Programmers are not designers

I had my first exam today. Wooooo. I am glad to have it over and done with, because I’m telling you – that was the first exam I’d done in nearly four years. My bachelor’s degree was very design oriented. My current Master-level degree doesn’t have exams, but it just so happens that my elective/option subjects have exams, so I got stuck with them.

Tonight I had sixty multiple choice questions. They were ridiculous. Overall, the exam was fairly straightforward and I didn’t struggle or panic (hooray!). There were some questions in there that had really silly answers to choose from, or just said really idiotic things that you couldn’t rectify a hundred percent. I wish I could have taken the exam question paper with me, but that would just result in my complaints. I had to go through a lot of questions thinking how ridiculous they were. This is what I dislike about this “internet programming” subject – there is no aspect of design in it; it’s purely technical, so you get asked ridiculously vague questions like the following:

Which of the following is FALSE?

A) Websites should be easy to navigate.
B) Having static navigation at the top of the page does not help the user to navigate easily.
C) The W3C has DOM specifications.
D) Some tags such as <object> can be put in the <head> section.
E) Most commercial websites are made with tables and a number of stylesheets.

Bahhhh, it just annoyed me. It’s really tricky. About 80% of the questions were “which of the following is true/false?” What really makes my brain fry itself like a ticking timebomb is the fact that more than one of these could be the correct answer. I was stuck on similar questions throughout the exam. With many questions, I didn’t hesitate and I just coloured in the correct circle on the answer sheet, but with others, I was stuck like this, because I knew my stuff, but it seemed that the answers were wrong.

So when I went through a question like the one above, this is what went through my head.

A) Duh, websites should be easy to navigate.
B) Um yeah, wrong.

Just before I colour in that circle and decide my answer is B, I read on.

C) Yes… yes it does.
D) What the fuck? You can put some tags in the <head> section, but why the fuck would you put an <object> tag there? Bad, bad, bad example.

Then I realise that what the instructions said were not true. There is not only one correct answer. This is bollocks. The thing is, D is half true, but otherwise completely, utterly wrong.

E) They expect me, as a designer, to think this is most likely true? This is false. Good websites, not to mention good commercial websites, do not use these things called tables; they are semantically incorrect, tables should only be used for tabular data and not for layout, and, and… /angry

I found a lot of other statements scattered throughout the examination paper that flustered me. I even got annoyed at one question that said, “An Imagemap is the way to create a dynamic website”. I wanted to tear the paper to shreds. First of all, imagemaps are oudated. Heck, they were outdated in 2003. That was, admittedly, before I had even learned about them. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I know everything there is to know.

I’m saying that when your lecture notes use screengrabs from Internet Explorer 5 on Windows 98, I really, truly, honestly don’t think you’re teaching your students the right material to begin with. At least, it’s not going to be material that will benefit them in the workplace. It made me squirm hearing my class teacher say in class once, “Java is great… once you master this you can find a good job. People always look for someone to code Java for them. It is used a lot in e-commerce today.”



Unless you’re working with games, it doesn’t quite work that way.

Boo hoo.

No more Java. /bounce

One more exam to go!

Comments on this post

I saw your tweet about this question and I was wondering what the other options were. I would have been totally stuck on that, too. I think the problem with your professor, at least in this subject, is that whole “those who can’t do, teach” mantra. Or, at least, those who DON’T do. My dad is always talking about how, as an engineer, he needs to make sure he is constantly seeking out and learning about new technologies so he can continue to be on-the-ball and keep a job. Your professor is clearly not doing that, nor is whoever designed this class.

This reminds me that I need to prepare that responsive design presentation. ._. I know I could do it at work because it’s for work, but I feel like I’m better off doing it over the weekend at home. :/

I’m sure you did amazingly on your exam, as long as there weren’t too many weird questions that you accidentally put the “wrong” answer because the options were fucked up. I’m betting on at least an 84%. ;)

I bet that question drove you more nuts the longer that you thought about it. :) I think that the problem with professors and classes about programming/design is that they don’t have the time to keep up with all of the latest updates. I admit that they need to do a better job of it, if they are going to teach. However, I feel that ownership of a website/domain forces you to keep up with the latest updates, the latest trends, the latest news so that you can have a successful website.

Ahhh, exams are a load of bullshit. I know 5th year high school exams are nothing compared to whatever university exam you were sitting, but I just find them way too stressful and half the time the papers have flaws in them — apparently my maths exam was too difficult and they’re planning on sending out a public apology because it was unfair, jeez. I just find it unfair that what people get exams can affect the final result, like I think things should be tested regularly and not once at the end of a year because it will never give an accurate representation of skill or whatever. That’s just my opinion but.

But yeah my exams have been over for about 3 weeks now and I’m overjoyed, next time I do exams will probably be when I’m at university as the school subjects I’m doing now are mostly based on folio work which I’m glad about! I’m sure you’ll do fine though, you appear to know alot about website coding and that kind of stuff, I’m a bit of an idiot when it comes to that so I wouldn’t know but yeah, it certainly comes across that way! :D

Goodluck with the upcoming exam and hope that it won’t give you ridiculous questions again! XD

Ha! I had exams like these for four years. I took up Information Technology and almost all my exams, if not programming, is a multiple choice questions. Now unlike others who love them, I dislike multiple choice questions. It gets you confused and most of the time in makes me choose the wrong answer.

But good that you were also to answer the rest.

I had lessons in Java but I can barely remember a thing about that now. I have this thing wherein I forget everything I learned. I guess that’s because I never really learned them – I just memorized them.

Take care, G.

Good luck with your exam! Yay!

Congratulations on getting your exams over with. I’m sure you did pretty well on the test with your awesome skills with the internet and whatnot. Is this a sign of hope that there won’t be many exams in university?

This question reminded me of the question I had to answer for the cyber quest. I hate it when questions are out there to trick and confuse us. But I suppose that’s the “beauty” of exams.

Somehow, E confused me; like you said, good commerical websites don’t use tables! I went on to look at some popular fast food websites and haven’t seen tables being used .___.”!

A couple of years ago, I saw a lot of websites using image mapping… I don’t even know how to use image mapping myself! D:

I’m confused into why lecture notes in 2012 are presented in an IE5/Win98 format.. I mean, XP is understandable, but Win98?! Even our cyber competitions have us go back to Windows Server 2003!!

I don’t want to live in this planet anymore :I.

And good luck with your next exam!

I hate it when I’m doing an exam and I find a question that’s just ridiculous. I had a teacher who made her tests 50% like that. It was a miracle if you scored more than 85% on her tests.

People tend to think multiple choice is easy, but depending on the teacher, it can be confusing.

An exam like that would annoy me a lot, though I think it’s funny that it actually mentioned image maps, haha. People who teach subjects like that really should make sure they keep up with the times and learn the new standards and technologies. Screenshots from IE5 is ridiculous to me. I mean, IE6 is already over 10 years old!

As for Java, there really are a lot of Java software jobs out there, so I actually agree that you can get a good job with a good knowledge of Java ^^;; I don’t like programming in it anymore, but I’ll admit that it was how I learned how to program.

I thoroughly despise exams that have questions that don’t all make 100% sense, where there can be more than one answer. I don’t really think it’s fair, and it often tricks me into second-guessing myself. If there is more than one answer, does that mean all 4-5 answers can possibly be correct? /bash

I had to take my final exams just last week and teachers make questions so confusing. I feel like they do it on purpose. The new trick is to make your answer sheets have continuous streams of the same letter. Your brain doesn’t like the look of 5 Cs in a row — it’s too…coincidental to be right. So you might second guess yourself on some of them and end up getting one or two wrong because the right answers were Cs, the teachers just decided to be tricky bastards.

I hope you did well on your exam, though. 👏 I’m sure you did fine despite the not-so-great teacher. Trust me, I have them. I hate when the material on the test is different than the material we were taught. Sometimes I feel like I should just teach myself. /hmph

I liked the title of your blog and I completely agree with you. Me being more of a programmer than a designer I usually search for the more technical part of the program than the design cuz there is something that keeps nagging at the back of my head when I see a program (a site, a app or anything that runs on a cpu) that though the design is beautiful n all, the coding and the programming actually required by the thing is usually not that appreciated!

Well, I really hate options/elective exams cuz thre are simply boring and that que u listed… it’s really vague!

That windows 98 thing, that pretty similiar to our syllabus here making us learn languages like C in really old compliers like Turbo C…. I mean there are so many better and eyes-friendly (Cuz Turbo C’s background colour is Bright Blue) and still the teachers will force us to use tht stupid thing!

Well, All the Very Best for your remaining papers! (My college reopened this monday, btw)

In response to “this is what I dislike about this ‘internet programming’ subject – there is no aspect of design in it; it’s purely technical,” don’t lose heart! There’s definitely room for creativity when writing programs — designing the data structures, the structure and flow of the program, database schematics, and so on — that might not be directly aesthetically pleasing to the uninitiated, but certainly requires a mind for good design if you hope to make an understandable program. The biggest problem with your experience here is that a test like this, especially a multiple choice one, leaves no room for the creative problem-solving that programming is otherwise all about; it can only test your technical knowledge in tiny disconnected scenarios. Programming with a good eye for design can sometimes be the difference between an unmaintainable mess and a project that’s a delight to work with, so long as you know what you’re doing.

Full disclosure: I say this with a master’s degree in computer science, so I might have a *little* bias. :)

Those tricky questions sure are tricky. 😰 <– That's me when I'm thinking about which is the right answer to those kind of questions. Haha.

It's annoying when teachers advise you to not stay on a question you don't know too long, but when I come around to a tricky question such as yours, it's hard not to pass it up and go onto the next one. It's even more annoying when you get down to the bottom two that you *think* could be right. This is usually the part where I do eeny, meeny, miny, moe. xD

At least you survived such a hellish exam!!

Programming exams are arses to do. I had an exam just like this one and I was on strong medication and I wondered in off my face and actually passed. I was pretty shocked and I remember saying to the teacher. I AM NOT A PROGRAMMER, I AM A DESIGNER!! I so hear you here … But sadly to get the degree, we have to do this stuff.

I also had multiple choice in actionscript exams I did too. /cool

oh crap. You know, I wrote out this long response to this post at work yesterday, ya know, image maps?!? lmao, yada yada and I guess I got distracted and forgot to hit submit :(
Anyway, basically I said I would have no idea how to answer those questions either and I do this stuff for a living, so obviously they’re terrible questions.
But I completely agree with this: “Java is great… once you master this you can find a good job. People always look for someone to code Java for them. It is used a lot in e-commerce today.” Very true, although PHP is on a big upswing for some reason. Social networking stuff maybe? My company’s big on Javascript right now, so I’m taking every opportunity possible to do Javascript stuff. Now that’s a funky little language.

I did say Java and not JavaScript though – the two are nothing like each other. ;)

I know. Right now everything I do and most of everything else is done in Java where I work. It’s hard finding the Javascript projects

but the mobile app stuff in in javascript. they want people to learn javascript, but getting one of the mobile projects is a rarity. i don’t know anyone in my org that’s doing javascript right now,

No more Java! WOOT! Go, Georgie, go! Go kill the rest of your exams!

I hope that Java will no longer be used on the web soon. Java applets are annoying!

I hope that I don’t offend your program and exam too much by saying this, but no course should be teaching material that is out of date, and no question should be that vague and questionable. Actually, my school just refrains from teaching courses that specifically teach you how to use a particular application as much as possible to avoid teaching out-of-date material. If we do teach a course on an application, then they only cover the basics that remain true forever, and then they teach us how to learn the rest on our own. I am really grateful for that approach. (IE5! I thought that IE6 was the one that people were stuck at!)

I am lucky to have never had to face a multiple-choice exam since high school. I hope that I’ll never have to see a scantron form ever again!