Put on your critical thinking caps…

In web design there are very few absolutes. There are multiple ways to markup pages, limitless directions a design can take and no single right or wrong way to run a business. The knowledge and skills we posses today will be outdated tomorrow and if there’s one universal truth, I’d say it’s that to be a web designer is to accept change. We’ve got to be problem solvers, critical thinkers and open to being influenced by the ever-evolving industry around us. Similar to absolutely positioned CSS elements, those who are unwavering in their opinions & unwilling to adapt will have no impact as things move forward.

Recently, I’ve seen some really good debates sparked, willingly or unwillingly, that I think help to keep us on our toes. I’m not saying you have to agree with any of these assertions, nor that I completely agree. I’m saying that it’s in our best interests as a community to at least hear them out.

Make Your Mockup in Markup by Meagan Fisher

Recently, thanks in large part to the influence of design hero Dan Cederholm, I’ve come to the conclusion that a website’s design should begin where it’s going to live: in the browser.
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There are currently 170 comments on this article. Most of them are complimentary or thoughtful questions in regards to feasibility. On the other hand, it amazes me to see absolute statements that this would never work. Some people are highly fluent in graphic editors and some straight up speak code. I’ve seen Dave Rupert design sites on the fly in code quicker than I can get my photoshop pixels sorted and pushed to make even a simple change. Surprise! Everyone is different.

Ignorance Is Bliss by Andy Clarke

Often when I talk or write about using progressive CSS, people ask me, “How do you convince clients to let you work that way? What’s your secret?” Secret? I tell them what they need to know, on a need-to-know basis.
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The main gripes here revolve around the argument that not telling clients that their site will look different in various browsers is deceptive. Specifically, that CSS3 rounded corners won’t be visible in IE and clients should be told about that. I didn’t take the article as Andy telling me how to run my business, but sharing how he runs his. All the things I do at the office to manage expectations, specs, timelines and budgets are improv and I gladly welcome a fresh take on how to approach projects and get stuff done.

Life Below 600px by Paddy Donnelly

The fold is one of those guidelines that has been thrown about so much that it’s now become a ‘rule’ of web design (or maybe more appropriately a ‘ball and chain’ of web design) with web designers blindly obeying without question.
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I really like the way this article was written. Paddy takes a strong stance on questioning convention without completely shunning any opposing viewpoints. He skillfully presents his opinion with a really nice ‘question everything and decide for yourself’ approach. Of course there are a few nay saying remarks from people I’m not sure even read the entire article. I found it to be a refreshing call to reevaluate the way we design content and to carefully consider any design rule before automatically following it.

Web Designers Who Can’t Code by Elliot Jay Stocks

Honestly, I’m shocked that in 2010 I’m still coming across ‘web designers’ who can’t code their own designs. No excuse.
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This tweet set the Interweb ablaze yesterday with a raucous debate on whether or not web designers should be able to code. Apparently, 140 characters are enough to incite every agency on earth to tweet or post about their stance on the issue. As things winded down, Elliot was kind enough to parse all the chatter into a well-written summary accompanied by a tweak / change in opinion. Elliot, good sir, you’re doin’ it right.

Here’s to us…

So after all this arguing and debate what are we left with? We’re left with a gigantic mess and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Here’s to the web design community. May we slug it out every day, leaving those so set in their ways absolutely positioned in the past.

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12 Responses

Leave a comment or contact me via Twitter @TrentWalton

  • cjmemay

    Not to be the yay-sayer that so typically fills the first comment, but I really agree with this sentiment. It’s mature, it’s professional, and it encourages web workers to develop a skill that seems integral to the nature of our profession: Communication.

  • Greg

    One of the best quotes I’ve heard in a while: “The knowledge and skills we posses today will be outdated tomorrow...”

  • Los

    I remember debating if I had chosen the right field to start on. Indeed I have. The great evolution of technology and web development is great to challenge and push my curiosity and my eagerness to continue to learn whether it be about web design or cooking. It’s fantastic that there is never a limit in what your capable of achieving or doing in this field. Nothing is the same and nothing is done the same way. There is not one right way, there are plenty of ways. It be boring and otherwise limited.

  • Travis Neilson

    This reminds me of a little joke a friend and I told amongst ourselves once, commenting on the elitist voice of many design bloggers.

    .myBlog{opinion:absolute}

  • Ted Goas

    Hi Trent, despite having previously read each article you referenced, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your roundup / reaction above. I think you’ve hit on some of the larger ideas that have hit the design community in the last year or so. Definitely some idea to attempt.

    * As a side note, I emailed Paddy’s article to everyone at work that I hear using the term “The Fold” in reference to a website. (it happens a lot!)

  • Tom

    It’s good to have lots of debates, but it always seems to feel like it’s everyone saying “do it my way, every other way is wrong” and then everyone nods their heads with admiration until the next big name in web-dev says something otherwise.

    Still, that aside basically agree with challenging/changing peoples views for sure.

  • Evan O'Connell

    I have been following your site for a few weeks now. I am really glad that I have found your site since I am not a big twitter person or blogger. I would rarely be able to find these posts on my own but you always tie in whats going on in the community in your site which is awesome.

    I found all of these articles extremely interesting and I have been asking those same questions to myself recently and it is nice to see others opinions on the matter.

    You made a great point in the beginning about our field. Technology grows so fast that if we don’t try to learn as much as we can we will find our self left in the dust and choosing to not try something new will not get you far in this field.

  • Aaron

    The article about making your mockup in markup and the article about designers who can’t code, I feel go hand in hand. I started out in print design and have since migrated over to web development/design. I really feel that people are different and no one person is better than a group of diverse people committed to one another and a goal. These articles, coupled with Trent’s synopsis point to a bigger question what could we do if we all worked together. Probably wield the internet like the Power Rangers wield a megazord.

  • Ethan

    Having an opinion is important in any profession. Everyone has their own method.

    I listen to the web community, but I keep along the basic rule that “you do what you want but don’t force me into it”. It typically works everywhere.

  • Ryan Bollenbach

    Great article, I really enjoyed it!

    I think building websites is an organic process and there’s no wrong way to begin.

    If web designers aren’t able to code... I don’t think they’ll understand how to design them properly, this is a major consideration. But if they’re just there to draw and add amazing touches. Whatever, have someone else build it!

    Cheers.

  • Jeff

    What font is your headline (Position Absolute) in? Ive been searching for this font. Thanks!

  • Trent

    @Jeff: It’s United from House Industries. I love that font :)

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