It’s Time for Photoshop to Go Away

Photoshop-designed mock-ups remain a staple design output still, in 2017. I scratch my head and wonder why. I myself have not used Photoshop for web design purposes in 20 years.

  • Web development is increasingly agile. Crafting mock-ups is a slow and inflexible process.
  • Web design needs to account for virtually endless device variability. Photoshop does not facilitate this.
  • The defining characteristic of digital media is interactivity. Photoshop’s focus is on visual appearance. There is no functionality in Photoshop that allows you to account for interactivity. Even if you export a PDF and make it clickable, it is an afterthought, and you can only emulate interactivity with hotspots or links, which is a very limited way to design for a truly interactive medium.
  • Websites revolve around content. Photoshop has no concept of pages, or navigation between those pages. In fact, it does not account for user experience on any level except for the strictly aesthetic.
  • Web pages employ spatial layout to segment content visually, with scrolling accommodating overflow. Photoshop works in layers. While you can certainly still map out visual elements and content across your Photoshop canvas, the tool itself does not aid you in determining how best to visually segment your real estate – vertically or horizontally.
  • Photoshop is a pixel-rendered approximation of the final result; like a sculptor’s pencil sketch compared to the final sculpture. It is not accurate enough, and its usefulness is therefore limited. Designers need to sketch in something that is closer to the final product, in a medium that reflects reality better.
  • Photoshop is not a browser-native format. Just because something is pixel perfect in Photoshop does not mean it will make it into the final browser-rendered product.
  • Hand-offs from Designers to Developers using Photoshop is an inexact eye-balling process. Photoshop only provides a bare minimum of translation help when developers try to turn PSDs into working web pages.
  • Maintaining multiple Photoshop documents means revisions are costly. You will need one document per page, one document per breakpoint, and one document per version in your revision history. Add to this regional, seasonal or demographic segmentation, and the number of Photoshop files will very quickly become unmanageable, and each round of edits will be progressively more costly.
  • As soon as you hand off a Photoshop mock-up, it is instantly out-of-date. Any changes you apply to your design from then on will require the export of another version.
  • With each document, each file and each version shared with the client, the risk of discrepancies increases, which means you will need to spend an incremental amount of time on QA, and on updating files.

Most forward-looking designers have been prototyping for years now, rather than creating static visual mock-ups and iterating on them until the client is happy with the result. Problem is, what the client sees in their PDF viewer is not the result that matters: what the page looks like in the browser is what ultimately matters.

So, for designers working in the digital space, it’s about time that we retired Photoshop. It may still have its uses, but web design isn’t one of them.

Here’s my recommendation:

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