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I usually take 2-3 days of thinking ang jotting before I work on the PC. Once I have enough templates I plan to save time on design by re-using the good ones
next I decide how users will need the content to be shaped and arranged...then I draw up a site map...and chop the content into page sized chunks
then I mark up the content conceptually using html 4, from here on html 4 strict, though up until recently I used transitional
now I have the basis of a working site that can't fall apart unless I do something badly wrong
at this point I'll work out how some of the page elements should work visually (and aurally etc)...some of this will be dictated by the intention of the site, some will be down to context...I also decide on an overall look
I then apply styles...first getting the overall look working both in a linked and in an imported stylesheet, the latter for Netscape 4 et al...next putting the page elements together, first in the linked stylesheet, then as far as possible in the imported one...finally I'll juggle the styles around until I'm confident that it holds together for all pages in most circumstances, and is always usable
now any scripting gets added, unless it was fundamental to the whole operation of the site, in which case it is part of the earlier process
finally I test and tweak in a range of browsers
I now go straight to the html/code view and go. Inevitably, usability and html limitation issues get caught faster that way.
I try to be me--the designer, for a spell, then my average user, then my boss, and back to me again while making design decisions.
I do pay for my method with some glitches and a little uneavenness, but it's mostly due to my lack of testing time, and given my understanding, non-profit audience, I like the trade-off and less 'static-feeling' results.
Tim - welcome to Webmaster World. As to your question above, I don't think you will find many people on this board designing sites for fun :)
Although they may try to have fun while still making a living.
As to your question that started this thread, I start by working out what the site needs to do and mapping a flow plan on paper. I give that to my artist (along with any existing key graphic and text elements), and she works out some drafts in Photoshop, then after client approval it moves on to the code guy.
For me, web design is much tougher than brochure design. Brochures have a set starting and ending point, and a straight path through. Web sites are much more complex, and sometimes I have trouble making sense of some of the complexities until we get some working links in place. Maybe I just don't visualize well :)
This approach works fine for my little marketing/consulting practice, but I don't do the volume or size of site that many on this board undertake.
I basically start the layout in photoshop, and the client approves the layout, then I program it with dreamweaver and if there is any database stuff i send it over to their department where they handle that side of it. I'm just trying to get a feel for what other designers are going through.
I've noticed not all web designers program what they've designed...talk about a nice commodity!
Coding and designing take such different skill sets and personality types - I think it is a really unique person who can do both well. I think as technology continues to change, and the demands on both the code and design side grow, doing both well will only become more difficult.
I'd have to agree...I'm tired of having to design and code. If I only had to deal with designing and the coder had to code it the way I've designed it, it would be a better position to be in. Trying to learn the latest coding techniques (CSS, DHTML, XML) and keep up with them changing just takes away from design time.
Easier for the designer maybe, but not necessarily for the client. I think you bring great value by knowing HTML as well as design - and staying up on CSS, XHTML etc. means that you won't paint the coders into a corner.
I think a coder should never have to "code it the way the designer designed it." It takes a lot of teamwork [webmasterworld.com] to create a top-notch final product.
As far as designers knowing CSS, etc, I think it is crucial that the designer know what is possible - making it a reality, in my opinion (humble though it may be :)) is better left to a code guy or gal.
I believe if your design and code and database, etc are handled separately that each should be a master in their field and have novice to intermediate skills in the other fields. It helps in team planning and team work. It also provides opportuntity for cross training and creates the ability to have primary and secondary teams so if someone leaves the team you have a backup in the interim while looking for their replacement
My knowledge of coding has influenced my design style in ways I never would have experienced had I been left alone with Photoshop and my sketchbook... my whole understanding of design in general has expanded in previously unimagined directions. At the same time, wanting to make a difficult design "work" has forced me to expand my coding skills in more different directions than I ever would have gone, if I was just handed a pre-designed site to code. I personally HIGHLY recommend to any designer to get your hands dirty with some code, if only to expand your design perspective.
I start out with pencil sketches of page layouts, and colorblocks in photoshop, and do some multi-page structural diagrams on paper... Then I hop into Photoshop and build my basic graphics elements, open up golive to try sticking it all together, go back to photoshop to tweak sizing, color, etc., and sometimes go back to the sketchpad if I get really stuck on a layout... and on around in circles until I have a site done. (I left out the bit about beating the pre-written perl scripts into some kind of shape that fits with my layouts... that's always fun!)
The whole process is a really exhilarating combination of art and puzzle solving, once I really get started on a site... especially once I got more into integrating cgi scripts and learning CSS.
Also, I learned XHTML and CSS from the start and code everything by hand. All of my sites are completely liquid.
That's an important statement. I hope that art schools start teaching HTML if they don't already. It's all part of knowing your media.
Would a painter complain because water color paper won't hold up under oil paints? Doesn't a charcoal artist know how to leverage the textures of different papers?
Just so with the web - knowing the medium makes you much clearer about limitations AND possibilities.
Mivox, I can think of a few people I'd like you to talk to!
But that is when the site is simple - design + content and that is all!
When that is a complex project, then approach is different - planning, design/layout, programming, design change... And content during this time!
Now that you know this. My approach depends upon the complexity the client is after. If we're talking about a complex site - I'll take it to paper first with colored pencils. If it's a relatively simple job, then I'll start right on screen either in Fireworks, Illustrator, Photoshop or DW.
Good long chat with all involved.
Some of that is in the wrong order to how it /should/ be but the clients I deal with don't usually have a clue untill they see something on-screen so to get the ball rolling I do some prototyping and take it from there.
My designs tend toward simple, as my art skills are rather basic: It's the programming and css layouts that get me going :-)