No slow death for Photoshop

As many in the industry ponder Photoshop’s place in the modern web designer’s workflow, we’re seeing some interesting opinions from all sides. I just can’t see Photoshop (or Fireworks, et al) disappearing any time soon – we need them way too much.

Note: I’m referring to Photoshop here in it’s use for page layout and general design for web, rather than just it’s abilities for photo manipulation and retouching.

Personally, I still see Photoshop playing a large part in my workflow for the foreseeable future, partly due to the nature in which many agencies still function, and partly because the “big reveal” stage in the design process seems to be something of an expected deliverable, certainly from a client’s perspective. Delivering “comps”, “flats” or “mockups” early on in a project’s development is still something of the norm.

Although through early discussions and a bit of education from the designer’s end the benefit of a more agile design process does make perfect sense when explained to the client. It is quite often the case however that the individual(s) making the decisions on a project might not be those holding the purse strings, or might be used to dealing with traditional agencies – and a full hi-fidelity mockup or three can be just what’s needed to put an old-fashioned (or uncomfortable) client at ease.

Conversely, some clients do completely understand the concept of prototyping, wireframing, even “designing in the browser“. Just like some might disregard any internal processes put in place to ease the agency/client interaction (anyone familiar with the anti-Basecamp client?), others are totally at ease with project management software. At the end of the day, every client is different, with their own ways, manners and understandings and expectations.

Horses for courses

In his recent post “The Post-PSD Era“, Brad Frost’s closing words perfectly sum up for me how all our tools – Photoshop, designing in the browser, rapid prototyping, static wireframes etc. – could be used in a modern workflow. It’s all about the right approach, the right tool for the job:

Play the tools in your toolkit to their respective strengths, and sort out a way to communicate your design ideas to clients without forcing them to envision what a fully-polished final printed out product could look like.

Attitudes are shifting. With the correct approach, it’s easy to sniff out, early on in a project, the type of client you’re dealing with. Are they looking for the “big reveal”, and requesting creative work early on, before a project has been fully scoped out and agreed? If that’s the case, I’m sorry my friend – but we’re probably going to have to hit that Ps box in your dock and fire up the big ol’ beast. Or are they open to a more streamlined, collaborative way of working? Are they savvy to the quirks and capabilities of different browsers, devices, and operating systems, and understand that websites don’t need to look the same in every browser.

It has been pondered so many times, and will be for a long time yet, especially in this new “responsive age” of web design. But there is no holy grail, no magic bullet. Horses for courses, I say. Pick the right tool – the correct approach – not only for the job, but for those you’re working for and with.

Ask the right questions, and get the right answers. But do this early on, and you could not only save yourself a lot of time, but you could also find yourself working in a way – whichever way that might be – that benefits both parties to the fullest.