1 week, 3 days ago

Why Should Designers Learn Programming

I come from a programming background. My cousins are programmers, a lot of my friends are programmers, I was in a programming high-school and my mother had always wanted me to be a programmer.

I was attracted to the artistic and the aesthetic. But of course, I didn’t know this until two years down the road in a programming environment which I absolutely hated, partly because I had zero interest and partly because I didn’t understand it (nor wanted to).

So when the time came to focus on something, I was in a very good place: I was the only kid interested in design in my environment. And this is the first reason why designers should learn programming:

If you can design and understand what programmers are talking about, you will be very much of a linchpin in their environment and they will introduce you to projects and jobs.

Of course, programming is one of the most solid parts of the development process, and the development process is one of the most solid parts of a website/software/app process.

In a UX context, knowing programming gives you the leverage of being able to coordinate, let’s say, a team of developers to make a particular set of actions that are coherent with the interface you have in mind. So reason #2 to learn programming is:

It makes UX leadership a hell of a lot easier because you are able to talk multiple languages and coordinate better without having a managerial entity.

In my mind, I conceptualize programming as a set of ingredients, and a set of instructions about how to work with those ingredients to achieve a certain goal. What programming language you choose to operate with is up to you, although, for our purposes, JavaScript, Python and Ruby seem the most reasonable languages to know. You are a designer after all, so you don’t need to know a lot (unless you are passionate about it) and you don’t need to solve weird algorithmic problems in order to achieve proficiency.

Programming is not so complicated after you get some important principles (like loops, variables, objects, scope, etc.) and get comfortable with the syntax. And getting the hold of it shouldn’t take too long, although, because of its worldwide appeal, I think that most educational systems make it sound way harder than it really is. You can do some free CodeAcademy, Treehouse or FreeCodeCamp courses, watch some Youtube videos, get some free ebooks, make a few personal projects, and you are all set.

Besides adding more skills to your resume and being able to get more opportunities for work, your design process will also improve. If you are really scattered and your design process is all over the place, learning programming will improve your ability to be efficient, because one of the pillars of creating programs is efficiency, and one of the most common programming exercises in the academic world is making a program function within a small time constraint using very few computer resources.

What happened to me after getting more in depth with programming was that I started to preach about the importance of having a solid and stabile web design and UX process and gathering all the necessary resources before starting to code.

So the third reason to learn programming is:

You get to add a nice set of complementary skills to your design abilities, like organization, efficiency and exclusive thinking.

Of course, I don’t know how relevant is programming in the context of product design or logo design, but when it comes to anything that is web-based, I really think that programming is a good way of making a name for yourself as a fully-developed designer who can communicate with a wide range of audiences.

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