Dan Davies{ Front-end Developer }

PSDs killed the web design star

14th February 2014

Ok, maybe not killed but more hindered the web design star. I’ve thought about this for a long while going back a few years. I’ve touched on it before but it seems that it is still a problem worldwide. It’s entirely my own opinion and I’m up for thrashing it out and seeing how we can make things better.

Onwards…

People are obsessed with how things look, especially when it comes to websites. That’s understandable. With so many websites out there, it’s important that yours stands out.

But should it be the leading question? Do they care more about pretty pictures than communicating their obviously important product or service. That’s the reason for the website isn’t it? To promote something, whatever it is.

So why do we spend so much time thinking about how it looks rather than how it works?

Clients expect to see something visual from the outset even if the site itself is merely an idea and nothing has been written down in any document resembling a brief or spec doc let alone anyone having any content.

I get the point to pitch work and conceptual work. To me, it suggests direction, a style or want for a better word, a hint to what could be possible. I am against showing a full mockup though. It’s basically a lie. At this stage, nobody has discussed content, nobody has discussed how the site will function or how the user will get from A to B. All we have is a few glossy coloured boxes probably containing Lorem Ipsum (another issue for another day).

I firmly believe we as web designers are setting ourselves up for a fall showing so much so quickly.

What I think we should be doing is dropping hints of what we can do. Snippets of information to help build an overall picture. I believe the client should be drip fed the design layering up “stuff” as we go.

But that’s crazy Dan!

Is it? I like the idea of breaking a site into components and presenting them bit by bit. This means the final design isn’t going to be some massive reveal that puts pressure on all to A) Like it and B) Get it right. The UX will be considered, the devs will have had input on how things will be built and design will have designed something that complements all them skills.

PSDs take time. Needless time. They eat into budgets. Half the stuff produced in Photoshop never gets used. Why spend so much time focusing on layout when actually most of that work is played out in the browser with HTML and CSS. Why not just concentrate on the bits that make up the page. Type, buttons, colours, widgets and so on. Likelihood is the site will also be responsive. Have you produced numerous PSDs for all the usual breakpoints. What about the bits in-between where the design breaks. You didn’t cater for that did you.

Did you cater for IE, did you cater for no javascript? Probably not.

Did you cater for that neatly laid out box with a name in it breaking because the actual live data meant the name had an extra 8 characters in it and now it looks shit. Probably not. All that nicely laid out Lorem Ipsum on 4 lines now looks a bag of broken biscuits with actual content in.

I think you get my point.

PSDs have a very important role to play in building for the web. It’s just not being used right.

Let’s build style guides. Let’s look at designing the bits that matter. Layouts will vary on device so don’t stress if the boxes look squashed on a Galaxy phone. Work with the devs and the markup to sort stuff like that. You can still do your job sat next to someone watching what they do. I work closely with a designer here. We understand that every discipline has their role to play and it’s about working together to get the result you all want. Yes there are compromises and sometimes, not everyone get’s their way but we’re thinking through the whatifs early on.

But the client wants a PSD

Yes they do. Because that’s what we have conditioned them to think they want. Sadly, it’s a legacy thing. But the web has moved on now. It’s up to us to educate them. Show them how things will work, build trust so they know every detail is taken care of. It might be micromanaging a client, I get that but there will be no surprises at the big reveal if the client has had a role to play throughout.

We can do this. Let’s work together and make more efficient PSDs.

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