Sunday, June 12, 2011

Coders Who Can’t Design And Designers Who Can’t Code

You’ve probably encountered these two endangered species in the wild before. The developer who “has no eye for color”, “does not understand typography”, and “absolutely cannot design”. Or the designer who “sucked at math even in primary school”, is a “left-brained person”, or “doesn’t want to mess up the code”…

To help you stear clear of these dangerous specimens, here are some distinctive signs to identify them:

Coders who can’t design…

  • Need a Photoshop mockup for every single screen, including the “I forgot my password” dialog and the Terms of Use page
  • Assign different values at random to every margins and paddings
  • Think 11px is the perfect size for body copy (and 14px is great for headlines)
  • Ask you to export a background image even for a 1px black line
  • Do not understand the concept of aligning things together

Designers who can’t code…

  • Never think about what the site will look like past the dimensions of their PSD
  • Have been using web fonts since 1998: they just export all text as JPEGs
  • Design a site in Illustrator Indesign
  • Think they can set an image’s blending mode to “overlay” in CSS
  • Actually use Photoshop’s HTML “generate HTML from slices” feature

To be clear, I’m not saying you should try to do everything yourself. For example, when I work for clients I only provide a PSD or sliced images, I don’t code sites. But at least I know enough about coding to communicate with any developer.

What’s more, people often use their ignorance (real or feigned) as a way to avoid extra work and extra effort. And when each person is trying to do as little as they can, project are rarely successful.

Reaching out to the other side and learning a bit more than the absolute minimum will not only make you produce better work, it also goes a long way towards smoothing the wrinkles in the designer-developer relationship.