In this tech and digital industries there is an increasing demand for the combination of design and development skills. Every client/company is looking to find their ‘unicorn’ - one person with a huge range of skills that they can squeeze the maximum amount of production out of without having to pay too much. Smaller companies and start-ups can probably get away with it considering the longer project windows and fewer projects overall. But there is still the risk of overworking their precious horned-horse.
So, to learn or not to learn? The answer to this question really varies based on your individual situation. Unless planning on developing your own app, genuinely desire to learn programming skills or believe that it’s going to boost your professional development, the answer is not. But that doesn’t mean that learning the basics isn’t very helpful, because at the end of the day, the more you know the better off you’ll be… right? Let's dive into some of the other great reasons to learn code as a designer.
Learning and understanding front-end code will allow you to be a more effective collaborator with development teams. Being able to understand and speak the language of a developer is critical to effective communication and makes you a far more valuable team-player on a project. It creates a sense of unity. It also means you will have first-hand experience of the challenges they face. Better design decisions will be made as well; all aspects of coding your design – the possibilities, limitations, and compromises – will be taken into consideration. It will also help you smooth the process between your ideas and the application of them. Getting stuck into coding is also an extremely effective way to maintain quality control and attention to detail over your designs.
"A freelance designer possessing the ability to code is more valuable to their clients, suitable for larger projects, and capable of negotiating higher rates."
Designers who can code may even find themselves launched into a sphere of projects previously considered too intricate or out of reach! However, as a freelancer you’d have to have a really good understanding of coding as you won’t have a team to fall back on!
This brings to light the first big cause of concern regarding coding as a designer: the seemingly insurmountable amount of time it will take to acquire production-level skills. Conceptualizing UX/UI designs takes an immense amount of time in itself!! It would be hard to fully commit to both sides without compromising at least one… if not both! There are just not enough hours in the day to produce high quality design and code without undermining your project windows. Not to mention having to indispensably keep up with the industry of development and its perennial evolution. Besides, these days there is a plethora of tools enabling efficacious portrayal of your designs and interactions with them. Prototyping tools and platforms like WordPress, Squarespace or even Bootstrap have become remarkably sophisticated and will only continue to evolve, potentially to the point where front-end development is no longer necessary
Learning front-end development is one way to stand out. But it’s only one of the many skills that a designer can learn and add to their arsenal. There is a ceaseless stream of technologies/frameworks/languages to be mastered. It is important to stay focused on the skills that are most necessary and allow other experts to help us along the way. Be it for the purpose of boosting your employability as a UX/UI designer, working as a freelancer or even considering opening your own design agency, learning front-end code entirely depends on your circumstances. If you have the time and are strong-willed enough, we say go for it!