I do not consider myself a designer for I have not the chops. There are some amazing and talented designers out there and sadly I am not one of them, my skills simply lie elsewhere. Working with SiteCM and ideaLEVER is exciting because I am part of such a diverse team and get to work with so many different designers. They all have strengths and weaknesses and all bring their unique skill set to the table. I love it. I learn from it. And one thing I have learned is that good design is in the details.
I used to hate what are known in the business as 'pixel counters'. The designers and clients who insisted that things must look a very specific way down to the very last pixel. It used to drive me insane and I would say to my machine "It's impossible, I can't". However I have learned in the past year or so that those pixels do count and achieving pixel perfection (or near) can have enormous payoffs when it comes to the aesthetics of a site. Oh, and it IS possible.
Many designers, who once existed solely in the print world, have realized that in order to offer their clients the complete package in this day and age you needed to be able to build a website or at least sell one. Some of those designers choose to go gung-ho and learn HTML and CSS and about web typography and pixels and RGB codes and they are now well versed in two languages, two feet entrenched in two worlds. Others choose to dabble in web-design and leave the development up to someone else or work their way through with WYSISYG editors and development tools like Dreamweaver. I am not here to say which is right and which is wrong because I don't believe there is a clear cut answer.
What I have learned is that it is not so much about a designers skills in HTML and CSS that makes them a good or bad web designer it is their openness to understanding and working with the dynamic environment that is presented when we work in the world wide web. While they may insist that this border has an exactly 7.5pt radius or the grey is a 30% grey they need to understand that we are talking two different languages. That after I translate it into the 'web' language are going to be translated again by roughly a dozen different translators and are open to a small amount of deviation. And when they do but still demand that we get close or they ask how we can make it work within what is possible it works. And it works well because it demands the best of the developer, namely me.
It is through working with the print designers and the pixel counters that I have become a better developer. I have learned to always use best coding practices, to not rush through trying everything under the sun or use hacks because it will always catch up with me in the end. I have also learned that my part in the process is being a professional site polisher and to be a bit of a pixel counter myself. To know the things that get missed or forgotten about in the overwhelming process of design and remind our client or designer of them before they launch their new site. Things that are unique to a world where the client controls their own content.
- Meta titles and descriptions
- Footer content and design
- Second or Third level navigation action
- Tracking tools
- Default borders and spacing on images
- Styles for headings - because we want our clients to use them
- Default spacing on common elements like headings and paragraphs
- What happens if the client inserts a table wider than the content area
- Flexibility in the future
These are all very simple little things but they can make so much impact on the completeness and consistency of a site and whether or not it gets used by both the client and an end user.