Web Designers Who Code: Should Be or Should Not Be


There is a great debate on whether the web designer should learn coding. Is there a need for web designers who code? If you were one, would you try it?

There are two types of people: left-brained people and right brained ones. Left-brained people are mostly inclined to do technical matters. This means that the left hemisphere of their brain is more dominant. They possess strong left hemisphere characteristics. They have the ability to memorize, categorize and analyze data easily. Commonly, left-brained people are the ones who excel in science, mathematics and the likes. On the other hand, right-brained individuals have dominant right hemispheres. They are naturally intuitive, adventurous and creative. Designers, writers and speech-givers are great examples of our right-brained buddies.


Photo from Taylor’s Website

With that being said, web designers categorically fall in the right-brained category. However, upon dissecting the roles a web designer performs, you might arrive to a conclusion that the role somehow sits in the middle. Many web design purists will agree that web designing is, in majority, a creative field. The layout touches colors, fonts, and design elements. How all of these will concoct to form the big picture is he ultimate goal of web design. Web designers thrive on trends and techniques to improve how people visualize the web pages they create. This is important because most people are visually stimulated. Meaning, they are easily hooked on a visual image as they see it. If the image is not aesthetically enticing for them, no matter how good your content is, your website will just be sniffing stinks out there.


Photo from businessinsider.com

Yet, with the growing demand for faster and immediate results, web designers are forced to get their hands dirty in coding. They usually take time to read PHP, CSS and HTML languages as a start. Though this is a very good step towards self-improvement, some people still do not support the idea that web designers should learn coding. Hence, the argument: Should web designers need to learn how to code?

Personally, I firmly believe that learning to code is not a requisite to become a web designer. However, having a large depot of code knowledge gives you an edge over designers who just know how to design.


Photo from Andysowards

As a web designer, having coding experience will give you an edge knowledge-wise. Learning the basic language in creating web pages gives you familiarity on the project you are working on. You are aware of what goes in and out of your code; you know the bugs that keep your project from moving and address them as early as diagnosed.

You may be using some software which offers WYSIWYG features, but what if a bug comes out? What if a very important element, say your header image, is not visible? Would you just mope around, repeat the process and waste time? Or, would you be knowledgeable enough to know what to find and where exactly to find it?

Also, having some coding experience makes you the boss of your own design. Example, you are designing a web page template. Of course, if you’ll use the template generators out there, you won’t have the advantage of which elements should be absolutely-positioned. You just follow what the template mandates and you’re stuck in a box- and web designers as artists in their own right- should never be stuck in boxes. But if you know some basic coding, you’ll be able to control which divs are positioned relatively or otherwise.

In addition, you’ll be spared of some big files that will occupy your drives. Most WYSIWYG editors produce longer codes which can affect the loading speed of your web page.


Photo from BAVC

Furthermore, having coding experience will save you time. Contrary to the popular belief, WYSIWYG editors take more time compared to hand-coding. Also, you don’t have to look fo a coding expert. You can code the page all by yourself, thus saving money and time all in one shot. With this advantage, you will be able to work on more projects, increasing possible profit and eliminating misunderstanding in terms of coding.

With all these advantages, you might be under the impression that you are going to start learning how to code. However, before even starting, you need to answer the following: 

Am I ready?

Are you ready to start learning new knowledge? Are you sure you’ll push through with this? Sometimes, the drive of your motives on wanting to become a better designer makes you take wrong choices. Contemplate on whether you really want it now or not because learning the languages in web pages is a very arduous task and it requires time, and loads of patience. It will be very counter-productive if you stop in the middle of everything.


Photo from Web Designer Depot

Am I good enough as a web designer?

Here’s the catch: learning how to code can be taught. But creativity? Never. You acquire it through practice and a big chunk of mistakes and rejected designs. Yes, you can catch up through learning the different trends, but designing is more right-brained, so you need to be artistic rather than knowledgeable. If you think you’re ready and good enough as a designer, then go learn coding. But if you’re still terrible, I suggest you learn to polish the design aspect first. Never jump unless you know you have some good landing ground. Never learn coding and waste a great deal of time as a web designer if you’re not even sure if you really are a web designer.


Photo from 1BP

Am I patient enough?

Let’s face it, looking through a seemingly endless threads of codes could be a silent and visual lullaby for many, especially those who do not find coding as exciting. Now if you really want to learn, you have to beat the pain in the you-know-what and the boring periods of learning. You’re like being taught a new language. You have to be patient, open and at least, curious to become better.


Photo from Amazon News


In the end, I would say that web designers who know how to code have a great advantage over those who don’t. It makes them a one-man wrecking crew. This might put aspiring designers to the belief that coding is something to learn in an instant. Despite the many benefits of knowledge in coding, a designer must always hone his craft first, the right-brained one, before moving on the left. Web designer-coders are not a must, but being one an advantage. What do you think?



  1. There’s no left-sided or right-sided people. That’s a total mith! I have traits from both. And yes I’m a Web Designer and I also know how to code. As from my experience, at least in my country, no one will hire you if you don’t know how to code as a Web Designer. At most, they’ll hire you as a Graphic Designer, but that’s another story… Of course, there are some companies that have no idea what a Web Designer does and they confuse them with Web Developers and ask for a ton of programming languages and it’s impossible to learn them all. Their fault is that they’re ignorant and have no idea what they want exactly, or what that involves. But anyway… my opinion is that Web Designers should at least know HTML/CSS very good.

  2. If web designers have coding knowledge, then it’s an advantage point to them. Here, I would like to say that added coding skill to web designers always helps in great web design with good functionality.

  3. Jit

    Great article Rudolph!
    My personal experience inclines me toward being focus on just one. In this case Design, rather than being jack of all trade as DJ said.
    It is one thing to learn HTML/CSS and another to make it responsive, learn the new stuff. I think that time can be better utilized in learning new trends in desing and staying ahead in the game.

  4. These articles are meant to prime discussion- nothing more. I myself straddle the fence between coder and designer. Everyone is unique, and there aren’t “2 types of people.” Do I have weaknesses? Of course. Do I have strengths? Sure. But I enjoy using both sides of my brain equally. I have an English degree and an MBA. I play guitar and build spreadsheets. I love art and design, and I love statistics and quantitative reasoning and logic. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but being able to look at both sides of a problem makes me more versatile and valuable, I think. I enjoy being able to have many perspectives, not just from the creative side of the room or over by the quant jockeys.

  5. I have a real problem with articles like this.

    It automatically assumes that design is art and all about an emotive response. That is utter shit. Design necessarily requires a user and a task (or objective). Art involves an artist and a medium (like paint and canvas). Art is a subjective (re)action and is responsible to no one, it does not really have a user, it has an audience. It does not have a task, it seeks to generate an emotive response.

    Design is not art. It is not all right brain intuition. There is a crossover of skill-sets between art and design at times, but that is as far as it goes.

    A designer should be researching the competition, testing the users, dissection the tasks and understanding the commercial objectives and know what the technology is both capable of and where the developers can be pushed out of their comfort zone. I work as an interface designer, or UX. It is a heuristic and ergonomic role. As far as tools go, I still use pen and paper, I also build HTML prototypes, I create wire frames, I throw them all away when I have learnt something and need to implement those lessons, (rather than chucking away my artwork because I don’t like it). I build more prototypes, I eventually generate designs, knowing that I can match an objective, satisfy a user, and present something to the developers that can be implemented.

    As it happens, I can code a bit, but I rarely bother. I use tools like Adobe muse to create prototypes and Axure to make dynamic wire frames, but these are to communicate with users, business managers, stakeholders and developers. Ultimately, my designs tend to be finalised in Illustrator, for pixel perfect precision and Photoshop, so that the developers can build them properly.

    Yes everything has a form and you want that form to initiate the appropriate emotional response, but that is a short lived thing. The design needs to earn its fee week after week by delivering on usability, KPI, and ROI – all hard nosed business terms. Right brain v left brain is an incidental division. We are all capable of swaying across the lobal divide and each of us finds a way of utilising what we have, to do our jobs. I have met incredibly creative developers and extremely analytical designers. You take what you have and do the job you do.

    So should a designer be able to code? It’s up to the designer, but, in terms of priority, there are plenty of other things a designer will get more use out of than coding.

    Rant over.

    • Strongly agree with Dave.
      Design is not just about ‘making world better look’, but it is relevant with a very strict design approach. Especially for web designer, they should have a very strong sense about user experience and usability, which is even harder for a senior software engineer to image. Such thing can not be called ‘art’, it is about science.
      Web designer of course could learn coding, which will makes them stand out from others maybe, but if someone who thinks himself is a good drawer, or who could make web ‘colourful’ try getting on board, my suggestion is: STOP! please try to learn how to design a web firstly, that is much more important for such people.
      However, for others who know clearly how to design a website in a correct direction, please learn coding, even only a little if possible, or it will be very hard for the technical guys to communicate with you about a specific project.

  6. DJ

    Jack of All / Master of None ring a bell?

    Having some basic understanding of CSS / HTML5? Okay… I’ll grant that.

    PHP? Javscript? Anything else??? Hell NO!

    I’m blasting away creating a page and having to dip into the Source is like hitting a brick wall at 100mph! At the very least I’ve got anxiety… If it’s a particularly troublesome “glitch”? It’s a literal headache within 30 minutes.

    For the Bosses out there, look at it this way: Pay your Designer to hunt and experiment for an hour or two to messily “fix” the code, or pay your Coder for 10 minutes to fix it clean? Hurry! That Jeopardy theme song going off in your head won’t last forever…

  7. Terry

    My fascination with the Internet inspired me to learn code on my own and create websites for 15 years with an eye for clean layouts. Design inspiration came from following trends and training in Photoshop, Illustrator and video creation. My focus has now turned to customized WordPress sites and I believe my coding knowledge is an advantage. I’ve been called on more than once to repair websites created by others only to find a super fantastic design but with a 1.5mb background image and 250kb menu images. Like others have said, a basic understanding of web coding is necessary.

  8. Now that prototyping is gaining momentum, you should develop both both design and coding skills if at all possible. They aren’t mutually exclusive skills. Website design needs a certain amount of thought for usability and accessibility, it’s design within certain parameters. So it suits those that enjoy more technical design too.

    I started as a coder and developed (and still developing) my design and coding skills. Daily I use Netbeans, Filezilla, Notepad++, Gimp2, Photoshop, illlustrator, inDesign and even video software. I say don’t let anyone tell you what you should be sticking to. Do what you feel drawn to. If coding is boring or difficult for you, then do something else because there’s nothing worse than really lazy code. You don’t have to be a master at everything but if you have a basic idea of how sites slot together on the web including server management etc, then you’ll be in a better position to help your customers and that’s what it’s all about ;)

  9. Although I do agree with your conclusion, you argument is based on an incorrect premise. Software Development, like design, is a very creative endeavour. The difference is in the creativity though. Design tends to be more abstractly creative while development is concretely creative. As such, both fields require highly creative people that are equally good at problem solving.

    In addition, the whole right brain/left brain thing is a fallacy that needs to go away. Most people fall somewhere in the middle and are able to move from the abstract to the analytical and back. This means that designers have the ability to code and coders have the ability to design. Maybe not as well initially, but both are fully able to learn the other’s job.

    So yes, designers should learn to code and coders should learn about design if for no other reason then it makes getting along and talking that much easier when working in teams.

    • David Kellam

      Well and concisely said. Both roles are fundamentally creative and rely on visualization skills. Learning the basics of both is required to communicate efficiently and be what is known as a ‘professional’ and not a prima donna.

      I feel that aversion to coding is like fear of math – something learned from bad teachers and a lack of mentors; each are just languages to more thoroughly describe a model of perceptions.

    • DJ

      “Most people … are able to move from the abstract to the analytical and back”

      To SOME degree.

      It’s easier for those who have an essentially 50/50 split, but these people are NOT the Zuckerbergs or the Monets… These are the mediocrity. The ones who say “How hard could it be? I’ll make my own business cards. I have Word and it has templates…”

      You find a truly exceptional artist, chances are you’ll find someone incapable of balancing their checkbook. And by the same token you find a Hedge Fund Manager that is making money hand over fist; Couldn’t draw a stick figure without tracing it.

  10. I think it all depends on demand (and of course, personal goals).

    If your projects require coding, either you have to hand it off or learn it. But if you call yourself a designer, obviously you have to hone that side first.

    I major in computer science and I want to be a software developer, so I focus on the technical side more (but I have always been very creative, so I enjoy both aspects).