Angela P Ricci Angela P Ricci

Letter to a Web Designer

Dear Web Designer fellow,

we can no longer deny that we are part of the world of the front-end development.

Should you be afraid of admitting it? No, you should not. And you must not be afraid of those real developers either, for we are not invading their territory. In fact, dear friend, we are conquering a no-man's land, a place left alone by most developers, by those who blindly face HTML and CSS as being “not real programming languages” (Not Real Programming, John Allsopp).

HTML, CSS, and even Javascript, have been misguided for too long and — dare I say — despised as low-level languages. So tell me, please, who could be more suitable for crafting the structure and semantic of the content, by means of HTML than ourselves? We who work at the service of the content, and therefore understand how to give it a shape, how to reveal it in an inviting and discrete logic? We who are able to embroider this content with HTML needles in such a fine way that would allow it to fix itself with grace and rightness in the canvas of a web page by means of the CSS design?

HTML, CSS and Javascript are part of what we are. And yet, you are still afraid that this truth can deviate you from the creative path or from the so called “user's mental model”. But I assure you, my dear friend, that if only you would willingly embrace the idea that, yes, we should code, you would find the plenitude of what the web design is all about.

I, for myself, humbly believe that it is my most profound duty to understand and to master the technique hidden behind the web design. Can a painter ignore the way he is supposed to handle and mix the ink? Or how much of turpetine he is supposed to add to the oil? Or, yet, which brush hair or brush shape will give him the exact stroke he's needing? Can a painter ignore the tools that allow him to express with plenitude all his art? Of course not. It is this knowledge — and this knowledge only — that allows him to transfer the amazing images he has in mind to his canvas.

You may be telling yourself now that, after all, we are not painters. We are most surely not. Even if we are somewhat artists, our creative process is not about ourselves. Web Designers are fair and powerful “go-betweens”, doing their best to translate the desires and needs of clients into pieces of positive experiences to their users. We have therefore more pragmatism in our craft, and that makes coding more important yet.

Sure we may be clumsy with “fors” and “ifs”, falling in infinite loops now and then while playing with Javascript, but isn't Javascript the very breathing soul of a web page? Oh, it surely is. It is Javascript that allow us to give life to our content and wings to our creativity.

Please don't fear to learn and to try this marvelous language. Know your limits, and push them forward whenever you can. It may not be perfect — It may even have scary oddities — but tell yourself that it is part of the journey because, remember, you know your limits. If what you know of Javascript is enough to reflect your wishes, though awkwardly, it shouldn't be a problem, as long as you don't claim the inner qualities of your script, but instead rely on someone who is able to give it a touch of art.

To master the code is what allow us to control — and at the same time to give wings to — our creativity. It means mastering our environment in a way that will allow us to broad the possibilities of creating great user experiences.

HTML, CSS and Javascript are the tools we need to paint and give soul to our web pages.

We are Web Designers, therefore we code.