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The new year is upon us and if you listen closely, you can hear the sound of resolutions fading into nothingness.

But not yours. This is the year you learn something new. The year you finally figure out what the heck CSS stands for and why developers think those “CSS is Awesome” shirts are so funny. Or maybe it’s time to venture away from your little PSD Raster Pond and use the Vector River to journey into Sketch Lake.

Just Start

Don’t make excuses as to why you haven’t learned that thing you want to learn, don’t doubt, just start. Somewhere. Somehow. After all, doubt has killed more dreams than failure ever did. And if you need reference over why failure is incredibly useful and necessary, please journey over to Your Team Needs Your Permission to Fail.

“If you only do what you can do, you will never be more than what you are.”
— Master Ugway (Kung Foo Panda)

From Designer to Dev

In 2015 I set a goal that I would learn web development. I had dabbled in email campaign development working with… gulp… tables… but never had done any code work for static websites, let alone a site with a CMS behind it. Working at a small agency has big upsides when you want to learn something new. They get to expand services and/or grow from within and you get the time to learn while being on the clock. I did what I could to learn the basics but without having something of significance to build, it was all theory in my mind. Thus the power of learning by doing. The more you do, the more you learn, and if you have deadlines looming, you’re also forced to learn and learn quickly.

That being said, never underestimate how helpful resources like WordPress documentation, a solid framework, and go-to plugins can be. But, no matter what you’re learning, prepare for intense growing pains. It took a lot of swimming around in code I didn’t understand to get to where I am today. And where am I today? Still with a lot to learn and moving forward.

Then there’s the question: Should designers code? And if they shouldn’t why bother learning?

My answer: I don’t know! I believe this is answered on a case-by-case basis. Do you, specifically you, make a good developer and also a good designer? The bottom line is, if the UX suffers because the time spent on dev work, then no, you as a designer should not also code. Designers are natural problem solvers and when time spent solving UX problems is being eaten up by making something work with code, the end product suffers and you aren’t putting your best out there.

Now that I have you confused… This is about learning something new and now I’m telling you not to learn to code. Wrong.

I write a lot less code once I discovered how much better the UX could be if I handed the work off to another dev. But the knowledge gained from learning something new made me a better web designer. Understanding code means better communication and fewer headaches when talking with a dev. We can talk about what needs to be done and I know if I’m asking for something that’s difficult or relatively easy to accomplish.

So don’t hold back. Go learn that thing that makes you a better you. Even if you don’t end up doing it full-time, there’s always value in knowledge.