Tools Should Never Get in the Way of Design

Twitter is always good for coming up with things to write about. But that’s another post for another time.

Just a few minutes ago, I read an update from Mr Davis:

I think that designers should at least attempt to use HTML & CSS for mockups. Photoshop was never meant for this stuff.

I get what Chris means and to an extent I agree. If you are doing web design, it’s often much easier to work in the medium itself. But like I said: I agree to an extent.

I think designers should go with the tools that work best for them. That said, an understanding of feasibility is always good.

That was my response to Chris on Twitter.

If you know Photoshop like the back of your hand, well good on ya. I hate Photoshop, but mostly because I’ve never had the opportunity/reason to work within it and really learn it. And I think that’s the rub in this.

If you do your best work with paper and pencil, stick with it. If Photoshop (or Fireworks in my case) works best, so be it. If you can XHTMLize and CSSify something faster than you can say “comp,” fine. Work with the tools that make the best use of your time. Because the more time you spend figuring the design the better. Tools should never get in the way of that.

But you should also, as I said above, have an understanding of feasibility. One of your design constraints (get ready to say “duh”) is whether your design can be built. I’d guess that’s at least part of what Chris was getting at.

It’s more fodder for the idea that, while you have core duties on a project, it’s always good to know how your work impacts the other people on the team. It’s not just the end users that are your customers. It’s also the people you work with and the people who pay you.

Side note: it’s likely still true that there’s no reliable difference in the number of usability issues found between paper and computer prototypes, so it still looks like you should pick the medium that works best for your situation.


  1. To add a twist: feasibility is obviously an important consideration (my turn for the duh! statement). But feasibility can also be a cage. Just because something hasn’t been done before, or more specifically, just because _I_ haven’t done something before does not mean that it isn’t a valid solution.

    Pushing at the bounds of feasibility is how we move forward, right?

  2. I’ll attempt to be needlessly clever by saying this: the best way to move forward is to ride the line between intuitive and inventive.

    Too much on the web is run by trying to be inventive. Worthwhile innovation doesn’t leave gobs of people behind; it should push gobs of people forward.

    However, I do take your meaning. One should also question taking the road of consistency for the sole sake of consistency.

  3. I’d agree wholeheartedly with chris.

    Even if you design the entire comp in photoshop, it should still be delivered in a browser. a lot of designers have trouble understanding what will happen to their design when the actual body copy is longer than the lorem ipsum they designed around. the also fail to understand what will happen when a user’s browser window is larger (or smaller) than the comp they’ve designed.

    If you fully understand how the web works, then feel free to use photoshop. A lot of designers need to see their design’s limits before promising their clients something.

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