Should A Developer Be A Good Designer?

I’ve been a professional software developer now for over 20 years. Building web site back-ends, desktop software and mobile apps. Mostly the stuff no-one ever sees.

But designing a nice look and feel has been a bit of an afterthought.

Bad Design

Take a look at this monstrosity.

Aperio Analyst

Yes, I know. This is an application I wrote some years ago.  It does a lot of calculations under the hood and a great many people rely on it in their business.  But it looks terrible!

Now my excuse is, I built this single-handedly, and I didn’t have access to a dedicated user interface designer, so I just did my best.  A decade ago, I could get away with it, but not any more.

The way I see it is, in 2015, it doesn’t matter how good your code is, if the look of your web site or application is, shall we say, “industrial”.

Better Design

It was this realisation that led me down the path of becoming better at design.  If I can do that well, then not only can I stand out from the crowd, but my customers get a much better product too.

So for the last couple of years, I’ve read up on good design principles, learned how to actually use Photoshop properly, and practise at it.

This is a pricing table mock-up I did recently

Pricing Table

I think this is a lot better than what I could do 5 years ago. Which isn’t hard admittedly.

So anyway, my view is, yes if you’re a developer and want to stand out, have a look at getting better at design.  It’s actually good fun too!

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