Friday, August 15, 2014

RHT: 7 Reasons Why Coders Should Understand Design

by Monica Nakamine  Robert Half Technology
August 15, 2014

Coders who understand design are even more valuable in the current job market.
As coders, designers come to you to turn their wireframes into websites, storyboards into video games, UI specs into apps. They provide the visual; you provide the functional.
But who’s to say that never the twain shall meet? In fact, becoming familiar with design will ultimately make you a better coder — giving you a distinct edge in today’s job market.

To make their teams as lean and mean as possible, companies are hiring multifaceted coders; people who have the core competency, but can also parlay with designers because, after all, design is the other half of the coin. While coders are already in high demand, hiring managers are being selective as they consider the dynamics of the team as a whole. If you’re able to speak the designer’s language and facilitate discussion, the team is more fluid, efficient and productive. You’re not only valuable to the team, but you become a hot commodity in the grander scheme of things.

Granted, we’re not suggesting you need to enroll yourself in design school. A Photoshop class or Illustrator tutorial might be helpful. Or simply ask your design counterpart to give you a crash course.

While some coders are well-versed in design and may even have a design background (front-end web developers, for example), other types of coders may not see the significance in learning the language of design. While designers are perceived as more artistic and creative, HTML developersor computer programmers, for example, might consider themselves more technical. But there are technical and creative elements to both skillsets. Identifying common ground might help to break barriers and work together more cohesively.
Get Over It

If you can get over this mental block, becoming familiar with the basics of design is in your best interest as a coder – in your current position and in future ones. It will enable you to:

(1) Add to your skill set and boost your marketability. Your coding skills are undoubtedly solid. But if you can combine them with design knowledge – or any other discipline that you interact with frequently – your marketability just went through the roof.

(2) Stretch your definition of creativity. As a coder, you might not consider yourself creative, but think of what you’re capable of producing: beautiful websites, complex gaming worlds, smartphone apps– the list is seemingly endless. Here’s a good analogy: Think of code like music. Both require knowledge of a specific language: Java for coders and musical notes for musicians. Creativity comes into play when that knowledge is applied — when you’re able to string together notes or pieces of code to create something complex, intriguing and beautiful, like Beethoven’s 5thSymphony… or Grand Theft Auto V. In that same vein, approaching creativity through coding may help you relate to the designers that you work with.

(3) Send hiring managers a message. Even if employers are not specifically seeking a coder who understands the design process, the fact that you can speak the language tells them that you’re versatile and willing to learn new things.

(4) Be an invaluable liaison. Knowing how to code and understanding the design process puts you in the unique position of translating between two languages – design-speak and code-talk. If you’ve ever worked with designers, sometimes the jargon they use makes absolutely no sense to you. Knowing a bit of their lingo can also help fill the gap.

(5) Contribute to the design process. When you understand a thing or two about design, you can provide valuable feedback to the designer, particularly from a coder’s perspective.

(6) Feel the designer’s pain. Despite your sincerest efforts, you’ve come to realize that design just isn’t your thing. But having gone through the motions should give you some idea of what designers have to go through to produce quality work. In coding as well as design, even the slightest tweak can throw everything surrounding it out of whack. Many people don’t understand these nuances and complain when their “simple” adjustments take hours. Don’t be that person for designers!

An understanding in design basics will give you another perspective to consider in your coding, help you empathize with designers and, ultimately, strengthen your team. Coding will always be your core competency, but combining it with an understanding for design will make you more desirable to hiring managers.

What about the designers, you ask? Well, designers who can code are also in-demand today. Read the 7 Reasons Designers Should Learn Code on The Creative Group blog.

Are you coder with design skills? How did you stumble into design? What other benefits would you add to this list?

— Monica Nakamine

Monica Nakamine is the Online Content Marketing Manager for Robert Half Technology and The Creative Group. After earning a master’s degree in journalism, she realized that marketing is more her thing and continued to apply her writing skills to a variety of industries – from higher education to high-tech. Beyond work, she’s a devoted dog-owner, aunt and Game of Thrones fan. Follow her on Twitter @latoboston.

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