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Designer trying to be a programmer - good move?

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  • Designer trying to be a programmer - good move?


    I'm hitting a bit of a brick wall here. The design company I work for (10 staff, 4 designers) is trying to expand it online offering, and the designers have been asked to design & build a fully content managed website. The website must be a social hub where people can share information, comment on blogs, register as a user, upload information, and include Twitter feeds, word clouds, flickr feeds, etc etc.

    We have basic experience of building websites using CSS and Dreamweaver, but no experience of PHP, databases or anything else to do with programming a content management system.

    I have looked at a couple of options:

    JOOMLA - Ok, but limits the design in that the easiest way would be to use a pre-built template and modify it, and many of the 'modules' are designed by others and I'm limited on how much I can style them. Building a bespoke template from scratch seems to be a minefield.

    CONTRIBUTE - good for editing basic websites but not database driven.

    Admittedly I am a designer, not a programmer and do not especially wish to become one. I'd like to know how other design companies go about doing this - do you have an in-house/freelance programmer that does it all for you? Do you design AND program? Should I bite the bullet and attempt to be a designer and a programmer too?

    Any thought greatly appreciated!


  • #2
    try Expression Engine...Once you learn html/css it is pretty easy to implement the Expression Engine CMS into a template you've created.


    • #3
      I think it easily can go both ways - a designer who has the knowledge and comfort to program when needed is always going to feel a bit more secure in their jobs - but ultimately - one person cannot be great at everything. The company I'm with has it's team of programmers and it's team of designers. Occasionally tho, when the programmers are backed up, the designers have to suck it up and figure it out.
      - Jen

      "You cannot soar with eagles if you surround yourself with turkeys"

      My blog


      • #4
        Drupal is, AFAIK, a more community-oriented CMS.

        I'm utterly confused by your post. You are building a CMS from scratch? Or you are using an existing CMS to make a website?

        limits the design in that the easiest way would be to use a pre-built template and modify it, and many of the 'modules' are designed by others and I'm limited on how much I can style them. Building a bespoke template from scratch seems to be a minefield.
        I'd be a bit concerned hiring your company to make a website if your designers hadn't made a CMS template before. If I'm reading this right, your company is trying to make use of assets it doesn't have. If they're mostly a print agency and they're trying to expand into websites, they should probably hire someone who thinks this project is a cakewalk.
        Swedish Meatball Pornography


        • #5
          I would recommend hiring a programmer. Not only do you need the website made but what about maintenance and service? Can your team be effective designers and be tech support?

          You can only offer the design service but why would a company go with you when there are companies that offer full service? Sometimes it's all about the ROI.
          *sings* "I am slowly going crazy switch. Slowly crazy am I going switch"


          • #6
            Thanks all for your replies and suggestions.

            MikeTheVike: Thanks, I'm just in the process of giving that a go, seems a lot more 'designer' friendly so far...

            Cre8tivDirector: Thanks, it would be ideal to be well versed in both and that would be a long term aim. At the moment we're looking for a short term solution so a programmer is probably the way forward.

            vanishdesign: Sorry, mybad wording. We're either looking to build from scratch or use a more community orientated CMS. I agree, hiring someone out seems to be the way forward.

            CCericola: Thanks, I never even considered tech support. All good info to move forward with.



            • #7
              Its in your best interest to hire a programmer or developer. A designers application logic will be equal to that of a programmers visual communication ability. Moving some code around is one thing but writing functionality is an entirely different beast. A task best suited for someone who knows programming and web application/site patterns well. Just as branding, packaging, etc would be be best suited for a designer, not a programmer. Although, if you will be using a pre-existing CMS you could probably get away without a programmer so long as someone knows some CSS and HTML. However, building a custom CMS is not something to tackle without an in-depth understanding of application/db side code and methodologies. Using a existing CMS without knowledge of application code just comes down to your stuck with what you have. Where as when you build your own the sky is the limit and it can be sculpted/optimized to your needs. With many pre-build content management systems writing functionality that otherwise isn't supported by the core results in a hackish solution. It just depends on what your goals are here.
              Last edited by tZ; 09-10-2009, 09:02 PM.






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