Response to Homework #1: Code is your friend; No really


Will always be on Blackboard. Check there for them.

On code fear

In a class of this nature, the concerns usually center on: will I be able to code?!?! It is only natural to fear things you’re unfamiliar with. Years ago when I first started tinkering with code I remember having the same fears: isn’t it like math?! I was never good at math!

Let me just respond to these concerns with the notion that code is learnable because it is just a notation system. And like any notation system, with a combination of conceptual understanding and practical application, it can become useful to anyone.

You will also not learn everything there is to know about code in this class. No one class can teach you that. And I’m assuming everyone is starting from scratch.

And if you get stuck: just ask questions ;-).

Code is infrastructure; content and experience is what users care about

I think there is also a natural misconception in classes of this nature that every person who designs for the web is a master of all things code. I can guarantee that in fact that is almost never the case.

In fact, the modern day “web designer” is almost never one person. That position is usually occupied by multiple people (typically more than one person in each of these positions):

  1. A user interface designer or front end developer who uses languages like HTML and CSS to create what users see.
  2. A content strategist who is responsible for creating and delivering robust content to users.
  3. A web developer who uses languages like Javascript and PHP to program the basic functions of a web application.
  4. A user experience strategist or information architect who is responsible for the overall shape of information within a web application.

I don’t know anyone that is all of these things, or that is equally good at all of them. Code is complex, but so is user behavior. As a designer, I’ve chosen to focus mostly on the latter, so I know a lot more about content strategy and user experience (UX) than I know about code.

So: some of you will take to code more than others, but I think everyone should know a little code. If you want to become a full-fledged version of any of the above things, though, it takes years of study and practice.

So: relax, try to have fun, experiment, and don’t worry about getting everything exactly right. And when (not if) things don’t work right, turn it into a learning experience. That’s the best way to gain proficiency in this stuff.

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