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Why designers should code

A technically oriented designer who understands what happens under the hood, is a great asset in any digital service development team. These days, generalist full-stack designers and developers are in high demand. Here are 3 ways why every designer should learn how to code.

A sharp-dressed designer staring at an open laptop serious, holding up a hammer.

As we all know, the world is going digital, and everything around us is more technically advanced than before. Developing digital services has become both easier and harder at the same time in this competitive landscape we’re living in.

Technical solutions make certain things easier, but also increases the competition. There are more firms on the market (e.g. start-ups), and the development is more rapid than before. Companies should be ready to change direction, iterate and pivot fast to increase revenue.

As a designer, answering your mom what you actually do has become a lot harder than before. New flexible ways of working and cross-functional teams have blurred out the lines on what we work with, especially in the fields of media and technology.

For example, should designers today be ready to participate in copywriting, user research and branding, when developing a service?

New flexible ways of working and cross-functional teams have blurred out the lines on what designers work with.

Design is highly connected to the logic (read: code) behind the services, as without a working code or intuitive design the system won’t work properly. Therefore, generalist full-stack designers and developers are in high demand and learning programming online is blossoming.

It is certainly good news that these days more and more technically oriented designers are involved in the service development who understand what happens under the hood.

Tattooed hand on a laptop keyboard, other hand holding a takeaway coffee.

3 reasons why designers should code (or at least know how to)

Understanding technology and having more of a coder mindset helps you to

1) Recognize the technical limitations better

As a designer, you have to know what customer needs are being addressed and have an understanding on what potential technical restrictions there are. In developing any digital service you’ll be looking into both technical and design possibilities and it will no doubt help if you know how to code.

When learning new things, you’ll be keeping up to date with technology and follow trends that can open new possible solutions to the things you’re developing.

2) Communicate efficiently with developers

People might have an old way of looking at programmers, those lonesome creatures working in a basement without seeing sunlight for days.

Use a language coders understand.

It's not hard to communicate with programmers if you know how to convey your message and approach them the right way. It is equally important to use a language they understand (pun intended).

By using terms such as the cloud, database and cron job you’ll convince them you know what you’re talking about. Approaching a programmer through instant messaging instead of more traditional email can also be a good way of getting attention.

When you understand technology, it will also be easier to explain technical aspects to other colleagues as well as the end user.

A coder coding and a colleague talking on the side in a modern office with the word "inspiration" written with chalk on the wall.

3) Think outside the box

Programmers as well as designers are problem-solvers. The more logical you are in your thinking the better you will be at thinking outside of the box. Many times you donʼt have to innovate something new, but look at solutions from a different angle.

This, combined with the skill to challenge existing solutions, will help you optimize the services you’re producing.

Even a little bit of knowledge of coding and understanding what it’s about is of great benefit.

If you’re a designer, I’m not suggesting that you change the things you do. Neither should you force yourself to learn how to program.

I believe that even a little bit of knowledge of coding and understanding what it is about will be of great benefit. You shouldn’t be afraid to try it out. There is plenty of material online to get you started, and it might not be as hard as you think.

As a wise colleague of mine once said: “Relax. It’s just the internet.”

This being said, are there any reasons not to try out some coding?

A woman and a man peeking in to a box smiling curiously.