Believing my designs should be restricted
At this stage, I'd predominately been working with developers, in comparison to designers. I was also now working in-house, as the only designer in the company. It was this scenario that led me to believe my designs should consider the simplest option for the developers. Along with the user experience, functionality and the overall look and feel.
This is where I got stuck. I was becoming friends with my developer. Which is never a bad thing. Looking back, it did restrict where I would take my designs as I didn't want to make more work for the person sitting next to me. My designs weren't pushing any boundaries. They were still doing the job – but they were never going to win any awards.
I can only see now, that my minimal understanding of coding back then, was limiting my designs. Although it's annoying that this was the case or one of the reasons my designs weren't where I would have liked them to be. If I hadn't had this realisation and started to re-think my design process, I might have been stuck doing that forever.
Year 3: Design first – re-work later
I'm at a good stage now when it comes to balancing the need to keep developers happy, clients happy and produce better designs.
This change in mindset seems to have stemmed from working further apart from my developers. They still need to be involved at an early stage of any project. Before this year, they were sitting next to me as I was working through the design process. I would ask questions as I was working, hence, limiting my reach to a certain extent.
I've come to value that the person using the website, app, whatever it may be – in the end, they are all that matters. We need to be making decisions relative to them at every stage.
Don't get me wrong – none of what I'm saying is meant to shed a bad light on developers. This change in my mindset is purely from growing as a designer and what I need, to make better designs. I've worked with some incredible developers, and we couldn't do what we do without them.
Sure, we have the more glamorous side of the job – designing this wonderful, functional application. Which then may be harder for them to build, if we've gone a bit nuts.
In my humble opinion – it should only be after the initial design is completed, and the great ideas are out there without restrictions or limitations, that re-works should be looked at in conjunction with build times.
After all – shouldn't we be reaching to the moon and back for our users? Isn't that the entire goal of designing anything, like, ever? I sure hope so.