Can designing in browser replace Photoshop? Some believe it can. Some predict that browser-based design will be the norm in the future.
Photoshop’s dominance in the design industry doesn’t seem to end soon. Adobe’s new Creative Clouds has a strong 7 million+ customer base, and it’s increasing as I am writing this article:
Designing in the browser has been seeing its adoption growing despite a ballooning demand for Photoshop.
That’s largely because designers produce wireframes and render the final sketch in Photoshop. But coding in the browser saves their time and uncomplicates the work. That’s the reason some of them are so fond of it.
Photoshop has some serious limitations. The reason it is so revered in the design industry is it adds an aesthetic touch. But aestheticity is only a part of the whole. Over-importance of Photoshop can invite problems such as:
#Mockup problems: Photoshop mockups are images, similar to hand-drawn sketches. They are not clickable, they are not dynamic. If one mockup is rejected, the designer has to create another mockup from scratch.
#Time consuming: The project lifecycle becomes lengthy because mockups are given priority among the UX design elements.
#Browser-specific problems: Mockups are rendered on browsers. Different browsers render mockups differently.
#Fixed-width layout: Design mockups produced by Photoshop have fixed-width layout. As there are multiple devices, you need to design separate mockups for separate devices. This may increase the project completion duration.
#Recreation: Even if your mockup is perfect, you still have to recreate it using CSS. You can send it to the development team, but they’d consult with you for finalizing the font, colors, border and other UI elements, making it difficult for you to concentrate on other works.
Okay, so now we know the shortcomings of Photoshop. Let’s have a look at
Designing in browser benefits
The benefits I am going to list down here perfectly explain the design industry’s receptivity to browser-based design.
#Cost-effectiveness: Let’s start with the perennial issue that annoys project managers – cost. Project management cost can go down if you ditch Photoshop. The annual cost of licensing the enterprise version of Creative Cloud is almost $1000. Add to that PC upgradation cost because your PC may not handle the load. Designing in browser can save you from these expenses.
#Markup elements: The content marketing guidebook encourages offering value to audiences. Cool typography adds value. Typography is a markup element and it makes up 95% of the web. Designing in browser allows you to code markups matching the content, unlike Photoshop.
#Dynamicity rocks: You can render multiple prototypes using Photoshop, but not on the go. However, when you are designing in the browser, a few lines of codes can change the prototype real-time. If the prototype fails to satisfy the client, then you can change it quickly and bring the modifications that the client wants to see. Photoshop lacks this dynamicity.
#Content strategy-making: Photoshop separates content strategy building from design strategy building. But designing in the browser enables viewing the content in context of design. Barring Cinemagraphs and other visual elements, it allows you to skip A/B testing of visual features of design, which can be a roadblock to having your site indexed by Google.
#Turnaround time:A quick turnaround time not only simplifies the work, but make client communication easy. Designing in browser can reduce the turnaround time. Since the prototypes designed by you are interactive, clients can click on them and browse through them. Most importantly, the code used to render the prototype doesn’t go to waste. You can use the code for the final design.
#Browser compatibility: With designing in browser, you don’t have to separately check the compatibility of the prototype across browsers. It’s checked automatically when you write the codes.
Alongside the advantages, designing in browser has some drawbacks.
The drawbacks include
Non-availability of designers who are savvy with coding and a shift in focus. Let’s have a detailed discussion of the drawbacks:
#Coding skills: Most designers lack coding skills. They are not supposed to code because a company has experienced developers to handle coding.
If developers write the codes, then there’s no need for designers. Right?
Wrong. Designers are still needed for creative inputs. But the lack of coordination between the two teams can increase the project-life cycle.
#Shift in focus: It’s not a standalone disadvantage, rather follows from the first disadvantage. Some companies teach coding skills to designers to save cost. But if designers are taught coding, then their focus might shift from their core area of work.
So, what do we see here? That there are disadvantages, but they don’t have any substantial impact on the projct.
Google loves sites with responsive templates. In case of Photoshop-based design, first you create a prototype, once the prototype is finalized, you send it to the developers, who render it on a responsive template.
The problem is, they need multiple copies of the static prototype, so that each prototype suits a specific device. But when designing in browser, all you need to do is develop an HTML5 baseline document. And then you can use CSS to fix the look and fill of the site and add the media queries for device breakpoints.
The quick and seamless execution of responsive templates makes it easy to identify device-compatibility issues and even fix them real-time. The credit goes to designing in browser. Hence, it’s better than Photoshop-based design in terms of SEO.
The verdict is…
True, there are plenty of benefits of designing in browser. But will it replace Photo in future?
I don’t think so.
I mentioned in the beginning that Creative Cloud has an enviable clientele. Photoshop is one among many applications in the package. Other applications include InDesign, Scout, Muse, Flash Builder, Animate, Premiere Pro, etc. Someone paying for the whole package can and should use Photoshop.
Another thing to consider here is web design is a subset of design. Graphic design, illustration, artwork, etc are independant of web design and they require Photoshop skills.
Hence, Photoshop will not be replaced. The web design industry, for convenience and SEO advantages, may become a bit skewed to designing in the browser. But replacing Photoshop seems unfeasible.
About the Author: