No, Everyone Shouldn't Learn to Code

October 2014

No, Everyone Shouldn't Learn to Code

When I used to search for jobs - either office or freelance - I was always saddened by the number of positions that wanted a single person to do both design and development. I'd often wonder if I should work on my design skills. Then I'd laugh because that job posting was for $20/hour.

I am a developer. I write code. I can look at a layout and suggest what may not be working but I can not put together an original design. It's not in my skill set. More importantly I don't want to force myself to be half good at something that I don't like doing.

And then I see this type of Mashable post that says everyone should know html and css. Ugg, everyone? Really? But ok, maybe let's give this reasoning a chance before I shake my fist at this idea.

1. Design an awesome email for your customers

Holy shit. No! Just no. There are so many email clients that display messages in completely different ways that I still cringe when a client needs a html email. Unless you want to use an existing template from MailChimp you are just going to make it obvious you don't know what you're doing. It's not a good message to send to clients.

2. Create a stunning corporate newsletter

I want to cry. So after all the effort of a html email you now need to make an even bigger document with the same information? Why not just link to info on your website? You want customers going to your website.

3. Tweak your company‘s WordPress site

But... the whole point of WordPress is that you can relieve "your overworked web team" by adding content using their wysiwyg (what you see is what you get) editor.

4. Teach your colleague (or boss!) some code

So after you've forced yourself to learn enough html and css to be dangerous and potentially break your site, you're going to offer to teach your boss - who probably doesn't have the time or desire to take on extra tasks - how to bold in html/css?

5. Make your technical team adore you

Is this post satire? The very worst project manager I ever worked with tried to give me code snippets. They were buggy, used out of date methodologies and broke the rest of the code on the site. Hey, how about you do what you're good at and let me do my part.

6. Show off your skills with a perfectly-tuned Tumblr blog

Ok, I don't know Tumblr. Maybe someone could really make their new site great. Or maybe they'll have blinking text everywhere and clashing colours.

7. Build a professional resume site — from scratch!

So you're looking for a job in marketing, sales, dentistry, dog walking. Hey I know! Why don't you spend all that free time and energy making a resume site from scratch by using a skill that has nothing to do with your profession. Why wouldn't you use an existing template? There's a reason there are millions of WordPress themes available.

8. Take your design skills to the next level

OMG what did I just say in the very first paragraph?

9. Start learning more — and earning more!

Before I absolutely lose my shit I'm going to take a deep breath and admit that maybe I got a little defensive about this message before reading the whole article. If you want to learn code, please, learn code. There are so many fantastic organizations - like Ladies Learning Code - that have classes. I've done projects at no cost were I was basically tutoring a coding beginner because I like helping people who want to learn.

My initial angry reaction to this post was caused by the idea that everyone should learn code, if they want to or not.

But please, do me this one solid. If you're going to go in and start changing code, keep a backup of the file before you change anything. It will save embarrassment and potentially hours of hair pulling.