Last week, our panel of coders and designers discussed the pros and cons of Continuous Design and the NoPSD movement, using this article as our jumping off point. Actually, when we sat down to talk, there didn’t seem to be that much debate – continuous design should happen.
But for Continuous Design to work in the real world, you need tools that are up to the task. In part two of the discussion, our panel takes a look at what’s apps are out there and answers the question: Is this the death of Photoshop in the web design workflow?
What are your thoughts on these new design tools that write CSS code for you? I’m thinking about tools such as Macaw, WebFlow and Froont?
Patrick Cusack: There’s a real opportunity at the moment for the right design tool to emerge. A tool like Macaw would allow you to design in a more fluid way that takes responsive design into account. If these tools can take care of the code and let designers focus on what they do best… that could be very powerful.
Owen Derby: People presume that there’s a separation between each stage in the design process – from ideation to design to development. That’s what I like about these new applications. They’re helping gel the stages together.
It seems like we’re approaching the next wave of democratisation in website building. Are these new tools going to put some web designers out of a job?
PC: I don’t think so. When tools like Macaw become more widely used, the value equation changes to taste. The technical side might be easier but it’s still a question of craft.
David Donohoe: The democratisation created by WordPress was far bigger because all that many businesses wanted to do was get online, without qualifying what that meant. And a template is fine for that. But it’s not fine for a Goodyear, or a Vodafone – they have specific needs that need to be thought out, analysed and addressed. So I don’t think these tools will get rid of good people.
What’s your take as a developer, Conor? Is there a risk that your job will be relegated to “snagging” – cleaning up after designers?
OD: It’s a positive thing. If we can send Conor a working template and he can take it to the next level, that means we as visual designers have thought about it enough to consider every element of the front end, every button state etc. We’re thinking interactively, we’re thinking about the proper elements of UI, rather than just thinking “that looks pretty” or “it’s a nice clean page”.
DD: There is something ridiculous about having to write the constituent code for basic building blocks. The parallel I draw is, as a print designer in Quark or Indesign you are dealing with picture boxes and text frames, and their relative positions on a page. Each time you go to design a page you don’t have to write the code behind each picture box or text frame, the application does it for you. Up till now WYSIWYG editors have mostly failed at replicating this process for web. On the face of it the emerging batch of tools seem to have sorted this.
PC: I don’t think the aim of those tools is to replace a developer. I think it’s more to give the designer tools that make sense. Because in many ways, Photoshop doesn’t make sense.
So are we talking the end of Photoshop?
PC: Photoshop is not very well suited to web design anyway: it’s a one-size-fits-all solution. Designing a jpeg, and then having to recreate that jpeg in code, is an odd way of doing things. The workflow we have at the moment is a hangover from print design, because the first web designers were print designers. The job has changed, but the tools have stayed the same.
OD: And I think Adobe is starting to wake up to the fact that Photoshop is not the tool that web designers need right now. There are few creative spheres where one company has such a stranglehold and I’d really like to see some other companies innovate in this space.
DD: It’s largely an accident too – for some reason Photoshop became the industry standard and its time is over. It’s had a good run and now we’re recognising that this is really just a photo-editing tool, so why are we using it for web?
CL: At the same time, Photoshop is such a powerful tool that I don’t see it disappearing.
DD: Not at all. I think it will return to what it was supposed to be – a great tool for photo editing. It’s got a lot of feature bloat now because of people requiring things it was never intended to do. Adobe realises that and is rolling out products for web-specific stuff. We might see a lean version of Photoshop that focuses on its image processing and editing capabilities – in those areas it’s still industry standard.
Thanks to the guys for taking the time out to talk about this. Agree or disagree to your heart’s content in the comments below or find us on Twitter @iqcontent.