The fall of photoshop by Agile design

Experience has shown most of us in the web industry, the dread that comes from trying to wrangle the front end of a website to meet design specifications dictated by Photoshop. Recently when in a meeting with a prospective client, they pushed us to show them some designs of their site, our protest of "this is a pitch, we have no idea at this juncture what you need let alone designs" saw us chased out the building in disgust.

It might seem strange that someone would want to be shown a design without fully understanding their business goals, internal and external user needs or anything else, but this is the state of the web industry at the moment. It is something I would like to try and raise conversations about.

The elephant in the room

For years Photoshop has been heralded as the key product used for web design, it has seen countless numbers of front end developers, sweat over creating pixel perfect designs that don't particularly meet any of the business or user goals, but it looks good, right?

It seems that the time it takes to produce a Photoshop design encourages those who create them to stifle their creativity, becoming attached to a monolithic pile of layers that have seen hours of tweaking and relocating to produce something that is visually attractive.

What if I were to say this felt to me the wrong way of doing things? Would people listen or would I be chased down in disgust again?

Time for change

Intrinsically design for print is a totally different beast to web design, it is marketing in its purest form, aesthetics are its primary goal. Web design however, feels like it should be centered around the user.

The aim of web design, isn't just to be aesthetically pleasing, but to be usable. For this to happen, we need research. Without that research we cannot hope to know where, how and why users will interact with the site, their limitations and needs. Which make providing an up front design for a website a crude lie, something that shouldn't be done and is often difficult and budget hungry to replicate in browser.

Agile design

This is something that we have been trying to master for sometime and are now starting to get to grips with it. Many customers are still reticent about not seeing a finished art work that their site will look like, but with the help of mood boards, colour schemes and design research, building trust is the key. Iterating on basic prototypes with cycles of testing in each sprint to confirm assumptions as fact making sure that money isn't being spent on features that don't meet needs.

Step back and simplify

Its not about features, its about functionality and it can be done, it just needs some time and thought. Without iterative design processes the web will soon become an amalgamation of poorly thought out marketing sites. My preference would be to step back, simplify and centre design on the internal and external user. Lets not create more trouble for people by building functionality that hinders rather than helps.