Why Web Designers Can’t Live Without Photoshop?

Posted on September 21, 2011 by
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The Internet is affected by occasional waves of change. Smartphones and tablets are re-defining the way we access and use the Internet, while CSS3 and HTML5 promise a new future. Many people have attempted to dethrone Photoshop from its current position as the leading application used in Web design. If it happens, it would suggest a fundamental shift in the web design industry. Although the proposed successors are worthy, the propaganda is convincing and the cause is justified, the underlying thoughts are flawed.

They argue that Photoshop produce inflexible final products. You can create impeccable designs with Photoshop, but after a grueling works, you’ll end up with static mock-ups. On the other hand, CSS3 and HTML5 mock-up require no explanation; they already represent the final product.  They can take advantage capabilities of modern browsers such as animation, progressive enhancement and fluid layouts. Photoshop simply can’t do it.

Disadvantages of Photoshop approach are more apparent when both methodologies are compared even closer. Text rendering on Photoshop can’t be compared with modern browsers. Instead of hunting down all instances inside a Photoshop document, CSS can make the updating similar elements very easy. CSS also allows you to easily perform structural changes on a website. Of course, you shouldn’t overlook Photoshop’s tendency to crash, when you work with the “Save for Web” feature. The benefits of mark-up are significant and Photoshop can’t offer any of them. Many web designers believe that mark-ups generated by Creative Suite are rather unusable and atrocious. But, why Photoshop is still considered as the most essential tool in the web design industry? First, you should consider the creative process in web design.

Creativity requires a process. People think that artists and web designers simply snap their fingers to open the floodgate of their creative goodness, but they know better. It often takes hours or even days of deep thinking to come up with a good solution. Often, they don’t find the suitable solution until they have bumped into many dead ends. Essentially, they need experimentation and time to crawl their way to the project goals and find a good way to communicate with things that need to be said. Experimentation is essential for creativity. Without experiments and mistakes, the brain simply chooses what it believes as the best, safest route and the results are often as mundane as the processes behind it. Many successful web designers start their work on paper; they look for possible solutions by creating thumbnail sketches. These sketches often work as jumping-off points. Although pen and papers by no means can substitute mouse and monitor, creativity is often boosted when web designers use non-digital tools. Photoshop is critical for web designers, because it can effectively extend the creative thoughts that were started freely on paper. Photoshop can also provide direct connection to visual elements without being troubled with technical executions. Put differently, it accommodates visual processing. Web designers can use Photoshop as a blank canvas, on which anything is possible; it is simply a playground for experimentations.

For web designers, visual language is their medium. It is a subconscious language, which can convey information and ideas that spoken words can’t. Good designs rely on fluid, open dialogue between the medium and the designer. Improper tools will interfere with the dialogue, which may distort the messages and impede the process. However, working with mark-ups can create a disconnect between the dialogue and the medium. Ideas and thoughts no longer flow freely onto the computer screen and to make computer understands what the designer is thinking, the ideas must be translated to a specific computer language. This methodology calls for plenty of interpretation, and it can inevitably dilute the strength of the idea. A chain of translation can introduce latency into the process, compromising design and killing experimentation.

We see truth clearer in extremes. Say, you’re a web designer who is developing a huge website. If you are like most web designers, you would take a pencil and paper to sketch the interface and work your way into digital tools. Eventually, you would end up with a mock-up and this process can give you better feel for the whole project without waiting for the programmers to finish the codes. It would be preposterous for web designers to go out buying the domain name, write the code and then slap up their designs. It is the analysts’ and coders’ responsibility and often everything begins after the design is completed.

Designing a website directly with mark-up is like working directly with codes without a blueprint. Your client should understand that mock-ups are not meant to be the final product and this understanding could benefit them, because clients can get an idea how the website would look like even before it is developed. It allows them to make changes before the development process begins and before they have invested significantly in time and money. Moral of the story: you shouldn’t play coder, when you are a web designer. Of course, it is advisable for designers to know a thing or two about programming, but often you should stick with your job.

Although mark-ups can provide better experience for clients, you still need Photoshop for the design process and ridding it from your toolbox might prove disastrous. You need to amalgamate your tools instead of changing your methodology. You should have tools that can support your creative process which can still give you the subtleties of the medium.

Modern WYSIWYG editors are useful, but they are still often off the mark. Photoshop is essential because it allows us to create and work with DOM elements. Of course, tools that are meant to convert visual elements to codes may eventually fail in the semantic realm. Because computers are monolingual, people still need to do the translation. But, do we really need perfect semantic code if we are only creating mock-ups? You should accept the fact that you’re not crafting the real product and you can’t spit out CSS and HTML codes directly for mock-up process. Once a design is approved, coders can start the real construction.

Until our old paradigm is changed significantly by a killer new app, Photoshop still reigns as the best tool in the web design industry. Although, it can’t speak too fluently to our medium the way web designers wish it did, Photoshop proves itself valuable when it comes to the design process. Photoshop can provide a virtual experimentation playground and removing it from the process will cause more harm. People, who switch to the mark-up methodology, should be aware that they are sacrificing a good deal of creativity for the sake of a few browser capabilities. To maintain your level of creativity and productivity, you should stick with Photoshop!

About: This Article was Contributed by Raja. He is a Web Hosting industry watcher and writes regularly on Dedicated Hosting Reviews and Reseller Hosting Reviews.

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