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Laziness & The Web Designer

How tools are making web designers lazy.

Laziness & The Web Designer

How tools are making web designers lazy.

A few weeks ago, a preview of a new tool called Macaw was released. Many of the designers and developers I talk to on Twitter and Skype are very excited about Macaw – they can hardly wait for it to be released. My opinion of Macaw is very different. I think that tools like Macaw are making web designers lazy.

First off, let me give you a few examples of apps that help designers, and a few that hurt designers. If you're a web designer, the chances are that you utilize tools like Live Reload, Hammer & Anvil, Sketch, and Adobe Edge Inspect [CC] in your daily workflow. Those five tools have vastly increased my productivity, and therefore I have more time to get the job done right. On the other hand, there are apps like Adobe Edge Reflow [CC], CSS3 Hat, and the soon-to-be-released Macaw, that encourage laziness and therefore hurt the designer’s work quality. The difference between these two kinds of apps is that the prior makes our lives easier whilst encouraging the improvement of quality code and designs; while the latter can make our lives easier, but encourages laziness and poorly written code as well as rushed designs.

I believe in doing things the old-fashioned way. I still write my code by hand (or, rather, by keystroke), and I code my designs without using crazy tools that output dirty markup. Admittedly, I am an advocate of Sass, but I use the SCSS syntax and all mixing & functions are handmade — this allows me to write code faster, while still maintaining beautiful, succinct code. Writing code by hand encourages the learning of new techniques, elements, and methodologies; and being able to actual build something you design is very valuable in this today’s design industry — it’s called being a unicorn designer.

New HTML tags and CSS elements are constantly being released and proofed. There are frequently new frameworks, libraries, and techniques being released. All of the things listed prior are created in order to improve your code’s efficiency whilst using innovative techniques to solve a problem. Tools like Macaw strip you of the opportunity to learn and practice those new releases, therefore robbing you of the chance to write more efficient code and improve your problem solving skills. Colm Tuite explains this in a comment on Macaw’s Designer News thread:

This looks like a great tool but I’m confused as to why all of these tools feel the need to output code? Macaw’s tagline is “Stop writing code. Start drawing it.” What’s wrong with writing code? In my experience, writing code is much more efficient than drawing it.

Like Colm, I am much more efficient when writing code than when using tools like CSS3 Hat to export it from Photoshop. Similarly, I am 10x more efficient as a web designer when I design in the browser itself rather than wasting time by putzing around in Photoshop beforehand.

Where would you be today if you started your career by using tools like Macaw? I know that I would not be anywhere close to where I’m at today. Writing all my code by hand has not only taught me new skills and methodologies — it has also forced me to learn patience and problem solving; and it has taught me the importance of doing a job the right way, even if it takes some more time.

Let’s say that I did start of my career using tools like Macaw. Today I start a project that requires me to write some code that Macaw can’t write based on a design that I rushed and didn’t properly organize. I have no clue where to start, so instead of working, I begin searching desperately for tools that will do it for me.

That’s what being a lazy designer can do to you.

So before you go out and buy Macaw, consider the value of writing code by hand.

Never be lazy — do it by hand, do it right, and do it with all your heart.

Feel free to discuss this issue on Hacker News.