Learn to Code: Tips for Designers (Part 2 of 2)

Learn to Code Quick Tips

Ok, so you’re convinced. A solid grasp of some HTML/CSS and Javascript will serve you, the designer, well.

Where, then, do you begin? We asked our very own front-end developer and designer guru, Bryan Garvin, as well as friend of Go Media, web designer, developer, and founder of Girl Develop It, Jen Myers, for some tricks of the trade.

Bryan Garvin, ladies and gents...
Learn How to Code with Bryan Garvin. Beard Not Required.
Jen Myers: web designer/developer, teacher, speaker, kicks code ass
Jen Myers: web designer/developer, teacher, speaker

1. Overcome your fear.

Where to start when you’re facing what appears to be a Mount Everest of information? Jen Myers suggests that you, “start small and put it in the context of what you already know. If you work purely in graphics, practice building your mockups in HTML/CSS instead. If you are familiar with HTML/CSS, it’s not much of a stretch to start working with JavaScript. You don’t necessarily have to start with programming fundamentals and work up. In fact, most designers tend think visually and holistically, as I do, and so starting with the big picture and drilling inward can be a more comfortable way to approach code.”

Girl Develop It    Learn to Code

2. Fight stereotypes.

Let’s face it, as Jen notes, “Women are indeed the minority in the coding world, but a lot of good people are working to change that.”

How do we go about it? “The easiest way to find a supportive learning environment,” she recommends, ” is to locate one of the many organizations who offer classes aimed at women. Or, start an organization like that yourself. Three years ago, I wanted something like this and I ended up founding the Columbus, Ohio chapter of Girl Develop It, which now has sixteen chapters in different cities and more on the way. There is also RailsGirls, Railsbridge, Ladies Who Code and Women Who Code. You can also start out doing some classes online at a place like Skillcrush.

“There are also many individual women working in code today who care about improving the coding landscape and bringing more women in. Don’t be afraid to ask them for advice or mentorship. We’re all here to help each other.”

3. Recognize Life Beyond Dreamweaver.

“Many schools still push using Dreamweaver,” notes Go Media front-end developer and designer Bryan Garvin, “And sadly, a lot of those schools are using outdated versions of that software. This industry is always evolving, so attaching yourself to something that is static in time won’t give you the best path to continuing to evolve with the world around you.”

“Dreamweaver looks nice and gives you the “easy” WYSIWYG editor. I started there, so I’m not going to tell you not to open it up, play with it, and see what it does. But, at the end of the day, spending the time to learn the code instead of learning the software that creates the code will give you the ability to design and develop regardless of what device you’re working on. And, that will also give you the ability to continue to code and work with new technologies and techniques, which may or may not be supported by Dreamweaver six months after you bought it.

Go Media is primarily a PC-based company and we code all of our sites using Notepad++.

4. Learn Responsive Design, it’s the future of web coding.

“We design our sites to be responsive, therefore accessible and usable on any device. During the early wireframe/prototype phase, we walk a client through how the responsive framework we use reacts to the changing width of the viewport. We organize and prioritize every content area on a page with a client and help them understand that on a phone, people can still access all of their content, even if it looks “different” than on their PC.”

“You can read the pros and cons to moving to responsive designs and frameworks through sites like Smashing Magazine, Mashable, A List Apart, and even Forbes. But the fact is, more and more people are using devices other than a 1600px-wide monitor. And more and more people aren’t going to sites to look at your graphic design. They’re there for content. You aren’t just designing something to look at and hang on their wall. You’re designing something people can use, interact with, and experience while consuming the content that is within your design. Your design is a piece of the puzzle and should always help a user get where they want/need to go, not distract and take precedence.”

5. Create and Team up on Side Projects.

Jen has been successful learning by way of side projects.  “Usually the way I have learned, and continue to learn, new things related to coding is to create side projects that interest and engage me – and that I don’t know how to do. For example, when I wanted to learn more about building applications from back to front in Rails, I came up with an idea for an application I wanted, namely, an application to track articles and blog posts I was writing. Then the learning happened naturally as I worked to figure out how to make it and because I was excited about what I was making, I was able to stick with it. Many years ago, I first started learning HTML and CSS by creating my own personal website and that has remained my playground for testing out new skills.”

“Another trick for designers to learn code is to team up with a developer on their own side project. Most developers are eager for design help and are willing to mentor, especially in exchange for some design advice for themselves.”

6. Don’t Rely On What You’re Being Taught Now.

“One last bit of advice is to not depend on, or expect that what you’re learning in school right now will be how you’re designing and developing five years from now. Don’t be afraid to step out of that comfort zone, get cuddly with Google search, and keep your mind open to new techniques, resources, trends, and technologies. There is something new in our industry every other day. And the beauty of our industry, a lot of that ongoing education is freely available and shared from one designer and developer, to another. So get involved and get to work.”

Jen sums it up best, “Keep in mind that the world needs more coders and coders need more people with new perspectives. Not only can coding offer opportunities and benefits for your own life, you can bring experience and qualities to coding that will make it a better, more productive environment for everyone.”

Good Luck!

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Read More:

Designers: Learn To Code: Here’s How to Start! on Fast Co. Design by Scott Sullivan
10 Places Where Anyone Can Learn to Code on TED Blog by Jessica Gross
The 7 Best Ways to Learn to Code on Venture Beat by Devindra Hardawar
Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me When I Was Learning How to Code on Medium by Cecily Carver

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