posted on:February 8, 2008

What would you rather do design or code

design vs code

There is a term “Css Designer”. It describes a person who designs for web and is able to code that same design into a standards compliant document. That kind of person must not only have good graphical skills but also be knowledgeable about web technologies and web standards. All in all, the perfect person to hire if your budget is tight and can’t afford to pay for a team of specialists.
The daily routine of css designer includes variety of tasks from brain storming over patterns and colors to dealing with css hacks. If you are such a person, you know what I am talking about. It’s the variety that makes it all interesting plus the fact that you are able to work on all aspects of product and complete it yourself.
But, what would happen if someone ask you to choose, design or code? What would you say?


I was first introduced to web through design. At the beginning I wasn’t aware of all the traps of designing for web but in time I have learned to respect the pixel. Now I am very content when I receive design only tasks. I put on some music and let myself go… But would I do only that for ever and ever?


  • You are in position to create something beautiful and put it in your portfolio with a smile on your face
  • You can take a liberty of designing something really complex, something you wouldn’t normally do if you are coding it yourself
  • Your hourly rate can be pretty high if you work fast
  • Your momma CAN look at your work and say “Wow, that’s nice”


  • Clients sometimes have poor taste, and they insist on things that you wouldn’t do if your life depends on it
  • Working with lousy material (logos, images) provided by client, and expected to create “the best design on the planet”
  • Endless turnarounds, no matter how good you follow your client’s instructions, there’s always something else he can think of in the last minute.
  • No matter how good you are, there’s always a possibility of your design being rejected
  • Most clients want originality, so you have to come up with something new almost every time you hit the drawing board


Every css designer or front end coder feels good when he/she creates a valid product, accessible and viewable in all browsers, with cool print style sheet… You can’t imagine that there are people out there that still code in table based layouts, not having a clue why is it so wrong.


  • If you are good, there’s no way that your work can be rejected
  • You can easily calculate how many hours you are going to spend on certain project
  • You instantly receive an “expert” status if your html pages look the same in all browsers
  • Don’t have to be extra inspired to do a good job, your knowledge can work on auto-pilot
  • Clients never interfere in what you do
  • You can reuse code over and over again


  • Looking at code alone for a visually creative person can be tough
  • Only the fellow coders know exactly how good you are, others can only guess
  • Your momma CAN’T look at your work and say “Wow, that’s nice”

Your thoughts?

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Comments (37 Comments)

  1. crs
    February 8, 2008

    So true article! Being a person like the one described above, i can't still chose between coding and designing.I cannot chose between the pros of thr one versus the other.
  2. Hugo
    February 8, 2008

    Love the pros and cons. I definitely prefer the coding side, but in the overall both sides are comparable. Maybe the coding gives more work, but designing is not easy too. As you stated the coding part is ungrateful, and might be overrated. Most of the clients only cares about how pretty the site is, and not about the working site.
  3. Ivan Nikolic
    February 8, 2008

    Nice comparison... Can't really decide, somewhere between, designing is very hard if you are trying to achieve true originality, but coding can be PITA (:)) when it comes to making site look exactly the same in all browsers and in the same time making it valid and standards compliant.
  4. Paul Sayre
    February 8, 2008

    You nailed it. Showing your mom, while it is mostly an analogy, is exactly the difference in respect. While making a recursive lambda function in JavaScript would impress a few colleges, a good, clear design can gain respect from people with no professional knowledge. The goal of a good design is to make it clear to everyone at first glance. Code simply doesn't work that way.
  5. qeek
    February 8, 2008

    I enjoy doing both. Both can be equally frustrating though.
  6. Fredrik W
    February 9, 2008

    I'd go for coder, because you can more easily evolve into other areas of web development, like back end programming. This is, obviously, only a personal point of view, but I also suspect that coders may have an easier time to "roll up the corporate ladder", thus getting more responsibility and a bigger pay-check ;)
  7. The_Jist
    February 9, 2008

    I just landed a job as a coder after leaving an "All-rounder" job for a small start-up, and I can agree on two points of the "Coder" cons; I get really sick of looking at code, and ironing lt IE7 bugs all day. The other point; my parents haven't the foggiest what I do...
  8. Ptah Dunbar
    February 9, 2008

    There are a few pros and cons that are on point, but some of them aren't exactly accurate. Being a developer, I know for a fact that clients DO interfere in the coing process. They can be very picky, or unsure of what they want which may cause countless hours of revisions. And nowadays, I don't think you'll recieve "expert status" coding html standards compliant, that's a basic requirement. just my 0.2
  9. Peter
    February 10, 2008

    Everything what you do is boring after while. The best solution is to swap from designing or coding after doing one of them few weeks. If you don't have a chance to mix tasks you working on, look for something completely different in your free time. Things such as gym, sport, movies or other hobbies can give you the extra energy. The last thing you want to do when you come home from coding work is to sit at the computer and code and style eg. forms:-)
  10. cssglobe
    February 10, 2008

    Ptah, clients create last minute alterations to layout and design, not the code. Nobody will come to you and say "your image replacement sucks, use this one...". So as long as revisions are done prior to coding, you are home free. Once you receive solid specification you can do it any way you like. As for "expert" status, I used quotation marks, and it meant to be sort of an ironic observation. I have a lot of friends that still code with tables, and to them I am like an alien or something...
  11. cssglobe
    February 10, 2008

    I forgot one comparison between the two and that's cleaning up after someone else or working with someone else's files... If you ever coded and tried to fix someone's mistakes you know what I am talking about. I'd rather be a designer in that case.
  12. cssglobe
    February 10, 2008

    @Peter: I agree with you, choosing just one is like choosing what meal you're going to eat for the rest of your life. No matter how tasteful it will get boring. But the questions here is "What if?" :) What meal would you eat for the rest of your days? :)
  13. 3kolone
    February 10, 2008

    in most cases I don't do design only coding and that's fine as you said you don't have to deal with clients what can be realy frustrating sometimes you meet a client you wish you didn't :-) but sometimes when I do freelance jobs I do the design too, so I realy enjoy it when is creative work or when you can work free with no boundaries and client is happy with work you have done - then your mom realy can say "wow this looks nice" :-) ... it's a kind of break from coding - but in most cases I prefer coding, maybe I don't like the design I get from designer but I can put some music and work on auto pilot as you said, work much quicker, earn more money for less work...
  14. niceguy
    February 11, 2008

    I dont hav artistic skills... so uhm... i prefer coding.
  15. Jonno Riekwel
    February 11, 2008

    Very nice Article. I don't think i choose between those two. Love doing both. I hate it when I design something and someone else those the coding. I choose both :)
  16. James
    February 11, 2008

    I enjoy doing both but if you are going to force me to choose I'll go for CSS/HTML. Why? Well, at the risk of sounding like Forest Gump, my mum always said she preferred maths to english at school because in maths there's a right answer (1+1=2 works as does clear:left; and yes I'm ignoring IE for the purposes of this comment). English and design are full of grey area that can drive you absolutely mad if you've got a client with horrific taste, though this can be more rewarding if you get something accepted by a client that you like with a designers eye.
  17. Freddy
    February 12, 2008

    What a question... No one can be good at both! Sorry, thats not possible. You design OR you code. For sure, if you want your site to look like 99.9% of the WEB2.0 websites (purely css) which are made mostly by programmers, you can but there will be no creativity at all. Sorry, but all the news websites are boring these days. Coders, keep on coding and artists, don't code, CREATE !
  18. An Jay
    February 12, 2008

    I am a designer not a coder. I agree with freedy that artist can not code while coder can work on designing tool but cant create any design.
  19. cssglobe
    February 12, 2008

    Huhm, this entire article is dedicated to those that design AND code. I know that there are many here (myself included) that do both and more. Maybe we're not all artists, but we don't produce art here. We do websites. Just as an example, this site is designed and coded by one person. And when I say coded I am not only referring to css. I am also talking about cms that this site is running on. So, I guess it's possible to do both.
  20. David Blanchet
    February 12, 2008

    I also do both and love doing both but i lean toward design. you almost have to be able to do both and do both well now adays, not sure what freddy is talking about, take for example, coded and designed by one person, your comments dont seem to hold much water :D
  21. Jade
    February 14, 2008

    It the push and pull between the art and the science that makes it so unique. I love the challenge of both. If you can do both for a single project, I think it works really well. When you're stretched across multiple projects and clients, I think its best to concentrate on one skill set. Funny how I used to do a lot of both, now I manage people and projects. I have to hold on tight to beloved projects that catch my eye, and make the most to learn new skills. Its refreshing when you do!
  22. Josh
    February 15, 2008

    Awesome article. There are actually three positions in web design though - Designer, Developer (Graphical cut-up, XHTML), and Programmer (PHP, JS, etc.) - the last two are close together, but still different. I'm a developer and a programmer - and rarely venture into the design world - though I love it when I can.
  23. cssglobe
    February 15, 2008

    Thanks Josh for your thoughts. You're right, there are 3 stages, but rarely does one person manage it all. Designer/developer combination is easier to find, as David said, you almost MUST do both well.
  24. Jesper
    February 16, 2008

    That site in the thumbnailheader looks nice, wich is it?
  25. cssglobe
    February 16, 2008

    @Jesper: Thanks :) That's something I designed for a client of mine. Unfortunately, atm, I am not allowed to display entire design.
  26. Adriaan
    February 19, 2008

    Luckily I do both ;) , so if one's cons gets me down, I just move on to the other for a while...
  27. tim
    February 20, 2008

    Spot on with the descriptions .. I do both, but try and stick to just designing as much as possible, however it is sometimes refreshing to be able to hide yourself away from any cliental contact and get to the nitty gritty of slicing and dicing your carfully crafted psd into valid css/xhtml. The only major cons to designing is the dreaded input from clueless clients who are still stuck back in 1999 and don't understand that there have been incredible advancements in UI design / layout etc.. Oh well, back to photoshop :-)
  28. Taylor Satula
    February 20, 2008

    Ma Ma Ma My Momma Says My Code Looks Good
  29. jive
    February 22, 2008

    Depends what I'm doing I suppose. Sometimes I like working on a mockup, othertimes doing the CSS or minor Coldfusion/PHP stuff, other times I like working in Flash. I think having a little variety is nice.
  30. nekomatta
    March 3, 2008

    I do both.. but I'd say I'm more XHTML/CSS coder (and recently baby Rails dev as well) than designer. Fixing other people's code albeit horrifyingly tedious can still be gratifying once you've ironed out ALL the bugs and ta-dah! It works beautifully :D Design however... is pretty much subjective and can swing either way (*cough* I don't design at work because the guys can't stand my girly-organic feel to things) ;x
  31. Josh
    March 10, 2008

    This is a great article, I come from a coding background and still find it hard to get my ideas into photoshop, although my ideas are great, I just don't have the photoshop knowledge nor the patience I am getting much better. Gimmie a texteditor any day!
  32. Jeff
    April 26, 2008

    Nice article! I certainly agree with the cons and pros, however not all, as stated above, are very accurate. I've the privilege to do both, thankfully. I get to design, flash out my photoshop skills, code Ruby, JS etc. I never have to choose and I'm grateful my employee gives me the opportunity to do both! :) If I'd have to choose between either one of them, I wouldn't know what to choose. I'm tired of clients whining about the stuff I've made that THEY have come up with and I'm tired of the ungrateful-ness I'm getting when showing great code. The world isn't perfect ;)
  33. Steven Hambleton
    May 14, 2008

    I love the coding so much I made it a business service!
  34. shawn
    May 22, 2008

    both are frustrating if you got a client that doesn't know what they want.
  35. Mike
    June 18, 2008

    I have to say I love designing more then coding.
  36. Olivia
    June 21, 2008

    I started out loving designing more than coding... and a part of me still does. But I love making a page work how I want it to - creating a page to navigate better, or work in cross-browsers (although not easy!) and I love helping my friends and people who ask me questions, on how to help them with their coding - if only basic. I'm by no means a master, but I'm comfortable enough to do what I want to do - if that makes sense. Coding it is, I believe. Great article however :)
  37. Raphael
    July 27, 2008

    Your list for the coder says: Coders never have to be creative. But I think that really good coders also have to come up with ways of designing their software architecture and code in a clean, standard way. Of course, as I notice at my summer internship at a big software company, anybody can program but few people have the ability to make good software.

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