Design Down Time: March

Greetings from Bend, Oregon! I’m by no means settled in yet; Jason and I are still in temporary housing at a hotel while we finalize renting a house (and get all of our stuff like our cars and everything else from the movers). But I’ve got some free time since I don’t start part-time freelancing until Monday, so it’s time for some Design Down Time.

Designing for Web: Programs & Challenges

I’ve had the opportunity to design lots of websites and landing pages. Most were templatized within the client’s existing site but some I got to design from scratch.

For one of our clients, we used Fireworks because its states and pages feature was helpful when wrangling giant microsites (that sounds like an oxymoron) that could range from 10-40 comp pages. However, the program has long been discontinued by Adobe, so there are bugs galore (including a really weird one when you have the Spotify app open). I used to say I had Stockholm Syndrome with Fireworks cause I was constantly making excuses for it and saying “No, no, it’s a great program. You can do so much with it. You just can’t easily superscript things, or link images like you can in InDesign or Illustrator, and it crashes constantly, and oh god why do I stay in this relationship?” I’m happy to say I am mostly out of that toxic relationship aside from the occasional website thumbnail one-night-stand. (I just really like its states and pages feature, okay?)

For other clients, we used Illustrator. Most of the time, those were for small landing pages. It was nice using that compared to Fireworks because it was easier to scale them up and down and make mobile versions as well. Having multiple artboards was nice but once you started linking more images into the file, it would get bulky and simple actions would take forever to complete.

Rarely did we do initial designing in Photoshop. Usually it was a matter of converting Fireworks files to PSD’s for our developers. It wasn’t necessarily the best system but it was our solution at the time because the other art directors and I worked quicker in Fireworks and Illustrator than in Photoshop, at least when it comes to interactive design.

Alternative Programs & Upcoming Releases

There are of course other programs out there. Sketch is one we’ve been playing with but it has the drawback of not easily converting to Adobe files, which most developers use. Not only that, but it’s only available for Mac. Some designers get around this by installing Mac onto their Windows PC. Some Sketch alternative programs I’ve heard of but aren’t familiar with are: Macaw (Windows + Mac) and Xara (Windows only).

Then, of course, there’s talk of Adobe’s Experience Design (previously named Project Comet). Adobe has recently posted a preview release for Mac as of March 14. I look forward to seeing how this program pans out. If only because I know it will be within an already established ecosystem within Adobe’s vast network of programs and developers may be more ready to adopt it knowing it’s supported for both Mac and Windows (eventually).

Some Reviews to Ponder

You can read as many reviews as you like, but there’s nothing like firsthand experience. I’ve gone ahead and downloaded the preview release for Adobe Xd as well as the trial for Sketch. I look forward to playing around with them both.

What program(s) do you use when designing for websites and apps? What do you like and dislike about them? Let me know in the comments!

Banner image courtesy of Death to Stock.



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