A Roundup of Ideas About the Making of Web Products

Ben Groulx
Apr 26, 2013
A Roundup of Ideas About the Making of Web Products

Idea Nº 1: Design and Development are a Spectrum

Idea: Design and development are part of a spectrum, not separate talents. You can lean more on one side or the other, but as the roles intertwine even more, the distinction becomes frustratingly difficult to differentiate.

We've all been part of the debate whether designers should code or not; I am of the mindset that yes, absolutely, designers should be able to code. Maybe not up to the same standards as, say, a strictly PHP/Ruby dev, but enough to get your ideas out into a testing environment. It only makes sense that you know how to create something as it would be produced in its final form. Websites aren't positioned images and tables anymore, so why are we still designing like that? Presenting a static Photoshop file isn't acceptable anymore.

The line between designer and developer is increasingly blurring and breaking down, where it is getting difficult to say, "This is a part of the designer's role," or "A developer has to think about this." Responsive design forces you to think about products as a hierarchy of elements proportional to one another, instead of an assortment of pieces that must be positioned at x, y. It needs to be able to be demonstrated efficiently… the classic "handoffs" process isn't cutting it any more.

Idea Nº 2: Responsive Design is Web Design

Idea: Responsive web design is no longer an option; it is a must. It must be a default as we continue to make pursue an accessible, future-friendly web.

The web is not exclusive. We have no idea -- that's not an exaggeration, you really cannot predict this -- how someone is going to view our websites. We can make estimates and evaluated guesses by studying analytics and trends, but we cannot know. What it comes down to is the web must be this entity that can be viewed by any means.

Every quarter there is a release of a new piece of digital technology. Between Samsung and Apple alone we have a multitude of devices with varying sizes; never mind everyone else also in the game. As devices grow in popularity and demand, we also see the rise of unique sizes. At what point does a phone become a tablet? Giant tablet-phones -- or "phablets" as they are being called, horribly -- are on the rise. And they aren't going away either. What happens when the lines blur between tablets and laptops? And then laptops and desktops? And then desktops and televisions?

Idea Nº 3: Code Frameworks are Evil

Idea: What if we actually only coded what we needed and used our judgement, expertise, and experience to make decisions on how a product should be developed?

Bootstrap, Foundation, Skeleton, and other frameworks are a good idea in theory, but have been executed poorly. These foundations are just that: great foundations for getting started on a project. Again, in theory. I've found them to be nothing but harmful to site building.

Right away templates pose a problem. When you use something that hasn't been built with your defined end goals in mind, you run the risk of using unfitting substance. You wouldn't use cardboard to build a skyscraper, it's not appropriate. Frameworks provide you with a predefined grid and other assets that may not be suitable for what you need to make.

By all means, use a framework for easy building and testing, if you intend on having a "start build" day where your code is trashed and "real development" begins. But as our design, development, and goal-setting process are all getting intertwined, we may not have a project programming commencement date, and our prototype code may end up actually getting shipped. Ultimately, it comes down to your process. Be smart about what you put out into the world, and make proper, tailored things.

Idea Nº 4: Preprocessors Will Become the Norm

Idea: Code preprocessors are on their way to becoming a typical, integrated part of the web development process and will eventually be a standard.

I am a LESS guy, personally. Not that I have any outstanding reasons to use it over other preprocessors like Sass. I tried it first, I got used to it, I loved it, now it works for me. Which is the key. This particular preprocessor works for me. 

As we move towards creating our products in "sprint mode" -- get a base done, ship it, gather feedback, make adjustments, rinse, repeat -- we need to encompass speed and efficiency in our development process. LESS has actually allowed me to be more free and liberal with my designs as it lets me focus less on thinking about valid CSS (which it does for me) and more on layout and hierarchy. Which is the way it should be.

Idea Nº 5: There is No Creative Director

Idea: Everyone in the web-building field is creative. Adding "Creative" to a title does not make you anymore so. We are not a "special kind of person," and the word is detrimental to everyone in this industry.

I know, I know, I know. I'm a Creative Director. It's hypocritical. However, I wouldn't say the title is accurate to what I really do. It was something I inherited from a century of prior requirements, responsibilities, and traditions. I oversee a lot of the more "visual" things that come through the company, sure, and perhaps my eye has been trained to appreciate colour and type more than others, but that does not make me any more creative than anyone else part of the Custom Fit Online team. It is a position within the company that emphasizes and requires my attention on certain matters, some of which are more aesthetic, while others not "creative" at all. We are a bunch of highly professional, motivated, ethical, talented people that all deserve to have "Creative" tacked on to the beginning of our titles.

And the same goes for every design organization. Making products for the web is the same as making any other product; if you make things, you are creative. I mean, what, are developers not creative? Of course they are.That's all there is to it.

Now It's Your Turn

These aren't things that are 100% right; They are ideas that I've had that resonated with me. What about you? What ideas do you have that need escaping? What about your thoughts? Let me know in the comments section down below or on Twitter at @customfitonline. Let's start a discussion.

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