Design in the browser is ‘stifling’

David Bushell argues against design extremism and instant dismissal

Designer and frontend developer David Bushell has argued that the current trend for designing in the browser is "stifling" web design.

Writing in a blog post, he agreed the only way to truly experience and evaluate a site design is in a browser. He said, “I don’t for one second believe anyone actually feels liberated designing in code alone without any in-between conceptualisation,” and inferred it made little sense to ditch high-fidelity static mock-ups in favour of “another equally inadequate extreme”.

.net spoke to Bushell (DB) about his post, design process and whether the industry’s too quick to jump on trends at the expense of all else.

.net: Do you think designers and developers are starting to get trend-obsessed and a bit quick to dismiss alternatives?
DB: Everyone likes a good quote or sound-bite and there's naturally a lot of repetition. Genuinely interesting ideas often get rehashed out of context into dogmatic truths. I'd like to see more sensible questioning before ideas are overblown to the level of status quo. Nobody intentionally goes out to say, "This is the one true way" but popular conversation is geared towards this happening. On the other hand, being instantly dismissive doesn't help either.

.net: In your post, you said HTML/CSS was stifling and distracting from a creativity standpoint. Why do you feel that’s the case?
DB: Hopefully it should be clear why avoiding the traditional waterfall workflow to instead favour iterative, browser-led feedback in design and development is invaluable. Unfortunately, this seems to foster a growing assertion that with the added complexities of the web today, we can't possibly design without working directly in the browser. This is an example of an idea being interpreted too far.

How we best conceptualise ideas will always differ in levels of fidelity, be it with pencil and paper, a graphics editor, or even tweaking CSS. Writing code does allow you to work directly with the medium but it's incredibly time-consuming. Moving from fully-fledged Photoshop mock-ups to designing in the browser is going from one extreme to another. Take a step back and look for a sensible approach.

.net: So what processes to you use and recommend? In fact, does a designer's own process even really matter if you end up with a decent result?
DB: There is no perfect process because individuals and teams all work to different strengths. The end product is of course what matters, but to get there we should obviously prefer time- and cost-efficient practices. Continually adapt how you work and look for opportunities to improve. Just don't automatically assume trending topics are a sign of authority.

Photography: Marc Thiele.