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Designers Should(n't) Code - Relative Paths Podcast

Back in 2010, with an ever so slightly provocative tweet, designer, speaker and author Elliot Jay Stocks thwacked the web hornets nest.

Much to the chagrin of many in the web industry, the issue shows no sign of going away. Web discussions on this, particularly on Twitter as Elliot discovered, quickly turn into full scale bun fights. There are many who strongly agree, many who strongly disagree and all points inbetween. In our podcast with Ben Brignell, we mostly came out in favor of the designers should code camp, but with some caveats.

Designers should code... a bit

Homer Simpson designs a car

Make it look like the picture. Image - Fox.com

Out and out designers shouldn't really be expected to produce production code. However in most industries it's understood that a designer should have some understanding of how the thing they're designing works. Car designers need an understanding of how cars work, or the result is the Homer Simpson car. Ben gave the example of a web designer he knew who produced a print design that was totally unusable because he didn't understand how print worked.

Likewise web designers who have no idea how code works, particularly when it comes to responsive design, will end up producing unworkable designs which then have to be re-designed by a developer and nobody wants that!

On the other hand, developers should have some idea of how design works, otherwise they might stifle the design process by being too quick to quash ideas, as we discussed with designer Malcolm Coombes in podcast episode 11.

Ben also pointed out that design isn't really a handover process any more. There will be design decisions and revisions to be made during the build process and often after a site is launched, so having designers and developers work together, with understanding of each others concerns, makes for a better and happier work process.

Or Not

Dog says nope to bath.

There are some designers who produce work for the web and have no interest in code at all. Such an approach will probably put them at a disadvantage and make working with developers a constant source of frustration. If designers don't want to learn any code then that is their decision, but it's going to make working in the web difficult. My Relative Paths co-host and I like to have a non-dogmatic approach to all things web... apart from Dreamweaver. We can't be friends if you use Dreamweaver.

Have a listen to the episode and let us know what you think.

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