For years, a discourse has gradually surfaced within various academic, business, and web circles about whether web designers should take the time to learn to code or simply stick to honing their visual design skills and understanding of UX/UI design. While the answer is different for each individual depending on their career goals and strengths, there are some undeniably strong pieces of evidence to support the idea that understanding code has value for both designers and their team. After all, mastery of a craft requires understanding and hands-on experience of the medium — and code is the DNA in the medium of the web.
1. Knowing Code Makes Your Job Easier
Becoming fluent in the language of code and considering your design from a technical perspective will allow you to fully visualize your end product and wrap your mind around the lengths and limitations of what can be created. In this sense, you’ll be able to come up with more feasible and practical concepts.
Learning to code won’t just simplify your work — it will make the entire development process easier. Knowing even the basics of coding, namely HTML and CSS, enables you to communicate more clearly with your developers; the ability to speak the same language as the rest of your team can uncomplicate even the most complex projects for all involved. If there are any issues that arise during the implementation of your design, you’ll immediately have a general idea of what went wrong and how to fix the code to make it right.
2. Coding Gives You Greater Control Over Your Work
One of the most challenging parts of web design is figuring out how to bring your thoughts to life, and knowing code makes this process infinitely easier. Once your ideas begin to take root and you have a detailed vision of what you want to create, you’ll be able to put together examples and prototypes that represent the nuances of your concept.
The concept of “coding” in general can feel overwhelming for a lot of designers, and it helps to set modest goals at first. The role of design systems that break pages down into components is a hot topic right now, so start small and learn only the HTML and CSS you might need to build something like a simple form or navigation bar. This strategy will result in early success and give you the necessary confidence to expand your skill set.
3. Coding Skills Increase Your Marketability
Web design is a rapidly-growing field, and it’s becoming more competitive as it expands. Having the ability to code makes it easier to market yourself in an increasingly saturated line of work, as many employers have been on the hunt for a so-called “unicorn” — someone who can code just as well as they can design. The versatility of these “unicorns” appeals to those in search of a designer “who can both identify problems and build solutions” — in other words, being a jack-of-all-trades is always a good thing. This in-demand skill can also open up a number of doors to other tech-related jobs besides web design, whether you’re looking for freelance opportunities or full-time employment, so the time you invest learning to code will inevitably pay off in dividends.
4. Learning to Code Is More Accessible Than Ever
Whether you’re planning on diving deep into the world of code or just interested in the basics, there are many free online resources to help get you there. Our free Coding for Designers course is introductory, self-paced, and specifically geared towards seasoned graphic designers, making it a great place to start for those who have little to no experience with code. There are plenty of other ways to learn in addition to online classes, including participating in open-source higher education communities, accessing an online course library of pre-recorded college lectures, and racing against opponents to complete code-based challenges and games. No matter what your learning style may be, there’s a method to match your mind.
The world of digital design evolves at warp speed, so the popular coding languages, programs, and tools of today could easily be replaced tomorrow. For this reason, the best thing that designers can do — in addition to tuning in on what is currently being taught and applying these lessons to their work — is to hone their ability to adapt and learn in the broader sense. Those that can stay on top of and become habituated to the constantly-changing World Wide Web will always remain invaluable.