5 things for groovy design into killer XHTML/CSS

by oneafrikan on March 29, 2006

I’ve been working with one or two clients lately (taking designs and turning them into working xhtml/css and some js), and some of it has been really frustrating. On the one hand you want to prove that you’re capable at what you can do, and thus are able to work their designs into web page magic, but on the other hand some of their ideas are just plain loony and don’t have any grounding in what is really possible / not possible (without breaking the rules we’ve come to raise the flag for) on a standards compliant degradable web page. First they want everything to be standards compliant as it’s something to talk about to their clients with “ooohh, we’ll produce standards compliant code you know”, but then on the other hand they start designing stuff that is just really hard to make work. Either that or I’m a complete idiot and should go back to being a zoologist.

Anways, I’ve come to realise more and more that the days of most old school designers being able to do proper web design are pretty much over – I’ve worked with some really good designers in the past, but very few really good web designers (there is a difference), and the difference is that the guys that do good design for digital or web are those who can either code in XHTML/CSS as well as design, but choose to design; or at least they know what is possible / not possible ‘cos they take an interest in it and want to be the best at what they do, so they know they have to know. It’s kinda like an architect not knowing what a builder is capable of.

So, here is my wishlist of 5 things that would make life easier for me:

  1. The design team has the designs signed off before coding work commences. This should need no explaining. Nowadays I don’t start work unless designs are signed off by the client. No more “but you could get a head start if you…”. Sod that!
  2. The artful designer knows what the box model is, and can describe whether any element in his design is a box or not, and therefore understands positioning and the advantages / limitations of background images, borders, colors etc. Preferably the designer doesn’t like “just using a hack”.
  3. Designer works in photoshop to create web layouts, in the first instance creates a high res jpeg of each state of the page (rollovers etc etc), and in the second instance passes me a photoshop file that is not corrupted, has no fonts missing (or sends me them), has folders for the different “pages” with color coded states so I know what the feck is going on.
  4. His photoshop file uses a grid layout that is consistent accross all layers and is marked with guides (that lie on even pixels(!) especially if there are an uneven number of boxes in the layout), without exception, so that if there are pixels in the wrong place once coded then it is most definitely my fault!
  5. The designer understand CSS well enough to know that good CSS isn’t just a bunch of custom styles plonked onto the end of every element (ala class=”blah”) possible. When he designs he knows the difference between an H2 and an H6, a P and a SPAN, STRONG and EM, and therefore knows that using the correct CSS you can accomplish a lot with a little code, not a lot with thousands of lines of CSS madness. Oh well, we live in hope… ;-)

* Ladies, I’m using the proverbial him/his/he ‘cos it’s easier…

As an extra point, I prefer simplicity to complexity especially when coding, so any designer that is able to mould the needs of the client into a design that has a simple implementation is a winner, and worthy of many beers.

what are your thoughts / experiences / bugbears?

One comment


It is strange that what you are going through is what I am going through. I have the same gripe with a clients, the failure to understand what ‘design’ and web design are and the difference between, is forcing me to ‘hide’ behind the code (application development over web design),,,

My biggest problem is this, correct me if I am wrong. I believe a web designer designs a website to be consumed by not the client but his/her’s consumers. This is distinction has let me to drop clients who fail to understand just that, because at the end of the day, one ends up creating something that pleases the client but the consumer will say, ‘err do you have print version that fits onto a4 paper without images?’,,, and you think back,,, ‘if i had not used frames, but the client wanted…” ,,, anyway no more ranting,,,

oh, if you wishlist can become a standard,,, that would be fantastic,,, maybe one should try to educate the client before accepting the contract,,, and tell them it’s a ‘take it or leave it class’,,,, that would be nice.


by lebogang nkoane on March 29, 2006 at 5:50 pm. Reply #

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