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If you were to hire a graphic designer to pretty up your web pages, would you hire him/her if the person has no experience in JavaScript but has a very good understanding of HTML and CSS?

How important is it for a graphic designer to understand web technologies for him/her to be able to perform effectively at their job of prettying up web pages? What is the industry trend when it comes to hiring people to improve the look and feel of the website?

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welcome to GD. To start you may not hire a graphic designer you would look for a web designer. Graphic designers are not required to know web development but the industry is pushing it as a requirement. Web designers typically understand the code and dedicate their design time to developing sites. Also, it would depend what you are hiring the designer to do and you should ask what are their skill-sets. –  Gramps Jun 3 '13 at 18:38
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What if we just wanted someone to just pretty up our fully developed and functional web pages? Whom do we hire? –  Foo Jun 3 '13 at 18:39
    
you would probably look for a web developer that is going to be modifying the code. It depends on the site, whats on the site. Some web designers specialize in coding, too. I cant give you a great answer because I dont know the code, the platform, what your site does or what you are trying to do. –  Gramps Jun 3 '13 at 18:41
    
Its an MVC web application where the view is mostly markup. My take is only CSS and logo changes are required to pretty up the site. –  Foo Jun 3 '13 at 18:42
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"My take is only CSS and logo changes" = a common 'hope' but, frustratingly, rarely a reality. –  DA01 Jun 4 '13 at 2:53
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5 Answers

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Short answer: No, web designers are not necessarily supposed to know javascript. They could just focus on the looks of a site, or the usability. What they do need, however, is an understanding of how javascript works, because they need to design with functionality in mind.

Most web designers do know their way around jQuery, especially the properties that work with HTML and CSS in a more visual way (javascript applied to layout, so to say). And in most cases, this is all you need for a regular site.

However, if your site has complex requirements, needs to work with PHP, ASP, CMS, databases, Ajax or similar, you will definitely need a web developer. While not impossible to find, a designer that also does complex coding (and one that is great at both) is rare.

As I said, I believe in most cases all you need is someone who does good web design and also understands javascript well enough to apply and edit plugins.

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I see in your profile that you are a UI designer. Have you had to do a lot of javascript in pure UI design roles in the past? –  Foo Jun 4 '13 at 1:32
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@Foo My current job is mainly in interface, I use jQuery for web, but only when it's related to the layout and the interaction (not for server stuff for example). It's a general requirement that you understand javascript. But understanding doesn't mean being able to write your own complex scripts. jQuery is used widely now, and because it's not that difficult, most web designers can use it. It was a 'plus' skill in some of my previous jobs. –  Yisela Jun 4 '13 at 1:36
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"Know" is a very ambiguous term.

  1. Someone could "know" enough javascript to be able to see what it is accomplishing and be aware what to edit and what to avoid.
  2. Someone could "know" jQuery, which is javascript, but it's not straight javascript.
  3. Someone could "know" and fully understand how to write complex DOM alterations and interactions with "vanilla" javascript.

A good web designer has a grasp of #1. A better designer may grasp #1 and #2. Few web designers may grasp #3.

The level of knowledge required really depends upon the existing construction and desired edits. Remember "web design" is not "web development" in many cases. Although the lines get blurred, web design is the body shop, whereas web development is more the engine mechanic.

What is required to "pretty up" your site completely depends upon it's current structure and functionality. It is absolutely possible to alter the appearance of a site via javascript and/or jQuery.

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I am (from what I've been told) a bit of a rarity. I am a web developer (professionally) with very high-level creative and UX skills. When I've designed solutions for other developers the one thing that was most appreciated was knowing how to design "flow":

  • Not just what a nav looks like but what it looks like when you hover;
  • What does the sub menu look like aesthetically;
  • How should Item A behave when clicked;
  • The aspect of visited links, flyouts, hover popups, etc.

These are all things that a front-end developer appreciates when they are cranking out the js/css.

So yes, you should have an understanding so you can at least talk the talk but you having to implement a coding solution should not be expected. Your expertise should stop at the very least having a feasible contribution to the conversation outside of your creative passion and bias towards your design.

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A designer should understand the medium they are working in to the best of their abilities.

That said, there are architects that have never swung a hammer yet are lauded for their non-conformist buildings (that I'm sure more than one contractor has regretted building). :)

So...well, it depends. There are a lot of graphic designers that have never touched anything but PhotoShop. There are a lot of graphic designers that can use PhotoShop, build a PHP site, integrate a JS Library, and write all the presentation layer code.

Both are valid skill sets.

All that said, if you hope to be more of a UI designer than Graphic Designer--then I do think it's imperative that you understand the basics of JavaScript as JS is really the engine that creates the interaction layer. A huge part of web UI design these days is designing the details of the interaction--figuring out how long the fade is, which keyboard controls work against it, what touch vs. click will do, what is the hover state, error states, edge cases, accessibility, etc. This isn't possible with PhotoShop alone and one has to eventually get dirty with code to get into those particular details.

As for your follow-up question:

What if we just wanted someone to just pretty up our fully developed and functional web pages?

If the site is fully developed, it's not a matter of 'just prettying up'. There's only so much one can do AFTER the fact. Maybe swap out some images--maybe tweak the CSS. But ultimately the extent of what can be changed is going to be at the mercy of the existing presentation layer and you're going to need someone that fully understands it to even know where to start.

In the future, it's best to handle your visual design while the presentation layer is being developed--not afterwards.

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YES is the short answer. Javascript is part of the user's frontend experience together with HTML and CSS. Although, a mastery of javascript is not needed, as mentioned above, but an appreciation for as many web technologies as possible is a must.

Knowing a little of a lot will prevent you from writing hacky code, better communicate with techies and clients alike and generally inform your designs (as your know that CSS3 includes all the cool stuff you want to do in your head etc...)

So learn, keep learning, and never work with any "web designer" who hasn't touched code before, they simply don't know the restraints and possibilities of the medium.

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