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The Era of Code

Or, rather, The Dark Ages of the Web

Frontend coding is a waste of time.

Something I’ve said privately for awhile, but I guess I haven’t been brave enough to post publicly: frontend coding is a waste of time. I know, audacious, right? But it’s true. I’m a designer who can code (full stack no-less, not only frontend) and while I highly value writing good frontend code, and often go to painstaking lengths to do so, it’s the most base level part of my process, and most in need of a replacement or alternative.

Let me explain

With few exceptions, a finished design in InDesign or Illustrator is ready for the press. This is not true of a finished web design in Photoshop.

I have a background in print design. In print, as I’m designing, I’m also creating/producing. With few exceptions, a finished design in InDesign or Illustrator is ready for the press. This is not true of a finished web design in Photoshop. I’ve started achieving the same parity in my web work, but only by designing in the browser, with live or prototype code. This process is quicker than the normal Photoshop > Frontend Code route, but it’s still a far cry from the direct creativity-to-production efficiency a print designer is able to achieve.

The Enlightenment

The web is also becoming more complex. Do you really envision hand-coding complex CSS animation, with gradients, and 3d transforms, and other whizz-bang features in a production setting? Sure, it’s fun to experiment, but when it’s your clients dime for the amount of time you spend on a project, with deadlines staring you in the face, you’ll end up simplifying the pitch—likely before you even talk to the client, let alone at their behest. Is that a good reason to constrain ourselves from using some of the amazing new features we have in our toolbox?

Youthful Indiscretion

I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re among the last of a generation of web designers who hand-codes all or most of our design work.

The web is young. Someday we’ll look back on this period in the web’s history and realize how little control we had over design, how underpowered our rendering engines were, how rudimentary hand-coding was, and how much work it took to get from idea to clickable execution. It won’t happen overnight, but the tools will continue to evolve. While the end result may not look exactly like InDesign for the web, I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re among the last of a generation of web designers who hand-codes all or most of our design work. After all, I’m sure somebody hand-coded some of the first postscript to ever make it’s way through the first digital plate-maker and onto a press.

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