Why Basic Coding Skills are Important for an MVP

I'm not a programmer. But that's not holding me back from creating a web application. (Conveniently, I partnered up with Andrew, a Senior Systems Architect. Best. Decision. Ever. More on that later).

There's been a lot of talk on twitter about non-technical founders and whether we should learn to code or not. It's become quite the argument. One of my favorite posts is from Brian Anderson - What to do while your buddy codes.

I'm hammering away on the non-technical stuff, but I believe there is still a place for basic coding knowledge.

The Value of Learning HTML + CSS

At my last job, I acquired the skill of hacking stuff together. Basically, sloppy code with some duct tape to make it all better.

I spent this past Christmas morning re-learning HTML + CSS. I completed both Codecademy courses in just a few hours. I finally understood classes, id's, margins, padding, and page structure. I'm working on a more advanced understanding, as we speak, but for now, it's trial and error.

How does this help my technical co-founder?

This is where HTML skills really shine. To explain anything to a programmer, they need to see some sort of page-structure. A wireframe drawn in Balsamiq was great for Andrew to understand what was happening, but he needed HTML mockups to bring everything full-circle.

That's where basic HTML skills come in. I mocked up ten pages of HTML (I even tweeted that I hit over 1,000 lines of code in one day. Super proud of myself). It may not have helped Andrew 100% but it at least got him 60% of the way.

My $9 Marketing Site

Andrew was building the back-end, but how the heck were we going to sell this thing? A $9 Themeforest HTML landing page. That's how.When it includes a working sign-up and login form, how could I say no? That's less than a pair of socks.

I threw together the marketing site in less than 48 hours. It forced me to use my working knowledge of HTML + CSS. Note: if you're not up to learning HTML + CSS, at the very minimum, you should learn to read the code.

As we work toward an MVP launch for the end of January, I'm helping Andrew as much as I can. Sometimes, it's best to let him do his thing. Other times, I know he appreciates I can do more than nod + smile.


What about you? Do you have a working knowledge of HTML + CSS, or are you hiring outside work to do it all? Leave a little note for me, would ya?