The Most In-Demand Programming Languages for Web Designers

If you want to be a web designer who can create a number of deliverable types online, you’ll eventually need to learn some programming. That’s a very general proposition, however. Below we’ve laid out a few markers that can help to guide you in choosing the most practical programming languages for designers. First we look at good programming languages generally, and then most into programming languages most important to learn for providing visual experiences online (front end development). Another way to figure out what languages you would like to focus on is to look through some introductory learning materials and try out some challenges. You may find yourself a natural with scripting languages, or object-oriented programming, or you may find that languages related to the layout of pages grab your attention. Some great resources for absolute beginners include the completely free CodeAcademy, which has helped 24 million people begin their coding experience, edX, founded by Harvard and MIT, which offers 60 schools and GitHub, which gives you access to 500 free programming books that cover 80 different languages.

Programming Languages to Consider for Beginners

Experienced designers say it’s much better to extensively learn one programming language rather than sampling a few. Three languages known for their multi-faceted applications, consistent utility and accessibility to beginners include Python, Ruby and JavaScript. Python was developed in the 80’s, and is considered the easiest coding language to learn. It’s free, open source, and most often classified as a scripting language. It’s one of the most common programming languages used today, and is utilized constantly by Google, Yahoo! and NASA, and more. Ruby is also a beginner-accessible, oft-used scripting language. It’s dynamic, object-oriented and used to develop websites and mobile apps. Ruby was designed by Yukihiro Matsumoto to be easy, logical, and require little knowledge of commands. Ruby on Rails, helped expand its usefulness for the web, and was used to make Twitter, Groupon and GitHub. It’s used frequently for backend development. JavaScript (not Java) is most often a client-side scripting language for front-end development. It’s the most frequently used programming language to make websites and games on the Internet. Much of its syntax comes from the programming C Language, another great option to learn as a beginner. JavaScript is universal, it’s in your browser and runs on all platforms. Anything you want to build on the web will require some knowledge of JavaScript. If you do have experience, it’s time to move towards more advanced programming languages that will allow you to earn more money and qualify for a multitude of job offers.

The Most Lucrative Programming Languages

In 2016, edX wrote about jobs that required designers specializing in different languages. Some of the most sought after included SQL (150,000+ job openings and an average salary of $92,000), Java (46,000 job openings, $102,000 average salary), Ruby (8,100 job openings and $105,000 average salary, Python (15,200 job openings and $102,000 average salary, Swift (1,500 job openings and $111,000 average salary), and more. While these numbers are predominantly referencing developers and not designers, there are a growing number of interdisciplinary roles that integrate design and programming skills. Many marketing positions and UX/UI design positions will be required to have good design basics, aesthetic sense, and technical proficiency. One thing that can be said about the salary numbers above is that there are shortages of talent in all of those areas, and for every worker who knows those in-demand languages, many fewer will also be able to integrate design know-how into their creations.

Programming Languages Most Used in Design

While some super versatile designers may also have full stack developer skills, most designers will at least initially want to focus on programming languages and technologies related to the visual presentation of design on the web. Known as “front end” development skills, some of the most common programming languages used by designers may be found below.

  • PHP: Also known as Hypertext Preprocessors, this is often used on data-heavy websites and in app development. PHP is an open source language used to make WordPress sites. WordPress is the content management system that powers some 70% of sites online. If you’re looking for ways to work with databases and content in your design, PHP is a great language to get to know.
  • HTML: The ubiquitous markup language for creating and organizing content online. HTML, CSS, and Javascript are the trifecta of front end development.
  • Javascript: A jack-of-all-trades language with many frameworks built on top of it. Javascript is most commonly used to provide interactivity on sites, though may also be used to create entire apps or manage large sites. Like CSS, it has animation libraries that can cut down on designers and developers work and time, while creating sleek, responsive animations. One of its libraries, D3, creates dynamic interactive data for web browsers, and is being used on hundreds of thousands of websites currently.
  • CSS: It stands for Cascading Style Sheets. It’s closely related to HTML and specifies the layout of websites, pages and applications. It offers animation libraries that help replicate programs like Flash, Silverlight or After Effects, but within CSS.
  • Flash: Allows the creation of multimedia animations for games, applications and embedded video players. It ca create animations, video games, applications and more.

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