To Code or not to Code, that is the Question.

There’s been much debate lately on whether designers should write code. This article from Jared Spool seems to have stirred up a hornets nest. I started off my career doing both design and front end code and enjoyed both. But doing both made me feel like a bit of a hack. I just wasn’t hard-core-geek enough to invest as many of my nights and weekends basking in the cool light of the monitor’s glow as becoming a ‘coder’ required. And I was always being distracted by my interests in human factors and the evolving field of user experience.

So I focused on my UX tools and built my career of designing good experiences. I love it. I’m one of those lucky bastards that does something I enjoy for a living.  My technical knowledge certainly makes me a more effective designer.

I’m sure there are benefits to being a ‘non-technical’ person. Perhaps your brainstorms are less tainted by thoughts of what is possible to build. Perhaps you can be a little more focused on what’s good for the users. Maybe. But is not being able to speak a developers language hurting your chances of getting the design built?

I’ve had countless conversations with developers talking about what is possible, what is easy vs time intensive. Knowing enough about how things work under the covers lets me play diplomat and find the good concessions. I love the collaboration. So many times the ‘techies’ have brought UI gems to the table that really bring the design together or take you down a path you didn’t notice was there before.

Let’s not forget that coders are the users of our design work. We should take the same measures to understand them that we do our website users. We’ll all be more successful.

That said, I occasionally miss getting my hands dirty, doing the making not just the designing. And things have changed a bit in the past few years. HTML5, CSS3, and jQuery have come on the scene and I feel a bit like I missed some episodes of my favorite show.

It would be a shame to let the technical skills that I have degrade irretrievably, so I’m packing up the family and heading to Minneapolis for An Event Apart 2011. Two days of getting my UX groove on followed by A Day Apart to get a crash course in HTML5 and CSS3. I’ll let you know if being a designer who can code turns out to be a good or bad thing. Maybe I’ll see you there!