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This might leave you with the impression that every web project starts with a Photoshop mockup and, through some mystical voodoo, ends up in a web browser as beautifully crafted HTML and CSS. There’s too much variety in modern websites for there to be a one-size-fits-all approach.
Much like construction, changes made later in the process are much more expensive than changes made on a blueprint. Sometimes I’ll use a wireframe program like Balsamiq Mockups if I need to quickly collaborate with others, but most of my wireframes start with a pen and paper.
From there, I like to start blocking the content before I draw any chrome that will go around it, like headers, footers, and navigation.
Photoshop, Illustrator, and other image editing programs are useful when some of the finer visual details have an impact on other aspects of the project. Photoshop is also useful if you’re working on a project with a reasonable budget and you need to present a nice looking design to stakeholders and clients for approval. One of the example templates from the Bootstrap website shows how easy it is to layout complex websites using the framework.
If you have any crafty or unusual mockup tips you’d like to share in the comments, I’d love to hear them! In either case, you have assets of visual design or code that are close to production ready and can quickly be at a good place in development. A wise man once said something about how designers will just keep on designing if you let them. Sign up for our newsletter, and we'll send you news and tutorials on web design, coding, business, and more!
Photoshop can aid the design process, but it should be labeled as one of many mockup tools at your disposal, and it can even be skipped entirely in many instances.


I like to write down my goals for the site and sometimes even emotions that the person should feel when they visit. I draw everything using rough shapes and lines, so that I can get the composition right before I start worrying about the specific details within. I’m always eager to dig into code right away, but that can be an expensive waste of time if the design needs to change dramatically, so getting buy-in is helpful.
Modern frameworks like Bootstrap make it trivial to create rough layouts quickly that can be filled in with details as you go along.
If that’s the case, it might be more efficient to build an ugly prototype in code, then go back and refine the user experience in wireframes and Photoshop. On most projects I’ll start with paper, make the jump to Photoshop for any important details, and then get into code. I especially like what you say about how important it is to take a step back when you get stuck. Good presentation piece and easily adaptable before coding with what might just not be the right method. THAT is the only real drawback to the Photoshop tool…if you can keep from lingering, it is a strong methodology. I only really focused on the practicalities of laying out visual elements, but depending on the project, you may need to exercise several usability tools like the ones you mentioned. Create whole project in Photoshop in fast and simple way in grey-scale and after then work on graphic design of home page and inner pages. As someone who has decided to shift from her current marketing path to front-end development, reads like this one are priceless.
In my experience, the three most helpful tools for conceptualizing websites are wireframes, Photoshop, and code. Even if you have a clear vision in mind, it’s still a good idea to create a wireframe, because the brain has a tendency to idealize just about everything.


Then I start to list out all the content I want to include, such as photo galleries, videos, text blocks, and so on. When creating a Photoshop mockup (or a high fidelity mockup as I prefer to call them), you might discover that your layout doesn’t actually work with those colors. This is especially OK to do when you’re just adding a few new pages to an existing website that already has a well established visual language.
At that point, you may be tempted to resolve the issue in software, but this is often much more time consuming than it may appear. If you feel like a genius in Photoshop or Illustrator and it feels more natural to you than paper, go for it. I feel that when you are good in a tool like Photoshop (or in my case Axure) you might spend hours changing little bits of a non-working idea.
Good post Nick, I barely post a comment when reading a blog unless it has a very good quality. Instead, going back to paper often forces you to rethink the underlying basic idea, which usually is the more effective approach for me too. A tiny rough drawing created in 20 seconds could save you an hour or more of wrestling with software. Websites are a highly interdisciplinary medium and there’s no one true path to creating them.



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