I’m staring at a gorgeous visual right now. It’s an image of how the Infovark UI might look. I can imagine myself clicking on that tab, and navigating off to a world of beautifuly laid out, useful information…
I really want to see this go into production. I really do…
But it won’t. Our designer used Photoshop.
There’s nothing wrong with Photoshop, of course. Nor Gimp, nor Paint.Net, nor any other image editing tool you could mention. And there’s nothing wrong with our designer, either. She really knows her stuff. But I can’t help but feel that perhaps you shouldn’t let your designer touch an image editing tool when she’s working on a web design.
When you open an image editing tool, you’re presented with a blank canvas. And the first instinct of any artist or designer is to fill that canvas.
Web pages aren’t canvas. On canvas, or on paper, it’s just as easy to paint one corner as another. This isn’t true of the web. With a web page, one corner is much easier to reach than all the others. In languages written left to right, it’s the upper left hand corner.
Not all sides of the image are equally easy to reach, either. The top and left edges of your canvas are much, much easier to paint than the right or bottom edge.
It’s as if the upper left corner has its own gravity, and draws all other page elements toward it. Like a black hole, it warps your grid.
It is many times harder to place elements in the bottom right corner of a page than the upper left. You’re fighting the pull of gravity the whole way. You’ll have to build on top of block elements like
DIV to get there. And beware of the CSS
float property. As its name suggests, it isn’t supported by anything. It can wreak havoc on your layout, setting off a cascade of unwanted effects.
The web also suffers from typographic poverty. In an image editing tool, your designer will have access to hundreds — perhaps thousands — of fonts. They can be used to create images freely. But all but a handful of these fonts can be used on the web. Most designers know what fonts are actually available for use. You can cheat in certain cases, and use images instead of text for certain headers and buttons, but many of the effects you’d like to achieve with typography are simply not possible today.
Your web canvas won’t take all kinds of paint, either, unlike an ordinary image file. Not all browsers support transparency in images, for example. Placing gradients and shadows can be tricky.
But the biggest challenge can be the dynamic nature of a web page. Looking at a design, it can be hard to imagine the effect a blinking, spinning animated widget will have on your audience. It’s also hard to visualize what rollovers or pop-ups might do to the overall feel of the page.
Unlike paper or canvas, a web page can be stretched and scrolled. What does that do to the positioning of its elements? What happens when a user adjusts the font size in the browser, but embedded gifs and jpgs remain the same size?
But the biggest drawback to having your designer work in Photoshop is that to the layman, the web site looks almost finished. They’re pretty, these Photoshop Sirens, and they sing! They will draw you in…