// 29.Dec.2009

Mockup or Markup: Designer vs. Coder

In an article on the web-design advent calendar, 24 Ways, Meagan Fisher advocates setting aside Photoshop and building design comps directly in our preferred flavour of HTML.

That’s how I always work anyway. Only once have I ever built a design in Photoshop before writing the code and that was for the front page of this website — it took ages and felt totally un-natural and counter-intuitive to me. I did it because I understood that that’s how all designers work. I wanted to try it out to see if it made the process any easier for me, it didn’t, at all.

Even so, I think Meagan has overlooked a quite important point: not all web-designers are writers of code.

The vast majority of web “design” work I do isn’t actually design at all. As I have written many times on this blog, I’m not a designer. I’m a coder. I receive designs from the agencies I sub-contract to, almost always in the form of a Photoshop .psd file, and I write the code to reproduce that design in the web-browser. I might write in XHTML or HTML 5, depending on the task and audience. I’ll write the CSS, usually using the CSS compiler LESS.

I’ll almost always end up writing some PHP or Perl code too, either because I’m building within a CMS or blogging platform, or simply because I need some basic templating for the site. There will almost inevitably be some coding to handle form processing and emailing. JavaScript and Ajax work might have to be implemented. There might be a little database work. These days I also tend to find myself producing and parsing XML files with things like customer testimonials, case studies or some other data-based resource. As if that weren’t enough, I might also end up writing Apache configuration files with rewriting rules and other esoterica.

And, of course, everything I build has to be as cross-browser capable as possible, or at least be built with acceptable fallbacks in place - hence there is usually a lot of fine tuning of code and markup.

My point is this: designers are artists. They tend to be right-brain people. I’d imagine that a designer (and this certainly applies to the designers I know and work with) would be way more comfortable in Photoshop or Illustrator than with a text editor and source code. Asking this sort of designer to build their mockups in markup is like asking a decorator to manufacture his paint and wallpaper. It just ain’t gonna work!

Last Revision: December 29th, 2009 at 19:28

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