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Complex Layout guidelines for designers
What is practical, what to avoid
thesheep




msg:3160792
 11:35 am on Nov 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

Many media agencies still have a division between graphic designers and front end coders. Creative types produce a lovely set of visuals in Photoshop, then pass these on to technical types to convert into HTML/CSS.

The problem with this, at least in my experience, is that the designers don't understand how web pages are constructed. This causes problems at the build stage, particularly in the case of more complex layouts that require liquid behaviour.

Very tricky things seem to be liquid areas that require multiple columns of identical width, and layouts where design elements from one column overlap another liquid column. In my experience you can find ways round these things, with time and patience, but the real nightmare starts when a layout includes a multitide of these kinds of issues, because things get exponentially complex to build.

Given the constraint that we can't suddenly oust all the talented creative designers from their jobs, or retrain them in the nitty gritty of CSS and browser inconsistencies, does anyone have any solutions they've found for these problems?

I'm currently working freelance as a front end coder at a media agency and I was thinking how handy it would be to have a manual of design guidelines that would help designers produce practical layouts suitable for advanced CSS layout techniques. Does anyone know if such a thing already exists, or could we start one here?

 

gazraa




msg:3165935
 9:47 am on Nov 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

I've been freelancing for just over a year now and a lot of the work I get is for projects where the designs have been signed off by the end client before I even see the mock ups. Great eh?

Fonts are the classic problem, wanting whole paragraphs of text in some obscure font, but my pet hate is gradient background fills on areas that may stretch with overlapping images. Transparent gifs a go go!

Luckily the designers I've worked with are open to change and willing to accept compromise which is very encouraging.

I think the key, as most people have said, is to explain the issues without boring them to tears about nested floated overlapping relatively positioned inherited divs. Maybe give them examples of layouts that work and examples of layouts that won't work.

thesheep




msg:3165960
 10:44 am on Nov 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

It is interesting you raise the option of tables. I was constantly thinking, 'this would be easier in tables'.

Unfortunately we had rule from the client that we must not use tables for layout.

from the prescriptive strangeness of the design I reckon that accessibility and printability aren't on the priority list.

Actually this wasn't the case. The client was a government organisation with strict guidelines about accessibility. One was that the page must be flexible width. Another was that we couldn't use pixel-based font sizes, all that kind of thing. It was all supposed to be tested to AAA standards (yes I know, what does this really mean in reality?)

Maybe you can begin to see what a problem this was at the time...

Lorel




msg:3166350
 8:12 pm on Nov 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

I have redesigned several sites that were totally in images including the text. They looked nice but weren't going anywhere. Usually the owner wants to keep the design but fix the text so it's readable by Search Engines. But then, I love a challenge.

killroy




msg:3169221
 11:29 am on Nov 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

Of course one can, somehow, implement any design. But I think I have neer really seen a homepage design that had an obvious heading (except the usual "Welcome!" call-out) or paragaphs or sub sections.

Usually the contant layout is VERY unsemantic, and that doesn't only get up my hackles as a html/css/backend coder and SEO. I've learned long ago that a website with "docuement" in mind rather then "application" reads better, si more usable and ultimately more succesfull. Successfull as a business that is, NOT as a design with a client. Several years of running my own sites haave spoiled me for parctical, functional and effective ecom design, rather then the sort of thing that sells well if you're "just" a design firm.

I think every design house should try to launch and operate their own website to learn what REALLY works, and advise and consult their would-be customers properly, rather then decieving them into a pretty, expensive but useless design.

That is the realy crux of the matter. Few design houses are actually professionals at operating a site. They simple produce what sells, and that is the uhs and ahs of they starry-eyed customers.

Ugly sells ;)

Fatbat




msg:3172075
 2:33 pm on Nov 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

Solution: If you are a coder, theach yourself how to design. If you are a designer, teach yourself how to code. End result, you make more money, and don't have to deal with the headache of trying to teach someone else a new skillset.

As an expert Graphic Designer focused primarily on the web (a Web Designer if you will) I've always written most of my own html and I taught myself CSS. I thought this was more and more the norm these days?

While I would not consider my coding skills as strong as my design skills, I feel I am fairly competent to do both and turn out solid websites.

These days I do a lot of initial CSS template building that then gets turned over to more serious CMS database engineers and back end coders who are beyond the CSS portion of the job.

tonynoriega




msg:3172796
 11:22 pm on Nov 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

gotta do both...

at least i try. i administer our corporate website, and do the graphic design. i do all the page coding and marketing material....when i came aboard they actually cut funding to the outsourced designers, becuse i could handle the workload and in a very proficient manner.

in my opinion, a good web developer/designer/...etc..etc...should have both talents....it helps keep the control points to one area.

you learn how to properly optimize images, layout....all that good webby stuff....

just my 2cents

Setek




msg:3172819
 11:40 pm on Nov 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

Solution: If you are a coder, theach yourself how to design. If you are a designer, teach yourself how to code. End result, you make more money, and don't have to deal with the headache of trying to teach someone else a new skillset.

As an expert Graphic Designer focused primarily on the web (a Web Designer if you will) I've always written most of my own html and I taught myself CSS. I thought this was more and more the norm these days?

in my opinion, a good web developer/designer/...etc..etc...should have both talents....it helps keep the control points to one area.

Yeah, if you are in a project from start to finish it's a lot easier to control where it goes :)

However, that's far from possible in all situations...

Some companies just have far too much work for one person to handle both sections. And with all key things in repetition, you don't get several people to do an entire job from start to finish, but get each person to do one part in a job to make up a whole, you get better productivity.

With instances where people do have a split web designer/web developer, I recommend this: be friends :) I'm friends with my designer, and she always asks me for my input when she's designing, and I ask her for hers when I'm designing. It's not a tug-of-war here, it can be just as smooth as a one-man web designer/developer if you try.

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