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Can Graphic Designers Design for the Web: Should the Building of Websites be Left to Web Designers/Developers

It seems that everyone has a website these days and it may seem an obvious development for Graphic Designers to start offering web design services, however designing for the web is quite different to traditional Graphic Design. That said, there is a degree of cross over between the two disciplines that Graphic Designers can exploit without needing to learn new skills.

Making the Web a Prettier Place

Web Designers, particularly Coders and Developers, can be quite outspoken about Graphic Designers producing work for the web, but most recognise that there is a need for them as long as they don’t overstep their brief.

Put simply, they believe that Graphic Designers should do nothing more than design the visual elements of the site to ensure that the visual effect is arresting and the Web Designer will take care of how the pages fit together and what functionality is required.

For some Graphic Designers that is a concept that works well for them. Other Designers, however, wish to become more involved, but they should think through carefully what they are aiming to achieve before commencing, so can have a clear idea of what they can realistically achieve with their available resources.

Working With a Coder

This maybe the best option for a Graphic Designer looking to get more involved with Web Design.

In this scenario a Graphic Designer produces the design and layout of all the different pages of the site and then passes these to a coder, generally as a psd file, who slices the Photoshop files up as required and then uses these in a coded XHTML page or pages.

Before passing the psd files to the coder, the Designer should ensure that they have thought through how the pages will work when coded. This includes thinking about what buttons will look like when hovered over or clicked as the Designer will need to include these graphics in the files supplied to the coder.

The Designer should also discuss any dynamic functionality that is required with the coder before the coder commences, as that may have a bearing on how they code the page and on the cost. Some Coders only offer conversion to XHTML/CSS and so if more functionality is required, a Coder offering other coding languages, such as Javascript, will be required.

Using a WYSIWYG Web Design Application

The other option for a Graphic Designer is to use a What You See Is What You Get web design application. The best known of these is Dreamweaver, but there are also some free open source offerings, such Nvu.

The advantage of using such programs is that no specialist coding knowledge is required – the process is rather akin to laying out a page in a DTP program and the software automatically produces coded web pages from these layouts.

On the down side the code that these applications produce can be a little messy, but as most users never ever view the source code of a website, this is not much of a problem. However the other potential issue with the code is that it may often be bloated and not be as well structured as code written by a specialist coder, who may be able to reduce page sizes by intelligent coding of the pages.

For clients with limited budget and who initially just wish to test the water, this route may offer a low cost route to having a web presence.

While designing for the web is a different discipline for many Graphic Designers, there are options available for them to get involved in the design of websites for their clients. The important thing is for them to be realistic about what they can achieve on their own and to use expert services when appropriate.

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