Scripting for Web Designers

This month, I started teaching at the Washington, DC campus of Boston University’s Center for Digital Imaging Arts.

Specifically, I am introducing aspiring web designers to HTML forms, JavaScript, PHP and MySQL — the technologies that will make their websites do something.

The consequences of techies not understanding design are humorously well-documented.

Less well-known, though, is the equally unfortunate phenomenon of web designers who don’t understand the underlying technologies that make websites possible. It may not receive the same mockery, but I know I am not the only engineer who is frustrated when designers hand off a Photoshop file, instead of HTML/CSS.

CDIA believes this sort of cross-training should be part of every designer’s education, and I wholeheartedly agree. Here’s a partial list of why web designers really should know how to code:

  • Curiosity: The first reason is probably the most obvious — education is, in and of itself, a worthwhile endeavor. Software development requires a certain mindset and will teach you to approach problems from a new angle.
  • Communication: A great deal of the perpetual conflict between designers and developers can be attributed to a communications problem: the two groups often don’t “speak the same language.” By understanding web technologies, you will be better equipped to understand what your techie colleagues are saying, and more able to communicate your needs to them.
  • Respect: “Wait … you’re a designer, and you know how to hack?” Rest assured that engineers will feel more confident you understand their concerns.
  • Self-Reliance: Often, it’s quicker (and cheaper) to do some things yourself. Adding a “contact us” form to your website shouldn’t entail hiring a software developer.
  • Career: It’s important to differentiate yourself from your peers, especially in a down economy. By being a designer with scripting skills, you will stand out from the rest of the pack.

And, who knows? Maybe one of the students will be inspired enough to change their focus from design to development. (Hey, a man can dream!)

So, when offered the opportunity to teach web designers some client- and server-side scripting, I jumped at it.

And I’m similarly excited for the upcoming training Intridea will offer in 2009. Stay tuned.