There must be intelligent life down here

About the Site

Hi! I'm Owen Winkler, and I write this drivel. This blog is about my own life and my random observations thereof. Sometimes I write about technical stuff here, but mostly that's at RedAlt. Please enjoy, or if not, click on my ads. Either is fine with me.

October 22, 2009 12:00am

Seething Designer Rant

Many designers (and the people that hire them) don’t realize or appreciate what happens on the development side of their web projects. Tweaking things a pixel this way or that for them is a matter of dragging it around in Photoshop until it looks good. They then hand it off to a developer expecting it’s done, when in reality we not only need to do the same thing they did (at least in terms of positioning, if not aesthetics), but we have to do it by typing in code that they’re typically completely incapable of producing themselves. Regardless of having to reproduce their designs in code, we frequently need at least rudimentary skills with design tools like Photoshop both to open their files and prepare their designs for the web, and the overlap is such that the only things we’re really missing are 4 years of design classes (trivial compared to what we’re forced by our profession to learn almost daily), and that harder to obtain ineffable sense of what “looks good”.

In addition to converting their designs to code, we often need to produce, install, or at least troubleshoot a back end that lets someone create content, make it account in some way for the fact that those content creators are going to screw up the designer’s pixel-perfect vision for the site with poorly-formed content, and code it all so that it scales over hundreds of pages that individually vary the one or two designs they’ve so elegantly produced. And too often, we’re left to explain issues to the client of why the site doesn’t do anything interactive (because there’s no design for it), or why their navigation colors won’t appear on top of the image that the client swaps in later (because it doesn’t magically change from low-contrast black to high-contrast white), or why search engines will never find that paragraph of text that absolutely must be in that bizzaro font in that weird texture pattern in front of that stock art I’ve seen lately on your competitor’s site.

I recognize that I do not have a designer’s design skill. Nonetheless, what I do is not only a completely congruent skill set - in my estimation, requiring more than just the designer-like natural ability to be creative and persistent competence, but also real, continuous learning and refinement of technology and technique - but it is also an art in that it takes creativity to solve all of the problems that these graphic designers carelessly cast to us to solve without a clue themselves for how to do it, or even in most cases that it’s a problem at all.

Yes, it’s work, and it takes time, and it’s every bit as complex as as design, and takes just as much creativity. Just because you can’t see it or understand it doesn’t mean you should not appreciate it; doesn’t mean it is not so. I’ll never be belittled by a designer again. My accumulation of years of experience applied to turning your pretty pictures into a working, breathing web site demands your respect, and I’ll have it.

And to any designer that says “that’s not me”, sure. You’re right. That’s not you. But if you’re saying, “I don’t see what’s so hard,” then you’re the one with the problem. But you’re not reading my site anyway, are you?