There are a lot of opinions out there as to why designers should or shouldn’t learn how to code. I beg to extend that question and argue that everyone should know at least the basics of programing.
My definition of basic is HTML and CSS. I suppose I could summarize this whole post with one single and short reason as to why everyone should code: knowing how to code empowers you. But that’s such a simple statement and it isn’t enough so let’s explore the four different reasons why everyone should know the basics of programming.
1. The Web Is Among Us All
Originally when I was planning this post I was going to mention that everyone who works in tech. I mean, the people who work in this industry need to understand the basics of programming because they work in the field. It’s like being a teacher who doesn’t like learning; it just doesn’t make sense. So if you are a designer, a marketer, a sales rep or a CEO working in the tech industry it doesn’t make sense for you not to know the basics of programming. It’s such an important part of the field it’s silly not to know it.
Now, I’m not saying that a marketer needs to know how to develop a full blown iOS app but knowing the ins and outs of HTML and CSS is something totally manageable and helpful. You will not only be better at your job but also be more valuable to your company.
Yes, EVERYONE Should Code
I don’t want to stop there, I don’t want to only talk about those who work in the industry. The internet is such an important part of our everyday lives I strongly believe that literally everyone should learn HTML and CSS. Think about it, it’s such a basic and easy to obtain skill but it’s not being taught in schools. That’s why organizations like Code.org are creating campaigns like Hour of Code. That’s also why there is such a shortage of great developers and engineers within the industry. Basic programming should be an elementary part of our schooling because we all know that technology is booming but we are not learning it as it becomes bigger.
2. Understand the Technologies
How much programming you wish to learn is up to you. But even knowing the basics can be extremely empowering because it will allow you to understand how technology works. This, by itself, is extremely enlightening. This will allow you to comprehend two things: the limitations of technology and the possibilities it presents.
“Writing HTML and CSS is so easy, that there’s actually no excuse not to learn how” – Elliot Jay Stocks
Today, we have the ability to build incredible things but we can’t have it all just yet. For instance, we weren’t able to create opacity within websites until only a few years ago. Back in the day, this was a limitation that would be a barrier to web designers – that’s the limitations side of this. On the plus side, maybe you knew a cool hack that could bypass this lack of opacity so you could push the current technological limitations and have the design your way, anyways – that’s the possibilities side.
When you know programming – even if you know just a little – you know what you can and cannot do. This also allows for an incredible opportunity because if you know the limitations you also know that things change and you could be part of that change; you could be a person who helps develop technology further to remove limitations and help move technology forward. And that is mighty powerful, don’t you think?
3. Communicate Better With Programmers
As a designer, marketer or a sales rep, you deal with programmers, engineers or developers often. Of course it depends on how big the company is and what your exact role in it is but you rub elbows with them no matter what. If you know the basics of programming it’s simply easier to talk to those guys.
If you’re a designer, it’s tremendously easy for you to talk with the programmers when you’re building something together. They key isn’t to speak their lingo, per se, but rather to have an easier time understanding and communicating with each other. If you’re someone who isn’t part of the production team like a customer service rep, you can always pull a developer to the side to ask for changes in the company’s intranet software or you can ask for a small change on the website or to the product that will impact the customers.
It all boils down to a better and improved communication between you and the people who build things. It’s extremely helpful when people know what they are talking about when they speak with the engineers.
4. Express Yourself
This is by far my favorite reason for learning the basics of programming. It’s the greatest feeling in the world when we create things. We create a verity of small things everyday like a great chocolate cake, writing a blog post or even making your bed. When we make or do things we feel good. So imagine how you’ll feel when you prototype or mock up your designs. It’s fantastic knowing you can build what you thought of. This is also a key to being empowered – when you can do something on your own.
If you want to learn programming in greater depth you can build a whole product all by yourself and you don’t have to be a programmer or work with one for that matter. It most definitely helps when someone whose job it is to build stuff does it for you but it’s nothing in comparison when you can build your own ideas albeit an app as a side project or a whole business because you want to work for yourself.
So there you have it; these are the four different reasons as to why everyone – no matter who you are – should know the basics of programming. It’s a tremendously important and rewarding skill to have. It will impress other people and it will help you do your job better. But, most of all, it’s a skill that will empower you; it will make you feel good about the things you now can do yourself. Craig Buckler said it best:
“a good web designer is interested in the web. I wouldn’t necessarily expect them to hand-code a grid layout, but they should at least understand what a grid layout is and how it can be adapted for different screen sizes.”
I simply believe that it’s not just a point of view made for web designers but everyone.