A common argument I see occurring in web dev communities centers around whether or not you should design your website using a design program like Sketch or Adobe XD (and if you’re real old school, Photoshop), or if you should simply design the site as you build it.
Everyone has an answer and since everyone’s is different, the conversations can be a bit heated at times.
As a design professional, here’s my opinion on the matter…
An Expert’s Opinion on the Web Design Process
If you want to design cookie-cutter sites, by all means — skip straight to your favorite page builder plugin and start plugging away. However, if you want to achieve creative designs, slow your process down a bit and use a design software to begin your web projects.
To be as creative as possible, then we need to remove as many barriers and limitations to our creativity as possible. And while page builders have come a long way, they are still (first and foremost) web development tools, not web design tools.
Oftentimes, truly unique designs require some level of CSS or plugin to accomplish. When designing your site using a page builder, you have to pause your design process each time you need to hunt down some code or find a plugin to pull off what you want to achieve.
You don’t have these roadblocks when using a design program. When you use a design program, there’s no need to stop designing and search for answers or solutions. Instead, you can continue to dream of ways to enhance your designs, which will ultimately lead to a better result. That’s because each time we have to pause our design process, the design suffers.
While it’s probably true that you can finish your website quicker without spending time in a design program, your designs will suffer as a result. If we want to achieve better designs and better development, we need to keep the design phase and the development phase as two separate processes.
If your end goal isn’t to achieve great-looking designs and you’re okay with having a site that looks like most of the other sites on the web, then jump straight to development.
But if you do go that route, know this: It’s much harder to separate yourself from other web developers when operating this way. (That is, unless you have other skills to help compensate, like being a CSS or marketing guru.)
Finally, it’s worth noting that you can actually develop your sites MUCH faster when you know exactly how the site should look before you begin building it. Client input and clear direction from the start can help with that.
As it becomes easier and easier to build a website, the demand for better designers is only going to grow. With that in mind, try to slow your process down a bit and become a better designer — your clients will thank you (with money 💰💰💰).
By the way, if you don’t have a go-to design software, you can get started with Adobe XD or Figma for free, or you can try out Sketch for $99/yr.