Photoshop Warrior: A web designer that primarily uses Photoshop to design websites and/or web apps.
Despite the fact that we use open source design software, which I discussed in our previous post, Photoshop is still a powerful and useful piece of software. This post is not a knock against Photoshop, but how it’s used for web design purposes.
1. A Photoshop Warrior either doesn’t know how to write code or they are not proficient with it enough to design directly in it.
The bottom line is that the final form of your website / web app is, well, a website. It makes less sense for a person to design for a medium they are not familiar with. Knowing how to code the front-end design exposes a designer to nuances in coding that can be leveraged to improve the experience.
2. Hiring a Photoshop Warrior could lead to hiring another developer.
Unless you plan on coding up the design yourself, you’re still going to need to find a developer that will write the code. Some might think to have the back-end developer do it. This is likely possible, but many times they either hate dealing with the front end or it’s just not their expertise. This can result in longer development times, lack of precision, and/or messier code that is difficult to modify down the road. What if your back-end developer is a complete wizard with the technologies necessary to develop your site / web app, but this person is really bad with the front-end? You could end up hiring an additional resource, adding to cost.
We were hired to design a series of projects within Microsoft and it was just assumed that we would be delivering all the designs in Photoshop images. Once I explained that the designs would be delivered as front-end coded packages, the project manager was elated. He was already in the process of hiring an additional resource to code the designs, which he was able to forego and save a lot of money.
3. Photoshop Warriors diminish collaboration with back-end developers and slow down the iterative process.
When changes come down the pipeline (they always do), it’s much easier for a back-end developer to request changes from a designer that can make the code changes themselves. If a Photoshop Warrior designed the product, the whole team must deal with an extra medium: static graphics. This adds an extra step in every change request. When the designer writes the code, the entire iterative process occurs directly in the code.
Developers LOVE being handed a coded design package. They don’t have to worry about the interface. They are freed up to focus on what they do best: making the product function. A Photoshop warrior cannot accomplish this.
4. Photoshop Warriors deal in static experiences.
A Photoshop warrior is able to deliver a design that is mostly a 1:1 representation of how the site will look, but not how it will feel. Usually the project manager will receive a PDF to visually review. However, this does not compare to receiving a coded package that a product manager can load in their browser, click around in, resize, and view on a mobile device as well. In addition, browser bugs and layout choices that don’t seem to be ideal are caught earlier when the design is delivered in a coded package.
5. Photoshop Warriors will diminish your ability to sell.
Countless times our clients have demo’ed our designs in browsers and on phones to stakeholders and investors. They don’t have any real functionality yet, but the experience can be mimicked. These demos are usually very successful. This is impossible with a static PDF.
6. Photoshop Warriors are slower.
The biggest drawback I hear about coding the design first is that it’s “a lot slower” than “whipping up a design in Photoshop”. Maybe this is true for the Photoshop Warrior that knows some code, but this is not universally true. Our advice: get better at coding. For us, coding is much much much much faster. Sometimes changing the layout can be as easy as changing the value of a number. This can be a lot faster than redrawing a box.
I have been on countless calls where the stakeholder wants to see 3-4 different versions of some design change. We’ll hop on a call and I’ll code the change and say “ok refresh”. They will say “oh that’s good, but add this”. I will say “ok one second…ok refresh now”, and they will say “perfect.” This doesn’t happen with Photoshop Warriors.