I need a list of skills that you wish designers had

I’m team-teaching a course at Tri-C in the visual communications department this Fall. The class is for graphic designers, and we go through the experience of meeting with a client, building a prototype web site, revising it, then releasing it on the world, then going back and fixing any post-release issues.

The students all have excellent graphic design skills, but nothing in previous courses covers anything programming-related. The other instructor has the graphic design chops, and that’s really the meat of the course, but they do want to punch up the level of instruction beyond building static HTML into building simple web apps.

I need a short list of skills you wish all graphic designers have. Here’s what I plan to cover so far:

  1. How to use subversion. Probably we’ll use google code.
  2. How to use tools like Fiddler and Firebug to look at page weight and watch the requests go back and forth.
  3. How to check for valid HTML.
  4. How to do some simple AJAX (by hand at first and then later with jQuery).
  5. What’s the terminal in OS X for?
  6. HTTP gets versus posts and what the heck does caching mean?
  7. PHP fundamentals.
  8. I think I’m going to use PHP rather than anything else, but I’d like to hear arguments against that.

    Also, the class lab has a bunch of expensive Mac machines, so if there are really good tools out there, I’d love to hear about them.

8 thoughts on “I need a list of skills that you wish designers had

  1. The most important thing I think designers need to grok is not even a technical issue. It's the concept that design is about total user-experience, not just visuals. I'm not sure if “usability” is within the scope of your class, but if the class is truly within the domain of visual communication, it probably should be. Usually the goal of a web app is not to look pretty – it's to solve somebody's problem.

  2. Hey Aaron, You mean *don't* put stuff inside of nested blockquote tags to make it indent really far?

    I'm not that up on accessibility issues. What are some good pointers there?

  3. Hey Doug!

    Yeah, I think that's really well said. I'll probably start with that point. I'll probably even just copy-paste your text verbatim.

  4. I think at least the biggies, like

    “Don't make your site navigation an imagemap”
    “Put labels and titles on images”

    I'm not saying we need everything to be section 508 compliant (http://www.section508.gov/), but it even helps to consider “what happens if someone has javascript disabled”, or even “what happens if someone's on a slow-ass mobile connection, and doesn't get all the css or images loaded?”

  5. And while I'm thinking about it, how bout some basic SEO optimization/consideration? Not trying to game the spiders, but doing things that help them know what a site is about. Dovetails nicely with my previous comment about semantic markup.

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