My Journey from Print to Web Design

My love affair with Web Design was born out of my complete despair at the very mention of web projects a little over two years ago. At the time, I was part of a small team successfully running a print focussed studio. The very mention of ‘Website’ in the requirement document by a client made me cringe a little. Coming from a print background, where everything is measurable and calculable, foraying into web meant giving up that righteous control over the final output (…or so I thought).

With the increasing frequency of website queries, it became increasingly difficult to shy away from the medium. Then finally, perhaps in a ploy to land all the fun ‘print’ collateral within our client’s requirement, everyone in the studio slowly started opening up to the idea of designing for the web.

The catch was, we needed to be good at it.

First, we found a development team who were ready to support us remotely. Next, we started touching a lot of design software to see which one fit the bill for prototyping for the web. We went with illustrator (at that time, sketch was still very new). All went well until the home page of our first website was staged on a proxy, shared by our developer with us.
…Nightmares began.

If I had my google search history from that day handy, it would look something like this:-

  • Typography looks different on web
  • Prepare screens for development
  • How to specify typography for the web
  • How to use Gotham on the web
  • Firefox antialiasing
  • Licensing web fonts
  • Image optimisation for the web

…You get the idea.

When those issues were somewhat answered, I pulled up the staged website on my phone. More Nightmares, more google.

  • What unit to use for web
  • What TYPOGRAPHY unit to use for the web
  • Navigation on mobile
  • Grid systems for web
  • Adaptive web design
  • Responsive web design
  • Adaptive vs responsive web design

and many more.

Especially because I worked remotely, I learnt more than I delivered with each web project in the time that would follow. For a designer who is making a similar transition from print to web, here are a few of my personal notes:

1. Keep the print designer alive.

Because of my print roots, I was spoilt for perfection. It helped to start off from a place where I had complete control over the medium. It made me want to enforce better UX & UI practices to deliver the intended output on the browser.

2. Even great developers are only as good as your design handover

  • My first ever website handover was an illustrator file.
  • My latest website handover had: A document containing important notes and references, style guides for colour and typography, grid specifications for different browsers, mockups in different screen sizes, animated gifs and annotations for interactive behaviour and a Trello board to manage development reviews.

3. Be hands-on!

Earlier this September, I attended a nine week immersive web development program — conducted by the good folks at HackerYou Inc. This has been one of the most significant decisions I’ve made for my own design process. Writing code means having more bits of information I could have control over.

I’ve realised that the rabbit hole of Front-end design and development goes deep; you’re always learning and there’s always going to be more. Especially if a designer is working in isolation, it will go a long way to be conscious of the possibilities and limitations of different browsers, screen sizes and devices that they are designing for. Being a Chrome ‘Inspect element’ ninja is an awesome start, but getting familiar with some hands-on HTML, CSS and Javascript will make a world of a difference in the design output.

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