Our job as product designers is to create visually appealing interfaces and effective user experiences, but if we go beyond this premise, we will discover that the work we produce as designers always comes to life through code, however most designers are not familiar with programming languages or development. So, many people would think these are two totally different professions so it’s okay if one doesn’t know about the other, and this is virtually true, but both fields are closely related when it comes to creating a digital product, so having a more integrated skill set can be advantageous.
We live in a fast-paced digital environment, and many aspiring product designers wonder if coding skills are necessary for success. This post explores the question: Do product designers need to know how to code? And If so, how much do I need to learn? Here we will discuss the benefits of coding knowledge, discuss the areas where coding skills can prove beneficial, and share some tips on learning code as a product designer.
Is Coding Necessary for Product Designers?
It may seem daunting for some product designers to learn to code. It's important to note, however, that while coding skills are not an absolute requirement, they can significantly enhance your career prospects. These are a few reasons why learning to code is beneficial:
- Better Designer-Developer Collaboration: Understanding code enables product designers to communicate more effectively with developers. If designers and developers speak the same language, improved collaboration and a smoother workflow can be expected. Coding knowledge helps product designers think in advance of potential blockers in the development stage and create more feasible and efficient designs by considering technical constraints and possibilities.
- Iteration and Prototyping: Coding skills allow product designers to bring their ideas to life through interactive prototypes. Today, most product designers use tools like Figma, Sketch or InVision to serve this purpose, but being able to prototype using a development approach is a huge advantage. By balancing good design with code limitations, designers can experiment with interactions, animations, and user flows with increased accuracy, resulting in more refined and intuitive designs.
- Problem Solving and Empathy: Code literacy helps product designers empathize with developers and gain a deeper understanding of the technical challenges they face. As a result of this empathy, designers can propose solutions that match both user needs and technical feasibility. Designing within coding constraints allows designers to create solutions that are practical, user-friendly, and realistic.
Where to Start If I Want to Learn Code as a Product Designer
In case you're interested in learning code as a product designer, here are some practical steps you can take:
- Online Learning Platforms and Resources: The internet is teeming with excellent resources to learn coding. Many platforms and knowledge sources offer comprehensive courses on various programming languages. Become familiar with coding exercises, interactive tutorials, and video lectures. Learn from experienced developers by connecting with coding communities and forums.
- Hands-on Projects: Learning by doing is crucial when it comes to coding. Use real-world projects to reinforce your understanding. Build a simple website or create interactive elements for an app to get started. Challenge yourself with more complex projects as you gain confidence. Take risks and learn from your mistakes.
- Collaborate and Learn from Developers: Engage with developers in your network or within your organization. Shadow them during development processes, ask questions, and observe their approach to coding challenges. As you collaborate with developers, you will not only improve your coding skills, but also gain a deeper understanding of the development lifecycle. Collaboration will foster a sense of teamwork and promote better alignment between design and development.
How about some middle ground? Let's talk about Webflow and Framer
Figma and Sketch are the first tools we think of when we think about product design, as they serve as a bridge between design and development, offering multiple features designed to create interfaces and interactions. Our designers, however, know that these software tools have limitations when it comes to transferring the designed material to the coding team. Their main focus is on visuals and prototyping, but the code they produce isn't very useful or requires a lot of refinement afterwards, making the designers' and developers' jobs a little bit more challenging.
In spite of the fact that these are emerging technologies, tools like Webflow and Framer have come into play as game-changers, allowing designers to develop websites without knowing any coding. Using these platforms, designers can transform their visionary concepts into functional and interactive web experiences, effectively closing the gap between design and development.
Framer, on the other hand, stands as a tool that excels in advanced prototyping and interactive design. Despite its steeper learning curve than Webflow, Framer lets designers create high-fidelity prototypes with complex animations and interactions. Designers can create realistic user experiences by visually designing and manipulating interactive components and transitions. In terms of web interactions, Framer is particularly advantageous for designers who wish to explore innovative interactions.
A common goal of these tools is to enable UX designers to turn their creative ideas into reality without learning to code. This streamlines the design process and encourages collaboration between designers and developers. Through tools such as Webflow and Framer, a tangible and interactive communication foundation is established, reducing misunderstandings and facilitating smoother handoffs.
We can assure you that, after going over all the advantages of learning development basics as a UX designer, learning how to code is NOT a must. However, it is also undeniable that having this skill improves processes, facilitates development-design interaction, and enhances synergistic operations between these two. It is definitely optional to learn these skills, so if your goal is to become a product designer but you are afraid of code, do not worry. Instead, you can see it as an added value that will boost your professional growth and give you an advantage over the average designer, so take the time to learn the basics and research coding capabilities that may be helpful to you.
Keep Webflow and Framer under your radar as well. The advent of these emerging tools has transformed the landscape of web development for UX designers by providing intuitive visual interfaces and sophisticated prototyping features. Design software such as these enables designers to express their creative visions without needing extensive coding knowledge. Keep an eye on them. They stand as key enablers of innovation and creativity in web development as UX design evolves.