Ask DN: Should I learn to code?

almost 7 years ago from , Web Designer

Hi DN,

I've been contemplating this for a while now, and know that there's going to be a few people on here who were/are in the same boat as me on this subject.

A little bit about me – I'm a designer grad, been at my current workplace for nearly three years now where particularly I've grown to love screen-based design, designing websites for the most part.

I've always had a bit of knowledge of HTML/CSS, as I'm sure a lot of designers do but never had the ability to build something from scratch. I feel the passion is there that I'd like to go on and build websites once designed them but at the minute I don't have the ability. I'd love to get into designing and building more web-apps and mobile apps in the future – something I haven't had the privilege of doing in the current position.

I know this question's probably been asked a bunch of times in the past, but with there being so many different ways to learn or go about learning to develop websites I thought I'd see if anyone has any advice to offer, places to start or just general pointers that may steer me in the right direction.

Big thanks for those in advance if there's any way you can help :-)



  • P GBP GB, almost 7 years ago

    It sounds like you want to learn to code, in which case the answer to the question in the title of this post is yes.

    If you don't wan't to though, then it's no.

    It really is that simple.

    36 points
  • Timothy L.Timothy L., almost 7 years ago

    As a designer/developer:

    Having knowledge of both design and development is invaluable. It gives you insight to what's possible to implement when designing and can help you develop a roadmap of how to hand things off to developers. Aside from making you a lot more desirable to employers, it helps when designing to imagine the code in your head which could increase development speed and improve your knowledge of coding as you design.

    Perhaps I'm bias because I do the things mentioned above. I'd be interested to see a reply against this.

    12 points
    • Blake RutledgeBlake Rutledge, almost 7 years ago


      1 point
    • Dan Wilkinson, almost 7 years ago

      When I'm designing websites the vision I have can sometimes stray when the developer takes on the project.

      I'd like to think that having full control from design to completion would be make projects more enjoyable too.

      Thanks for your comment Tim :)

      1 point
  • Paul KinchlaPaul Kinchla, almost 7 years ago

    Learning how to code as a designer has been the most empowering thing I have done for my career. You will probably find out pretty quickly if it something passionate about.

    gl :)

    4 points
  • Patrick SmithPatrick Smith, almost 7 years ago

    Learning to code is about so much more than syntax. It’s about learning the concepts and approaches developers use — how do they see the world? It’s a bit like an architect learning about engineering and building.

    On the other side is business. Learning those concepts and approaches is just as useful — again how do they see the world?

    This way you get to see design as being part of a greater process. Which area of that process is completely up to you.

    2 points
    • Dan Wilkinson, almost 7 years ago

      I agree, and there's so many different methods of building web projects with foundations and different types of syntax that I'll need to find what's right for me :-)

      Thanks for the advice Patrick.

      1 point
    • Ning ChenNing Chen, almost 7 years ago

      Yes. Learning business is as important as learning to code.

      0 points
  • jacob weberjacob weber, almost 7 years ago

    So many resounding yes's included here. I'll add another. I started on a path and am for the most part all self taught. It's one of the best things I've done so far for my career as well. Just being able to take a design from concept into production is worth the time it takes to learn.

    2 points
  • John MauroJohn Mauro, almost 7 years ago (edited almost 7 years ago )

    Yes, you should learn. Places to start: - treehouse - codecademy - if you're interested in iOS, I thought Rob Percival's tutorial on Udemy was helpful

    Figure out a project you want to do. Pick whatever language you think would be good to learn (I'd recommend javascript). Learn the nuts and bolts through the resources above. Leverage stackoverflow / google when you get stuck.

    If you want to do a web app, I found meteor.com to be super fast to stand something up. They also have tutorials on their site to help you learn the basics.

    2 points
    • Dan Wilkinson, almost 7 years ago

      I've used Treehouse in the past, I thought it was pretty good. Codeacademy I'll take a look at too.

      Javascript would be the language I'd go for I reckon, thanks for the advice John :-)

      0 points
  • Joshua Crowley, almost 7 years ago

    Yes, I was in a similar spot to you ! I've pursed code and haven't looked back.

    I'd start by learning JavaScript. The trick is folding code into stuff you do now, so that you're always learning and this is quite viable with JavaScript, because there are so many environments/tools you can use it in.

    I highly recommended making a couple of little hobby project using https://www.meteor.com/. You'll learn about databases, server/client concept, command line tools - just basics you can apply to any environment.

    You're also probs ready to play around with http://framerjs.com/ - which is a lot of fun and will help you tease out tricky concepts around coding.

    I'm starting to learn Swift now - would say it's still quite advanced for anyone with zero development experience. But I think Apple want to make it easy for you folks like us.

    Finally, you need to be able to show people stuff as you go, so you can enjoy it and feel good about your effort. Also find some friendly dev to eat lunch with.

    1 point
    • Todd Padwick, almost 7 years ago

      I would be concerned that jumping straight into Javascript would be too daunting for someone new to coding. I would suggest getting to grips with html and css first would be a more comfortable learning curve. Then start involving jquery which is a good starting point with js. And for 90% of websites, its all you need.

      2 points
      • Joshua Crowley, almost 7 years ago

        Sure - you'll need to learn some HTML and CSS to do anything in the browser. That goes without saying. But that's just markup. It's trivial to learn the basics and barely an introduction to programming.

        I think designers (myself included) spend a lot of time learning front end techniques that are actually really tedious and hard. I don't think we need more designers that can front end - I think we need more designers that understand what coding is about holistically and can augment their design process instead of trying to do two jobs.

        0 points
  • Jay Tyagi, almost 7 years ago

    Learn coding man, just learn it. Design and development go together these days.

    1 point
  • Q ManningQ Manning, almost 7 years ago

    If you want, absolutely.

    I taught myself design & web development at the same time - way back when it all started, in the late 1990s. Those skills combined allowed my career to follow the trajectory it did, but more importantly, as a designer, it helped me be a better designer.

    Knowing the limitations and the abilities of the platform you're deploying on means designing closer to what you'll actually see on the page.

    So go for it!

    1 point
  • Maurice SvayMaurice Svay, almost 7 years ago

    Yes. It's a nice thing to know about.

    1 point
  • Tom Krabbe, almost 7 years ago

    Learn to understand what it takes to make your design work. When designing, I'm already thinking about what html/css/js would be required to make it work. Your developers will thank you. ;)

    1 point
    • Dan Wilkinson, almost 7 years ago

      I do already think about the development side, how things would work and knowing the limitations of design when designing for web but it's more the fact that I'd be able to put that into practice myself instead of having a 'general knowledge' of the syntax.

      Thanks for your advice :)

      0 points
      • Tom Krabbe, almost 7 years ago

        It's actually a bit strange that designers are expected to develop aswell. You don't walk into a bakery and ask them for a pound of meat. They're both in the food business but it's a whole different craft :')

        1 point
  • Todd Padwick, almost 7 years ago

    Learning to code was the best thing I ever did. I am a strong believer that half the creative design process is in the development especially now that animation and interaction are so heavily integrated in web design. I love being able to take a project from conceptual stages all the way through to the finished product. The best way to learn is to simply keep re designing and re building your portfolio site. Each time you do it, your development skills will get better and better.

    1 point
    • Dan Wilkinson, almost 7 years ago

      This is another reason why I'm swung towards learning to code. I feel like sometimes my ideas are lost in the development process with animation, interaction, etc.

      You seem like you're at the position I'd like to be at, I'd imagine that since you've learned to code and take on the development side of the projects that your design work has improved too?

      Thanks for the comment Todd :-)

      0 points
      • Todd Padwick, almost 7 years ago

        yes it definately has. Makes a big difference. It can be a frustrating learning process, but keep at it. its worth it.

        0 points
  • Emmanuel HerreroEmmanuel Herrero, almost 7 years ago (edited almost 7 years ago )

    I love design, coding, and learning new things so it was obvious to me that I needed to write better code. I don't think that's the case for everyone.

    Are you working with a large team? Are you working alongside a front-end developer? Are you a one-man shop?

    You might not need to learn code if you're not the developer., but there is incredible value in knowing how your designs can and will be implemented, or how your design might affect performance, productivity and budget.

    You can get away with not knowing how to code and I'm excited to see tools that improve the workflow of visual designers. It's also a matter of stretching yourself too thin: Do you want to be a great developer or a great designer? I don't think the two are exclusive, but that's what I ask myself way too often...

    If you're trying to be a one man shop, then I would agree with the resounding yes on this thread. There's something amazing about taking an idea from sketches to a production build.

    1 point
  • Diego LafuenteDiego Lafuente, almost 7 years ago

    The best answer to your question will be answered once you start coding. Then you will find out if you need to keep going or not.

    1 point
  • Wes OudshoornWes Oudshoorn, almost 7 years ago

    Yes. Push yourself outside your comfort zone. I think constantly keeping yourself on the edge of what you are comfortable with will help you developer in ways you never imagined.

    That being said, your comfort zone can be crossed in many different directions. Maybe you want to be an amazing illustrator, photographer or marketeer. Do what interest you :-)

    When it comes to places to start, I suggest moving into a place / role where you can work with developers. You want to start and be able to ask questions. People will be excited to see a designer that wants to collaborate in their field of expertise :)

    1 point
  • Robin RaszkaRobin Raszka, almost 7 years ago

    Yes, learn Swift.

    1 point
  • Andy LeverenzAndy Leverenz, almost 7 years ago

    Yes. You will be better at what you do

    1 point
  • Luis La TorreLuis La Torre, almost 7 years ago

    Yes. Coding is like knowing how to read. You have to whether you like it or not.

    1 point
  • Tony LeaTony Lea, almost 7 years ago

    Sometimes even going to http://www.w3schools.com is a good resource; however, if you want to try out one of my latest projects you can checkout https://devdojo.com there are videos in HTML/CSS/Javascript/PHP. There are courses, series, and videos. Only $7/month and you can cancel anytime. Feel free to give me some feedback on the site if you would like.

    Other then that, learning to code can prove to be beneficial in any career choice. If you are interested in learning how to code more you should definitely pursue it :)

    Best of Luck.

    1 point
  • Lucian MarinLucian Marin, almost 7 years ago

    Yes. It will help you design better things.

    1 point
  • Adam FerchAdam Ferch, almost 7 years ago

    Is there a particular reason you would not want to learn to code?

    1 point
  • Jordan SingerJordan Singer, almost 7 years ago

    100%. You'll expand your horizons immensely. I was a designer with tons of product ideas and it was a struggle to find other developers to work with that were willing to build ideas that I had. I just dived into it, forcing myself to learn as I went and followed tutorials step-by-step. Now that I am capable of building the ideas that I come up with, I feel I have the upper hand when it comes to not only finding jobs but building amazing things.

    1 point
  • Connor NorvellConnor Norvell, almost 7 years ago

    Yes, Do it. I started with code and learned how to design by coding sites. Its the best thing I ever learned, and I am still learning.

    I would suggest going to https://www.codecademy.com/ and learning html/css fully, then delving into Javascript, and moving on from there. html/css are really easy to start with (as you probably know) and is the only place to start imo.

    But yes... the answer is yes.

    1 point
  • Jason EtcovitchJason Etcovitch, almost 7 years ago

    Knowing how to do something, especially something you're interested in, will never be a bad thing. If you have the time and the motivation, go for it! But it's important to think of it as a secondary skillset, not one that will replace your design skills, only bolster and build on them.

    I've been on the dev side and the designer side, and when a designer tries to explain to me what they really want but can't do so because they aren't familiar with "the developer way," it can be really confusing. So do it! Plus it's really fun.

    1 point
  • Dan Wilkinson, almost 7 years ago

    Thank you all for the advice, really appreciate all your responses :-)

    0 points