How Much Coding Should Designers Know?


Written by Irina Papuc Topics: Learn to Code title

Many designers think each discipline should mind their own business, while others see no problem in professionals wearing multiple hats. Many developers see designers who code as a threat, while others see it as a facilitator. This is a hotly debated subject, and although I think some great designers are also superb at coding, I will always defend that the more you focus on a particular area the best you will be at it. But this shouldn’t be a reason for you to miss out on the benefits of having another skill under your belt.

 

Learn to Code

Learn how to code and make yourself a great asset to any multi-disciplinary team.

As a designer who has gone as far to set up Linux servers and program back-end, I see no question that understanding ‘the basics’ of coding would benefit any designer. The question really is, how much coding should designers learn? At what point might designers be wasting their time, or really stepping over the line into the territory of developers?

In order to provide some insight into the potential benefits of learning to code, I’ve broken the different levels of coding knowledge down into degrees of usefulness.

Step 1: Know the basics of HTML and CSS

Any designer would greatly benefit from knowing the foundations of HTML and CSS and would be surprised by how easy it can be. Stop being lazy and just learn this, it will make you a better designer, guaranteed.

When is front-end just coding, not programming?

Is front-end coding? Yes! Is it programming? Only after a certain point.

HTML and CSS don’t involve programming logics. You can see that in HTML – HyperText Markup Language the letter M stands for Markup, what means that it’s nothing more than a coded structure of the page/screen elements. It works like a puzzle, but it doesn’t require a lot of mathematical thinking.

In laymen’s terms, HTML is an architectural map that tells the browser what to display. The HTML map will influence how search engine crawlers will interpret the site. So, the concern here is to make sure the code is very well structured and that those systems can understand it and rank it well.

CSS, or Cascading Style Sheets, is the code that tells the browser how to display things. Metaphorically, if HTML is the skeleton of a page or screen, CSS would be the skin and eyes colors, hairstyle, body shape, limbs sizes, etc. The language has a very simple code structure that determines typography, colors, positions and dimensions. The concern with HTML is to keep it very organized for maintenance and optimized for good performance.

Understanding code means understanding your pixels

Learning how to code gives you the opportunity to know how things work. Why do we need to worry about pixel-perfection, is it only for the sake of symmetry?

If you play with HTML and CSS, you’ll notice that everything is measured in pixels (there are other measurement units – not relevant here – but they will ultimately be converted to pixels). Understanding these mechanics will change your mindset and will care for design in a more efficient way for the development process. As a consequence, not only your projects will be easier to program as your projects may look much more structured.

Step 2: Front-end JavaScript and AJAX could make you a unique asset

This is where things can start to get complicated, but it’s also where a lot of fun happens. If you’re an analytical thinker, or specially motivated, you’ll get a lot out of learning JavaScript and AJAX. As well, your design perspective will improve in knowing exactly how far technology can take you and how far you can push it to be innovative. I don’t think going this deep is necessary though, because if you know the basics of HTML and CSS you’ll already be ahead of most competitors. However, you may find some fun in making things coming to life with the knowledge.

When does front-end become programming?

Although we could stop here and have the back-end implemented, we can make our project more dynamic by adding some scripting, like if we could give a few acrobatic abilities to the beautifully structured and painted body we created with HTML / CSS.

For that, we have our dear JavaScript, which is an actual logical programming language. JavaScript can be used to display dynamic interactions, animate elements, create a very responsive communication with the back-end or server, as well as other things. As there aren’t many limits to what can be accomplished with Javascript in front-end development, now we are talking about a programming language: functions, objects, logics, conditionals, math, math and more math so that it may be a little challenging. But it’s not that hard to learn, especially considering what most clients will require.

In my opinion if you want to say you’re a front-end developer, knowing (at least the basics of) JavaScript is mandatory. You should understand how AJAX works (which is used by nearly any modern website). You should test your interactions in real time, and if you’re a motion designer, like me, you can do some animations yourself rather than having to explain it to a programmer, which may not have the same eye for the kind of detail that you see as a designer.

As well, there are the pre-processors for HTML (Haml, Jade, etc.) and CSS (SCSS, LESS, etc.), which are languages that aim to facilitate and streamline the coding process using programming concepts (such as logics, modulation, among others). The code, as it states, is then pre-processed, generating the pure HTML and CSS (also called vanilla). Even if you know only the basics of programming, these could be real time-savers.

Knowing how to program informs the limitations of devices

If you, a designer, learn front-end you will clearly see various advantages for knowing it, such as knowing how things work and see the limitations of each device.

Even browsers behave differently – let alone separate devices – so knowing this when you are creating gives you a sense of making something solid, lowering the chances of future complications in projects. Every programmer I know got a layout that was impossible to reproduce at some point in their lives.

Knowing the mechanics behind a digital project will not only give you an idea of what limits your work, but also what boundaries of technology you can push. I remember when several agencies, such as Fantasy and Firstborn, made a reputation in the early 2000’s for using Javascript in a different and very creative way.

Step 3: Back-end JavaScript might be overkill

Well, maybe we’re going too far here. Knowing the basics of back-end JavaScript can be useful depending on the stack your team uses (like MEAN stack, for example). But, you don’t have to go too far if all you need to know is how to run a project. However, if you dream of leading product teams, this may be helpful. But, if you call yourself a designer, not developer, your returns are seriously diminishing at this point, so you’d be better off expanding your creative skills.

Learn to code and collaborate better with developers

Would romantic relationships be easier if men could read the minds of women? Many would think so. I wonder the same thing about designers and developers.

Knowing how developers think and what they need to be able to do their job may sound like stepping on their territory, but it will make you a great asset to any multi-disciplinary team.

This can be very useful both for internal communications, as well as in idea pitches, because you know what to expect from the other members of the team. If you can do this, know your limitations (and how to push them), then you will be able to propose much more robust solutions to clients.

A designer who can code will see more job opportunities

One of the reasons why I closed my small company (RIP!), was the fact that I started international relationships that became increasingly more attractive than local businesses. For these contacts, today I work exclusively for this the global market, so 99% of my network is foreign. The opportunity that opened up this market for me was a scenario that required an individual who could do it all, including front-end. And I fit the bill; I could even program back-end. By then I ended up getting involved more and more with the dark side of the force, even to the point of setting up and managing Linux servers.

In every opportunity I had since then, knowing how to program made a big difference both in the screening processes and the day to day work. At Toptal we see a bunch of opportunities for professionals with this hybrid profile, and startups out there are eager to find people that can take over both the design and front-end of their early-stage applications.

designers coding

Learning how to code might lead to some unexpected opportunities.

Still, there are some designers and programmers who dislike one another snooping into each other’s businesses. Why might this be? Some may be afraid of losing work, and some may be lazy to learn something new. But the truth is that you should analyze your options, and focus on what will increase your chances of success. You may not have enough time now to learn everything, but maybe knowing vanilla HTML and CSS should be sufficient to add a significant differential to your career. It should be quick and easy for you to take the first steps. The more you know, the more you expand your opportunities. So, by experience, I would never discourage any opportunity to learn new skills.

Step 4: Database Architecture and Software Engineering Won’t Get Designers Anywhere

Unless algebra and complex computing are your thing, I would say “Dear God, no!”. There are other useful side skills you could learn instead (like knitting). People are just as likely to want to hire a designer who knows how to knit as one who knows how to architect databases. Besides, you don’t want to be in a place where you need to take care of everything, believe me.

So, should designers program?

I would say no. You don’t need to. But more and more the work opportunities in the design field add web-development, or at least front-end notions, as a requirement or a differential. So you don’t need to, but maybe you should if you want to have something else to offer, especially if you’re having trouble finding work. Sometimes we can’t find an opportunity that fits our profile, and that’s when we need to adapt to what is out there.

Conclusion

All of this said, we all know that it is not mandatory for a designer to know how to program. I know a lot of designers that don’t, excellent ones in fact.

However, in some cases, I notice deficiencies from a development point-of-view, in details that could even harm a project’s productivity.

You don’t need to be a designer who is also an expert in front-end development to have these differential skills added to your CV or applied to your projects, and you have a lot of online resources to start walking down this road. Simple skills can impact your potential for success in a very positive way.

Do some research, look at what job offers are requesting, see the profile of designers startups are looking for, and maybe you can agree with me when I say you don’t need to learn how to code, but you should.

Think about it!

This article was originally posted on Toptal

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An Interview with a Successful Developer: Lifestyle, Taxes, and Node.JS


Written by Irina Papuc Topics: Business, Learn to Code, Self Improvement IMG_0008

At Toptal, we’re always looking for the best freelancers around. But what makes a freelancer truly great? Luis Martinho, one of our top developers, is beloved by his clients — so we sat down with him to talk about freelancing, technologies like freelance Node.js and HTML5, and paying your taxes.

So, to start, how did you get into freelancing? Have you ever worked a full-time job?

“I had worked a couple of full-time jobs: some of them were relatively corporate, but the most recent was in a startup environment, specifically in the enterprise SaaS space, building sexy management software in the cloud. We had a very talented team and a very ambitious vision. After four years of growth, we had an exciting product in an exciting space, which was great, but I wasn’t very happy. I needed a lifestyle change. When we started, I personally did not understand how hard it was to “start up”. It’s not just the hours, because you work long hours in all sorts of environments and projects; it’s the stress, the responsibility, and the pains associated with creating something new. It’s not all flowers and rainbows. In the end, I decided that I wasn’t co-founder material (at least, not at the time). But the experience gave me a much deeper understanding of the kind of pressure faced by startup founders, and I know that I’ve become a better freelance software developer because of that.

Freelancing looked more and more like the life I wanted: it presented an opportunity to find interesting clients and projects while being rewarded for quality work.

I started looking for regular jobs: first in my hometown, then in the rest of the country, then in the rest of Europe. I managed to find some interesting projects, some interesting compensation packages, and some interesting locations; but I believed that I could have it all. So I began to look into freelancing. And as I kept looking, freelancing looked more and more like the life I wanted: it presented an opportunity to find interesting clients and projects while being rewarded for quality work.”

(more…)

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Boost Your Productivity With Clever Travel Hardware


Written by Irina Papuc Topics: Self Improvement 18414811362_e985c582a6_o

Boost Your Productivity

So, you want to boost your productivity? Nevermind Game of Thrones, winter is not coming, at least not in the northern hemisphere. It’s summertime, and here at Toptal that usually means many of our freelance developers and designers are either on the road or getting ready to hit the beach.

When I started writing this, some of our people were in Portugal, trying to work out the math behind surfboards. Now it’s my turn, and I’m wrapping up my draft with a nice view of the Adriatic Sea, just a few miles away from the best windsurfing spot in Europe.

Yes, I’m a workaholic, so this might as well be a good time to cover the topic I had in mind.

I can probably guess what some of you are thinking:

This is a lifestyle post! This guy is going to talk about surfing, healthy food and excercise.

No. This is not a lifestyle post. As far as food goes, fresh fish and veggies are always a safe bet. Exercise? Well, cycling to a nearby village to try a marginally different fish dish and sample local wine counts as exercise, at least to me.

So, with all the lifestyle stuff out of the way, I can get back to my message and start discussing the logistics behind travel and remote work and how you can boost your productivity. You can buy capri pants, cheap flip-flops, and boonie hats everywhere, but beachside shops usually don’t carry quality hardware that can help you be more productive on the road, or save time and money for more enjoyable activities.

Caveat: If you’re an avid Apple user with a profound dislike of Windows, you may not like where I’m going with this. I don’t intend to bash Apple, but Cupertino simply doesn’t bother with cheap hardware that won’t be missed if it ends up in the water.

Travel Hardware: Myths and Moths

(more…)

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Psycho-Cybernetics – Maxwell Maltz | Book Recommendation & Hidden Gems #4


Written by Jason Nesbitt Topics: Books, Deep Thinking, Self Improvement Psycho-Cybernetics

Psycho-Cybernetics – Sounds Crazy

Psycho-Cybernetics…Where to start. This book is just totally awesome. After a couple of chapters I found myself saying ‘this is the best book I’ve ever read’. It’s true, quite a lot of books do get me excited when I get into them, but this one was particularly special.

I found myself writing a lot of notes right at the start of the book. It has very exciting ideas with apparent and practical revelations.

Today we will be talking about the very largely read:

Psycho-Cybernetics book by Maxwell Maltz – Click Here to Get Your Copy

I really hope you enjoy this post as there are some real golden nuggets in here.

 

Summary & Recommendation

Psycho-Cybernetics is all about the following quote:

The building of an adequate self image is something you should continue throughout a lifetime

It is full of excellent practical acts to build the best self image one can. It has a lot of amazing and inspirational stories and, as someone that is slightly obsessed with self improvement, I can say that it massively delivers on that idea.

Chapter after chapter is a golden gem with such excellent advice and mental activities that can help anyone improve themselves. 

As I mentioned above, it might very well be the best book I’ve ever read. There are so many examples and stories of the amazing implications of thinking positively and ignoring all negative thoughts and things. It is something I will frequently read.

Now, I know you must be eager for me to stop my meanderings and get into the juicy bits of brain work. Enjoy all the hidden gems below.

 

Hidden Gems

  • Our own self image has a lot less to do with our looks than we realise. We could be beautiful but internally believe we are ugly.

 

  • A large breakthrough of Psycho-Cybernetics is about synthesising experiences in the laboratory of the mind. One can be more confident and successful in what they do, as they have already done it and succeeded in their mind. The nervous system can’t tell the difference between real and synthesised experiences.

 

  • Reading a book and acquiring information is passive. Experience helps one grow. One should always do a books activities. Write down the bits that speak to you. Use imagination and memory to experience during or after reading.

 

  • It stresses the importance of having a self – something that I very strongly believe in. Psycho-Cybernetics makes a reference to a wonderful T.F.James quote from Cosmopolitan Magazine:

Understanding the psychology of the self can mean the difference between success and failure, love and hate, bitterness and happiness. The discovery of the real self can rescue a crumbling marriage, recreate a faltering career, transform victims of “personality failure.” On another plane, discovering your real self means the difference between freedom and the compulsions of conformity.

 

  • So many of the topics are very similar to my belief of self. We can only act the way our ‘self’ reacts. E.g. a failure type self will always find circumstances to confirm failure.

 

  • Mini wins create big successes – one of my favourite quotes. We need to give ourself as many mini wins as possible to not only feel better, but train our brain to more easily be able to do the small and large tasks.

 

  • Not to sound too science fiction, Psycho-Cybernetics has an extremely fun way of looking at how the brain acts. It discusses how the brain is a machine that could technically be replicated one day.

Random Quote Moment:

‘A human being always acts, feels and performs in accordance with what he imagines to be true about himself and his environment’

 

  • Spend half an hour a day imagining yourself sat in a plain room watching a motion picture of the self you want to be/know you are/could be. Pay attention to all the small details: the feel of the chair, the volume of the screen. This will immensely help towards achieving that imagined self that you want to be.

 

  • Physical relaxation allows mental relaxation and de-hypnotises us from negative attitudes and reaction patterns. The author recommends using mental pictures to relax. Create a mental picture of something beautiful of a time you felt most relaxed. Sat on a beach, staring up at the stars or being mesmorised by a Justin Bieber concert. We’re all unique.

 

  • Psycho-Cybernetics compelled me, and pretty much asked me, to create thought exercises of exact scenarios that I want. Either to create good experiences that are as fruitful as real ones OR to visualise an end goal with positive emotions to easily achieve it.

 

  • We never do the actions, we merely decide fully to do the actions and our mechanical mind does the rest.

 

  • The book strongly recommends a process to creativity: define what you want to create. Gather all the facts. Spend quite a bit of time wanting it and thinking about it. Then do something completely different and let your subconscious do the work. Don’t try and do any of the work in your forebrain. Take a nap, shave, have a conversation about something different with a friend etc.

 

  • 5 rules to assist your creative machinery:

1. Research and worry about a decision before making it. Then forget about it after making it. E.g. Don’t worry about a roulette wheel after the wheel starts spinning. Works in personal situations too. If you decide to do something, fully commit and don’t worry (e.g. Dentist or social event).

2. Create the habit of consciously responding to the present moment.

3. Try to do only thing at time.

4. Sleep on it.

5. Relax while you work.

 

  • Smell. Listen. Look. Create a habit to be in the moment.

 

  • A practical note for life: relax whilst doing any task and let your sub conscious do the work. Your brain should merely be issuing the command and relaxing.

 

  • Negatives should be glanced at but positives should be focused on. Just like driving a car. A great metaphor of what to focus on to succeed.

 

  • Forgive by forgetting and realising that a grudge should never have been held: the only way to truly forgive and be peaceful.

 

  • Regret is useless as it is an attempt to do the impossible: change the past.

 

  • Using verbs to describe negative situations is a lot more beneficial and doesn’t lead to low self esteem. For example, one should say ‘I failed to do this ‘ instead of ‘I’m a failure’. Once again proving the importance of the words we habitually use to influence our lives in a positive way.

 

  • Mentally visualise how to do something before doing it to form an unconscious habit that takes over whilst actually doing it. For example, mentally swing the golf club many times before actually taking a shot and you will be more relaxed when you actually take the shot. Not doing this can result in you overthinking and letting your brain get in the way of your subconscious – something we have all experienced before!

 

  • It his a lot of the same concepts as Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. Click here now to get this incredible book. One prime example is the idea of: know something as absolutely true and it will become true.

 

  • There is a secret power of imagination that is rarely used by individuals. Practising scenarios in ones mind is guaranteed to have positive effects and assist in ways that one can only imagine.

 

  • Develop a nostalgia for the future. Great advice to stay excited about life. Being excited and having goals to work towards keeps people young. Concentrate on the exciting things in the future. Have goals that get you super excited and know you’ll achieve them – Also, don’t forget to enjoy the journey on the way! 

 

  • You are in control of your thoughts and can choose what to think about at any second. That means if you catch yourself thinking some worrying or negative, (as I was when I thought to write this note!), you can put an instant stop to it and decide to be in the moment, think about a great memory or get excited about the future. We have more power than we realise to change our own happiness.

 

Psycho-Cybernetics = Life Changing

Seriously, it really works! I was feeling quite upset about a personal situation whilst having lunch with a friend, decided fully and immediately that I wanted to be happy, and I was. Don’t ever underestimate your own control.

Thanks again for joining me for these outcries of self improvement. These books really do influence my life in such awesomely positive ways and I hope the hidden gems shine tiny lights of inspiration for you too.

Go work that brain and create a life that you adore,

Jason

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News Feed Eradicator for LinkedIn – No More Distractions!


Written by Jason Nesbitt Topics: Business, Self Improvement News Feed Eradicator

News Feed Eradicator for LinkedIn – The Distraction Saviour

I have been a massive fan of the News Feed Eradicator for Facebook for quite some time.

I loved being able to nip on to Facebook…send my little insignificant post that will change the world and then get back on to the important work that makes me happier and makes my life better. OK, there is a tiny distraction on that Facebook extension – an inspirational quote. Not something I would call a distraction though!

I first heard about the the Facebook News Feed Eradicator on Tim Ferriss’ awesome podcast. I’ve already recommended you check that beauty out. But here is a link to the exact episode that makes the life changing recommendation.

This article would be fairly useless if it didn’t link to the News Feed Eradicator Chrome Extension now wouldn’t it?

icon

Click here now, now…now to check it out, download it and give it a pleasant review.

 

 

So, Why Should The Other Social Medias Be Allowed To Distract!?

After a very long time of using this Facebook News Feed Eradicator, I asked why there isn’t one for the other social medias. Especially the one that I end up trawling through for way too long: LinkedIn.

Yes, it’s great to keep up to date with the business world and find any opportunity you can to connect with people.

But, I personally find business more distracting than my personal relationships. I get so excited by technological advancements that most of the articles on there pull me away from the important task I’m on! Not any more! Not with Mr News Feed Eradicator for LinkedIn.

 

Why Do We Get Distracted?

There is no point playing the blame game as it’s really not your fault that you get distracted. We have a very limited amount of concentration and as soon as it has been drained…it’s gone for the day!

Everything on our screens is made with the full interest of trying to grab our attention. The colour of the boxes, the pictures that appear…everything! You wouldn’t believe the amount of work and split testing that goes into research like this as well.

I can honestly say that they succeed…if you let them! So why not get the upper hand and remove the distractions completely. Remove your news feed and there is no way that those pretty little pictures and words can distract you.

Give it a go, and I promise you won’t look back. As always, please leave a comment and let me know your thoughts! Perhaps you feel a little distraction is good?

All the best,

Jason McNesbitt from the Nesbitt Web Conglomerate

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