I bring up this question in the hopes of creating a meaningful discussion, this is not a post to discuss how to ease the developer handoff process, but rather what my thoughts on the topic are.
Should Designers Code As An Employee?
I don’t believe designers should know how to code, but I do believe that designers who do know how to code are incredibly valuable to organizations. They’re a unicorn of some sort, if you will. There are 2 sides to this questions, to designers, I believe the answer to this question is whether or not you would like to be more employable. To developers, the answer is probably yes, as it will help when having discussions with the development team.
In startups, it’s natural that everyone assume more responsibility than they should, that’s just how startups are, so if you plan on working for startups, it’s safe to assume you’ll be more employable if you do know how to code, but also keep in mind that there’s the added responsibility of bringing your design to life in production-ready code.
In bigger organizations, knowing how to code can save a lot of time spent going back and forth with the development team to check what can be implemented and what can’t.
One of the bigger problems that could stem from designers knowing how to code is tunnel vision. You get hung up on the technical details so much that you limit yourself in terms of thought process which directly contradicts what UX is all about, user-centric design, and not technology-centric design.
Should Designers Code As An Individual?
One of the few reasons I took interest in coding was to bring my ideas to life. I wanted to start something of my own and I believe a lot of other designers feel that way. A year ago, I launched a side project – it was relatively successfully (at least to me, over 20k+ users and I learned so much during that time). None of this would have been possible had I not taken interest in coding, I wouldn’t have been able to launch the early versions of the website on GitHub, nor would I have, a few months later, moved to WP, and I definitely would not have been able to move later on to VueJs.
I took interest in coding, and it has helped me tremendously, I was able to start something of my own and it was invaluable to me as a designer.
Final thoughts? You do what you think is best for you and your career. Don’t feel pressured into anything, but know the benefits.
Do let me know in the comments below what you think. Let’s get a discussion going.