Back in the olden days just after Al Gore invented the internet, designers designed and programmers programmed. The web was full of slow good-looking sites that didn’t do much and useful busy sites that, frankly, looked like a dog’s dinner.
But every year since then more and more fantastically usable sites that also look great have cropped up. Why? The two previously separate disciplines of design and code have combined and at the intersection point is usability.
Everyone wants user-friendly websites that are easy to navigate and interact with the user without mess or confusion. A designer is more likely to achieve this when coding it himself. A knowledge of code is a knowledge of how the website works. If you know how the web works you can make it work well.
A designer who codes understands the pay off between clean code and great user experience. They know that if they want the website to load fast they may have to cut out some of the more gimmicky processor-hungry bells and whistles. The user is the winner as the website will do the job and won’t show off.
Less confusion, time and money
The more people involved in a project the more time and money is spent. The interaction between a designer and a developer is so often a compromise between what was wanted and what is now possible. A flexible designer will reinterpret the original design to the practicalities of the project. This is more likely to happen with a designer who codes as (s)he will understand the limitations much better.
With a designer designing and a coder coding the two processes have to run sequentially with one party waiting for the other to finish before they can start. With a designer coding the processes will be sequential the design will grow along with the website with tweaking and improvements being easily implemented along the way.
And while I’m talking about clean code I should mention SEO. The code-savvy designer will know to write good file names and alt text for images, for example, and write standards-compliant code. All good for getting the website higher in search engine results.
In my experience when the designer passes the Photoshop file to the coder it gets chopped up and called “image01.jpg” and “image02.jpg”, etc. Not very descriptive.
Ignore the nay-sayers
The wonderful thing about the internet is that many people are dropping the constraints of old-fashioned thinking that said “this person can’t do that; that person can’t do this”.
People are saying “why can’t I start up a website on my own” or “why can’t I set up an e-commerce facility”. The tools are freely available; you just have to learn how to use them.
Indeed, people who would never have been considered musicians 20 years ago are now successfully creating music online. Others who would never have had the financial ability to buy film cameras are shooting, editing and marketing their own movies successfully.
Now I hope I can carry on exploring new avenues and encourage others to do so.
It’s never too late to learn!