Should Designers Know How to Develop?

As I continue to develop my design skills, I find that my development skills are of GREAT use during the process. As I design, I can think about how I might build the particular item or layout I’m putting together. However, it also has moment of inhibition; knowing the development is going to force me to almost reinvent the wheel will push me into a different design direction.

The upsides to knowing how to develop

When I’m designing, I’m constantly thinking about how the item I’m designing might be built and what kind of time it’s going to require to actually add the functionality of which I am thinking. Because I’m thinking of the development side of the project throughout the design part of the process, I am able to produce designs that can be easily and efficiently developed. I can also include things others using this concept may not be able to include simply because I do know how to develop a website. And knowing precisely how I’m going to build every item in my design allows me to produce designs that I know I can fully execute in a fully-developed website.

For instance, when designing my personal blog, I was able to include an Instagram feed in various locations because I knew precisely what development skills were required to do so. I am able to guarantee to my clients that their initial website design will not differ in the slightest when compared to their final, fully-developed website. And while I do not always know if something is possible, because I am a website developer, I am able to use that foundation to figure out how to do it before I promise it to my clients.

In this way, I am very glad I know how to develop websites; it makes my designs better.

The downsides to knowing how to develop

The downsides to knowing how to develop as a designer are very similar to the reasons it’s an upside; I know how everything is going to be developed as I design it. And because of that simple fact, I may not take the risks of a designer who doesn’t know that second step. Net Magazine talks about this idea a little bit. Designers who know how to develop may not produce the best possible design because they are held back by the fact that they may not know how to develop it. A designer who doesn’t know how to code, however, is going to produce the best possible design simply because they think it’s the best design.

So while knowing how to develop is very useful, it can often hold designers back as they attempt to put together layouts. For example, my sidebar backgrounds typically do not mimic the heights of the page’s main content. Why? Because I know it’s a PAIN to code that into place. But sometimes, it’s really nice to have that sidebar background match the height of a page’s content.

So there are pros and cons to knowing how to code as a designer. Often times, it’s really helpful, but it can also hold you back a bit. That said, it’s nice to design trying to keep development out of mind as it really forces you to find some creative ways to accomplish that design. It can often make you a better developer.