In 2010, Aza Raskin wrote a blog post that also touched on the subject.
In May of 2011, Jared Spool wrote the post that really opened up the can of worms.
Interestingly, it isn’t the designers who get to decide if coding is a valuable skill. It’s the hiring managers. And right now, based on today’s jobs market, it’s pretty clear where they stand. Many want to hire super designers—designers who can also code.… those designers who have proven, practiced coding skills can demand a higher salary than those who don’t.
This provoked a flurry of responses. Matt Nish-Lapidus added to the career and team fit aspects that Jared covered:
I firmly believe that in order to do good design the designer must work with their materials. We can’t continue to just make pictures and flat representations of the things we’re designing. There is a time in the design process for making pictures, but it should be about generating ideas and refining them. There is no way to know what your web site, app, or other software, will actually be like without making a realistic version of a working interface.
Jenifer Tidwell agreed with most of Jared’s arguments, but cautioned that “organizations often value coding skills more than design skills. And when that happens, and you have two skillsets, which one do you think will get used more? Yeah.”Nathan Curtis of EightShapes recorded a podcast with UIE around this time, and made a great point about the start-up cost of prototyping.
… once that start-up cost has been paid, whether it’s a day of prototyping or even a four hour chunk here, a six hour chunk there. Then things start to really move quickly. That’s in part because our ability to re-use and re-factor different things becomes a lot easier. As opposed to, “Well, you want to make the header twice as large.” In HTML we just change the height from 50 pixels to 100 pixels.But in a wireframe, suddenly we’re caught going into 16 different files, having to move everything else on the page down, and all of those seemingly subtle changes end up costing a lot, too.
Jack Moffett brought up an important point—knowing how to code increases your scope of influence.
So for me, the ability to code is less about earning “cred” and communication, although I’m sure it has helped with both, and more about dependency and scope of influence. I am less dependent on the abilities and attention to detail of the developers, and I now have greater influence over the entire course of a project. As a result, the final product is better.