Should web designers be able to build their own designs?
Yesterday on Twitter Elliott Jay Stocks opened up a huge debate by stating:
Elliott has also gone on to clarify his thoughts in a blog post and I thought I’d add my thoughts to the debate given that I spend most of my time working with designers.
When you move into the field of interaction design a lack of knowledge on the part of the designer becomes even more problematic. How are you supposed to design user experience when you don’t know what tools you have to work with? I understand Mark Boulton’s argument and don’t believe that simply knowing how to write HTML makes a good web designer, and there are many other factors to take into consideration. However, time and time again I have seen designers from a print background struggle with designing for the web. Once they have taken the time to actually play around with HTML and CSS and gain a basic understanding, they start to become far more creative with the medium instead of constantly fighting against it.
In a large agency, or team developing a single product, where a designer who doesn’t know anything about the web can sit next to a developer the whole time and ask questions then I imagine it would be more possible to design for the web, without understanding the web. However it seems to me a very inefficient way of working, and isn’t a situation that many people are in.
On the flip side, I would also say that developers – especially front-end developers – should have a basic grasp of design principles. Having an understanding of why certain things are important to the designers you work with will ease the working relationship and ensure that you can work together to create an end result that is visually beautiful as well as being technically solid. I believe that the web needs specialists, but those specialists need to have an awareness of what the other specialists do, be sympathetic towards them and willing to work together to find good solutions to the challenges of working in this medium.