Should Web Designers Code?… The Poll Results

    Craig Buckler

    Our recent poll asked: What level of HTML and CSS coding knowledge should a web designer possess? It was discussed at length in Should Designers Have Coding Skills?The poll results were as follows:

    • 70% of respondents stated that web designers should have good HTML and CSS coding knowledge
    • 25% stated that basic knowledge was adequate
    • 5% thought that a good designer could create a great website design without coding knowledge.

    There were also some great comments…

    Great web design can be done by people with no coding experience. Knowing the mechanics of web pages is much more important than knowing how to build one.


    There is a very definite advantage to knowing what can be accomplished in a browser, how a user would interact with a design, and how the design would be implemented using either CSS, images and other elements.


    If you’re a web designer, you should know how to code. If you don’t, you’re a designer, not a web designer.


    The designer should still understand some of the concepts and have a basic understanding of what can or can’t be done in web design, or what should and shouldn’t be done.


    The crux of the issue comes down to your definition of a “web designer”. It’s subjective will depend on your own experiences. For some, it’s a graphic artist who creates web design mock-ups. For others, it’s a person who can create high-quality layout code with CSS effects and JavaScript interactions. Most people will have an opinion somewhere between the two extremes. However, I was a little surprised to discover a significant proportion of respondents stating that good coding skills were essential.In some cases, it depends on the size and type of your organization. Larger companies may have specialists in certain technologies, whereas a sole-trading freelancer would normally require a wider range of skills and cannot avoid learning HTML and CSS.Finally, it depends on your aspirations. Many talented graphic artists do not want to code. Many programmers have little interest in design. Yet both may claim to be a web designer because it’s a term used throughout the industry.

    HTML and CSS is tougher than you expect…

    There’s a widespread misconception that HTML and CSS are easy. Take a sample of résumés from people in IT and you’ll find a ridiculously high number quote HTML as a skill-set. Many of those people will also know the rules of chess — but how many can claim to be a grand master?While HTML and CSS are not programming languages, they have subtle complexities that are not appreciated until you have considerable development experience. Graphic artists rely on precise positioning and programmers rely on rigid coding conventions, yet this level of exactness is rarely experienced in the browser world.Few people master HTML and CSS whether they migrate from a design or programming discipline. Should we expect everyone to have intimate knowledge of browser quirks, usability, semantics, accessibility, progressive enhancement, etc?

    …but that’s no excuse for not understanding the medium

    It’s difficult to keep up with advances in web technology and best-practice techniques. However, designers have little excuse for not understanding the fundamentals of the web as a medium. The same mistakes are made with frustrating regularity.In my experience, the best graphic artists understand the basic concepts of the web and apply good design practices. The best developers know how to constructively analyze a design and convert it into good-quality code. It’s not often you find someone who can do both … real web designers are a rare breed.Continue reading: 10 Common Mistakes Made by Novice Web Designers…