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In Defense of Photoshop – A few words

Waves of change are currently rippling through every aspect of the Web. The iPad and other mobile devices are changing the way we access the Internet, while HTML5 and CSS3 promise to change the way we develop it. However, another storm is brewing that threatens Photoshop’s throne as the application of choice for Web design. The battle suggests a fundamental shift in the design process from Photoshop to mark-up.

The Argument

The argument against Photoshop focuses on the effect of the final product. Photoshop can be used to create impeccable designs, but after hours of hard work, you end up with a static mock-up that is incapable of emulating the experience one gets when the design is converted to mark-up and viewed in the browser. HTML and CSS mock-ups require no explanation. They present the final product in the final environment. They also take full advantage of browser capabilities, such as fluid layouts, progressive enhancement, and animation. These are things that Photoshop simply can’t do.

Process Makes Perfect

The creative process is exactly that: a process. Clients may think we simply snap our fingers to make creative goodness flows directly from our brains to the screen, but we know better. We know that it takes hours or days of deep thought to devise the perfect solution. And if you’re anything like me, you often don’t find the perfect solution until you’ve explored a number of dead ends. Essentially, we need time and experimentation to work towards the goals of a project and determine the best way to communicate what needs to be said.

The Foreman Or The Architect

Truth is often seen clearer in extremes. So, let’s try a little thought experiment. Imagine yourself as an architect tasked with designing a large corporate skyscraper. How would you proceed? If you’re like most architects, you would start by sketching, and then work your way into AutoCAD. Eventually, you’d end up with a computer-generated 3-D model. You’d probably take it even further by constructing a small-scale model. All of this processing gives you a better feel for the project without actually building it. It’d be preposterous for the architect to go out and start welding I-beams together as part of his design process; that is the foreman’s responsibility, and construction begins only once everything has been designed.

A Call To Arms

Although mark-up can provide a truer experience for clients, Photoshop is clearly an important part of the design process. Ridding it from our toolbox could prove disastrous. What we need is not to change our methodology, but rather to amalgamate our tools. We need a tool that supports the creative process but at the same time gives us access to the subtleties of our medium.

Last word

Any tool that is meant to translate visual elements from canvas to code will inevitably fail in the semantic realm. Computers are monolingual: they need us to make that translation. However, do we need perfectly semantic code if we’re only creating a mock-up? Why can’t we accept the reality that we’re not crafting the final product and simply spit out HTML and CSS that’s “good enough” for mock-up purposes? Once the design is approved, we’ll put on our foreman hats and begin the real construction.

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