It is the rare (and admirable) Web site designer who has mastered both the design and programming aspects of our field. The sheer volume of information and education required to excel at both front and back end disciplines makes these multi-talented individuals increasingly rare. While it is likely that they will always overlap, the art of User Interface design and Information Architecture, and the skills required to bring that vision to life online grow more and more difficult to integrate into a single brain. Gone are the days when a designer could use Photoshop, chop his or her design up, and bring it to life in an application like Dreamweaver. The increasing complexity of back-end functionality and information architecture and design have created two distinct professions from what was, a mere decade ago, one.
The obvious answer is specialization: hand coders are destined to occupy their niche, while user interface and graphic designers are destined to occupy theirs. And the two are, inevitably, destined to work together. And from what I’ve seen in the sixteen years I’ve been practicing my trade, this seems not only a natural evolution, but one that we can all accomplish in relative harmony in the best interest of our clients and employers.
This is not to say, however, that GUI HTML editors are destined to die out, nor does it mean that expert coders have no place for their Photoshop and UI skills. It simply depends on the job at hand: highly complex sites, e-commerce applications, do not necessarily require a professional UI or graphic designer. Likewise, sites that do not require a tremendous amount of back end functionality are easily accomplished by a Web site designer with a focus on UI and visual design skills.
A simple and obvious argument, to be sure. But there is a lesson to be learned from all this banter: coders, keep up a modicum of design and UI skills so that you don’t have to turn to some mercurial designer to build your font end. Designers, know your HTML. At least the basics. Have a working knowledge of Java script, not to mention the assistance a good application like Dreamweaver can provide. The more you can do on your own (and this applies particularly to freelancers) the less you have to delay your project and share profit with your counterparts.