We Don’t Need More Designers Who Can Code(medium.com)

over 8 years ago from Saneef Ansari, Consultant Designer & Developer

  • Mike Wilson, over 8 years ago (edited over 8 years ago )

    I think the main problem I see with designers here all claiming they "can code" is that they don't really understand what it means to be a front-end developer.

    Sure, I know html/css like the back of my hand and can implement JS plugins with the best of em. I build sites for clients on various CMS products. However, that does not make me a front-end dev.

    HTML and CSS are child's play. Front-end devs should be able to write their own JS logic and wire up the backend to a framework like angular, etc. CSS is only 1/20th of what a front end dev should know.

    A fully scaled web application with millions, even hundreds of millions of users is not haphazardly hacked together in the same way we build our "hand-coded" portfolio sites. There's many ways to solve a problem, however the most resource efficient way is what matters at that scale.

    3 points
    • Mattan IngramMattan Ingram, over 8 years ago

      CSS being only 1/20th of what a front-end dev should know means a lot of front-end devs really don't take the time to get good at it. Which leaves me in the position where the people who are actually great at CSS don't know all the JS logic.

      Sure in an ideal world all my front-end devs would know how to translate a design into HTML/CSS, but in the actual world they don't, the "designers" do.

      5 points
      • Mike Wilson, over 8 years ago

        I think what you describe is a general lack of design knowledge and attention to detail from the developer (which the article mentions too), not a lack of CSS knowledge.

        CSS is the probably the least complex of all web technologies (other than maybe JSON or markdown?). I highly highly doubt the developer in question doesn't understand CSS. What's more likely is they don't understand the idea of positive/negative space and kerning so they don't understand why exactly they need more padding here, less letter-spacing on this headline, etc. etc.

        1 point
        • Mattan IngramMattan Ingram, over 8 years ago

          No, a lot of these developers are very detail oriented, just without design knowledge and without CSS skills. Their detail is about the app logic, not the way it looks.

          They get how CSS works, but they don't know how to remove the empty space between inline-block elements, or how flex-box works compared to floats, or the difference in animation performance between various methods, I could go on.

          Sure CSS is not complicated, but to build a performant, responsive, and beautiful web app you need more than just the basics.

          This becomes increasingly true when you are dealing with SASS or plugins like Bourbon which the developers won't even think to use in the first place.

          The tools and world of writing HTML/CSS is more detailed and complex than you might think, even if the actual code is relatively simple. This way of thinking is highly visual and I find designers are much better at it in general.

          3 points
    • Paul BestPaul Best, over 8 years ago (edited over 8 years ago )

      A designer "who can code" and the kind of developer you've described fill totally different roles....they can, and often should, co-exist on the same team. Anyone with a small amount of self-awareness should recognize the difference and the boundaries of their own skills.

      Let's call this designer one with "UI coding skills". His/her skills stop at the template. Perhaps they are well-versed in Wordpress PHP, Jekyll, etc. This is great for their portfolio site, small projects, or anything with limited functionality. This person will never be able to build the kind of stack you're describing. However, they are still very valuable to a product built on the stack you're describing.

      The problem is not that designers are learning "UI coding skills". The problem is that people conflate this with a role better described as an "engineer", and then discuss them as if they're zero-sum.

      I hope the outcome of this discussion is not to discourage designers from learning "UI coding skills", but rather to educate the decision-makers who are crafting teams about the different skillsets and personalities required for success.

      4 points
      • Mike Wilson, over 8 years ago (edited over 8 years ago )

        I appreciate you clarifying and I agree with you completely. Those light coding skills are definitely a huge help to any team, even if it's only a general understanding of code. And for the record I have no problem with designers writing strictly HTML/CSS.

        My beef is that a lot of people don't understand what you just described, that HTML/CSS is only a portion of the front-end, even people in the comments below. And this trickles down to hiring managers. They think because all these people call themselves "designer/front-end dev" on their linkedin, suddenly they don't need to be hiring dedicated front-end guys for those roles (or really, engineers). I've freelanced at too many small to mid-size companies with jack-of-all-trades types that the article describes doing mediocre work because they are given too many responsibilities. Unless it's a <5 person start-up, Leave the JS logic to an engineer.

        3 points
        • Paul BestPaul Best, over 8 years ago

          This makes a lot of sense! The idea of being at a mid-size company where I'm expected to handle all logic and UI makes my skin crawl. People like me know just enough to be dangerous when it comes to that sorta stuff.

          Logic is fucking hard, I'd rather have someone on my team who's whole job is creating a really nice API. I wouldn't want to get much deeper than maybe binding that data to the UI

          0 points