Great (web) designers write code

I said it. Look at the designers that are pushing the limits of the web medium. Jon Hicks, Douglas Bowman, Joe Clark, Dan Cederholm, Garrett Dimon, Jesse Bennett-Chamberlain, Scott Boms and Cameron Moll. They all write code. They write xhtml, HTML, CSS, Javascript and etc. They understand the boundaries of their tools and the medium, and then they push.

The medium demands that designers understand that the design is not simply graphic, not simply visual. – Andy Rutledge

What is a great web designer? Cameron Moll provides some thoughts on what separates good designers and great designers. Great design is about communicating effectively. Great graphic design can communicate visual to an average person. On the web, who is consuming your content. Are they people? Are the using a web browser? Are they mobile? Maybe RSS? It is important to realize that not everyone is consuming your content as you intended it. It’s important to understand that most experiences have very little to do with how information is presented visually. It’s about getting to know your audience. Often we translate this to the observable audience, the people and personas that we write about, we recruit and we expect. People are adaptable. We change. We conform. We behave in amusing ways and react to the world around us.

When you recognize that design is an effort at communication, and that Web standards allow for greatly increased access to that communication, the benefit of their connection is clear. – Andy Rutledge

Web designers need to adapt to the changing context of web tools. Emily Chang, Kelly Goto, Richard McManus and Chris Messina are presenting a great session at web2expo titled The New Hybrid Designer to explore the changes.

Web design may still be in its infancy compared to other design fields, but the changes have often occurred in leaps and bounds—whether it’s the adoption of a new technology or a social shift. Modern web design requires the coding savviness of a developer coupled with the aesthetics and user awareness of a designer. What does this New Creative look like? What skills has she picked up that are essential for competing in today’s changing job market, and how does she stay current on the latest trends? This panel will explore how the advent of the social and participatory Web has changed the role of the designer, and provide insight into what you need to know today to design for tomorrow’s Web.

Stop blaming developers, users, tools, standards, etc.

15 thoughts on “Great (web) designers write code”

  1. <p>Hey David, this is a great post. I actually had some challenges with past designers not wanting to at least be aware of web standards and 'best' practices in CSS or at least proven techniques. I'm happy to see that designers are becoming more verstatile and embracing the fact that they don't need to know how to build a web server to get their hands dirty in producing usable and consistent interfaces. We've got to be aware and embrace the tools at our disposal in order to be effective.</p>

  2. <p>Hey David, this is a great post. I actually had some challenges with past designers not wanting to at least be aware of web standards and 'best' practices in CSS or at least proven techniques. I'm happy to see that designers are becoming more verstatile and embracing the fact that they don't need to know how to build a web server to get their hands dirty in producing usable and consistent interfaces. We've got to be aware and embrace the tools at our disposal in order to be effective.</p>

  3. <p>David, as always, you make some excellent points & while a great designer knows the ins and outs of communicating and problem solving, since ultimately that's a huge part of what we do, having a solid interest in more of the things that happen behind the scenes or under the 'paint job' of a web site/application has clear benefits to both the designer and their clients.</p><br />
    <br />
    <p>Digging into producing good, accessible, standards-compliant sites is an great place to start for those not already on-board before moving into the realm of programmers-looking at Javascript, PHP, Perl, Rails, etc.</p><br />
    <br />
    <p>As a side note, I'm humbled to be mentioned alongside so many other great designers in the web world. Cheers!</p>

  4. <p>David, as always, you make some excellent points & while a great designer knows the ins and outs of communicating and problem solving, since ultimately that's a huge part of what we do, having a solid interest in more of the things that happen behind the scenes or under the 'paint job' of a web site/application has clear benefits to both the designer and their clients.</p><br />
    <br />
    <p>Digging into producing good, accessible, standards-compliant sites is an great place to start for those not already on-board before moving into the realm of programmers-looking at Javascript, PHP, Perl, Rails, etc.</p><br />
    <br />
    <p>As a side note, I'm humbled to be mentioned alongside so many other great designers in the web world. Cheers!</p>

  5. Hey David, this is a great post. I actually had some challenges with past designers not wanting to at least be aware of web standards and 'best' practices in CSS or at least proven techniques. I'm happy to see that designers are becoming more verstatile and embracing the fact that they don't need to know how to build a web server to get their hands dirty in producing usable and consistent interfaces. We've got to be aware and embrace the tools at our disposal in order to be effective.

  6. David, as always, you make some excellent points & while a great designer knows the ins and outs of communicating and problem solving, since ultimately that's a huge part of what we do, having a solid interest in more of the things that happen behind the scenes or under the 'paint job' of a web site/application has clear benefits to both the designer and their clients.

    Digging into producing good, accessible, standards-compliant sites is an great place to start for those not already on-board before moving into the realm of programmers-looking at Javascript, PHP, Perl, Rails, etc.

    As a side note, I'm humbled to be mentioned alongside so many other great designers in the web world. Cheers!

  7. <p>So are you going to be able to make it down? We'll need your heckling to keep us honest! ;)</p><br />
    <br />
    <p>Great post.</p>

  8. <p>So are you going to be able to make it down? We'll need your heckling to keep us honest! ;)</p><br />
    <br />
    <p>Great post.</p>

  9. <p>Eh. There are many different kinds of designers out there. Every client has different needs. And it's extremely difficult to coordinate multiple disciplines because at some point you decide where you spend your time: kids & family, learning/mastering existing things, picking up new skills. I'm against the laziness and fear of design staff who don't take time to pick up the tools though, who think this is exactly like print, and developers who believe that because they can code a website that they are automatically interactionists or design school grads.</p>

  10. <p>Eh. There are many different kinds of designers out there. Every client has different needs. And it's extremely difficult to coordinate multiple disciplines because at some point you decide where you spend your time: kids & family, learning/mastering existing things, picking up new skills. I'm against the laziness and fear of design staff who don't take time to pick up the tools though, who think this is exactly like print, and developers who believe that because they can code a website that they are automatically interactionists or design school grads.</p>

  11. Eh. There are many different kinds of designers out there. Every client has different needs. And it's extremely difficult to coordinate multiple disciplines because at some point you decide where you spend your time: kids & family, learning/mastering existing things, picking up new skills. I'm against the laziness and fear of design staff who don't take time to pick up the tools though, who think this is exactly like print, and developers who believe that because they can code a website that they are automatically interactionists or design school grads.

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