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44 posts tagged design on the web

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.

Self-Contained Experiences

I hadn’t thought of the digital book experience in terms of containment before, but as a designer it is a powerful attribute to recognize. Holding a physical book in your hand, with no other apps and nothing to tap on, makes it a contained experience. By contrast, an electronic book on, say, an iPad is not as contained. I can easily switch to another app or get distracted by a notification. A “webified” book on such a device is even less contained. Hyperlinks, video, notes from other readers: all can add some value to the experience over a physical book, but they come at the cost of focus.

Isn’t there value in designing self-contained experiences, even if the constraints that make it up are self-imposed?

So, something to ponder: just because we can almost infinitely expand a physical experience when we move it into a digital realm, should we? Isn’t there value in designing self-contained experiences, even if the constraints that make it up are self-imposed? In visual design, constraints are one of my favorite tools and I don’t believe that should be any different when designing experiences, digital or otherwise.

It is in this manner that I believe the internet—and most digital technology—is still very much in its infancy. I’m generalizing a bit, but on the whole we—those of us that build the web and software—are spending most of our time trying to add things as we take pre-digital experiences and bring them online. This isn’t bad, but I can’t say it’s unequivocally good, either. We’ll all figure this out over time, but it never hurts to try to lead the charge now.

How Much Design Is Too Much Design?

Khoi has made some great observations in this article, but I disagree with the overall premise. One thing we don’t talk enough about as designers is the difference between design, holistically, and visual treatment. A gorgeous button and “managed” pixels are part of the visual treatment. But that doesn’t actually make the page or app well-designed. We don’t like admitting this to ourselves because it means that we have to admit that things like Gmail, are, on some importantly-functional level, very well (or at least, adequately) designed.

The ability to make something pretty is not the same as the ability to design it well unless the only goal is to make the thing pretty.

WeeNudge

Teach your clients about the mysteries of the web

Paddy Donnelly & Jack Osborne have curated a fascinating (and already growing) repository of articles centered around issues that clients of web design and development services often have: things like the mythical fold, use of whitespace, spec work, and the importance of content.

It’s a great resource. I wouldn’t send a client directly to it—that just seems a little cheap—but if you’ve got a client that has some of these questions and is willing to learn, these are good educational starting points.

(via swissmiss)

Visit the Link

The Local Maximum

Optimizing a design is not wrong by any means. But I think it can be a crutch. A good designer will be able to see when it is time to make actual changes to a design—possibly even start from a clean slate—rather than continue spending time optimizing, with diminishing returns.

On Designers in Silicon Valley

Interesting perspective. I think she might be on to something. I’m seeing more startups either go to a greater effort to include a good designer from the beginning, or, at least, pulling in design talent earlier and giving them actual freedom and authority to make decisions.

I wonder how this will affect agencies that work with startups. Will clients expect an agency that previously was dev-only to now have product design chops too?

Lilly’s Table: Delicious Meal Planning/Recipe Site

People get it, and they’re willing to pay for it. This is exactly the type of response we wanted from people as Lilly and I originally started talking about Lilly’s Table. It’s exciting to see others join on.

Why your design will never be complete…

I try not to work with clients who have this mentality. Often, when the site launches is when the real work is just starting.