It’s worthwhile to revisit the necessary distinction between “programming” and “coding”, as the two are constantly, erroneously conflated in discussions among the general public – and even among technical professionals.


There’s a difference between Application Programming and Information Coding.

Information Coding … applies meaning

At its most basic level, coding allows us to communicate with each other.  “This-means-that” is essential to any interaction.

Application Programming … makes things happen   

A program does things.  The programmer uses a unique “code” (the programming language) in order to make the computer do its dance for us.



The DaVinci Code


The DaVinci Program

I know a bunch of fine application programmers who shouldn’t be let anywhere near information code (like HTML, CSS, or semantic tagging).


Here’s an object lesson in “the reason why”

kpmg-templateIt was a  project in which I performed a CSS and Template ‘code cleanup’ for a SharePoint environment that had become extremely effed-up.

Programmers and non-tech managers had made individual, opportunistic, slapdash changes … but without any appreciation for clarity, consistency – or a sense of larger implications.

This SharePoint site had grown to 60 template files, 96 WebPart files, and more than 2600 CSS tags.

The pages themselves  looked okay on the surface, but the content within them and the connections among them had become unmanageable.

The environment had become a Tower of Babel

Shown is a screen capture of part of my working process.  Color-coding identifies program code that was redundant, extraneous, inefficient, could be captured as a module, was inaccurately named, etc.  I used the color-coded map of patterns as a guideline to solutions.

The Result of the Code Cleanup

… was working tools – in the form of SharePoint templates, CSS, and webParts – which could now be managed and used efficiently.

Hey, it’s an important job (the coding of HTML, CSS, semantic tags, etc.).  And somebody‘s gotta do it.

No offense to my good friends the Programmers, but many of them don’t know how to “code” information, in the sense of content management, semantics, tags, information architecture, or page self-awareness.

Nope. In terms of practical skills, discipline, and job description – That’s the realm of … information architecture and UX.


Net/Net: Programming is what developers do. Coding is what we UX-er’s do.


(c) copyright John Vaughan / The Communication Studio