Hey Unitards! Are Graphic Mock Ups Even Applicable?
Andy Says: I think the most conspicuous examples of those who don’t use graphic mock ups in their website/app projects are companies who don’t have clients. They build applications for themselves to then market as products. This context is significantly different from that of designing for clients. Clients generally need to see something concrete and tangible in order to invest full confidence in your work, especially when there are important branding concerns associated with it. For my work with clients of Unit Interactive, I always craft graphic comps. I’ve often skipped this phase when working for personal projects, but that’s an entirely different context.
Angela Says: I have always produced comps for the designs I’ve created for my clients. Creating comps first allows you to really think through the information design and defines the structure the site will take on. In essence, you are creating a blueprint that dictates the end result and allows for quicker development time, as the design decisions have already been decided. Would a good contractor start building a house without architectural plans? Would you want to live in that house after it was built?
Also, I advocate the HTML being semantic and some of the design decisions made in the comp stage can help determine the correct context for the markup. And one more thing, any graphics that are used in the site have to be created anyway, so why not pull those graphics from the whole picture that you’ve already poured over in great detail, rather than making them piece by piece as you go?
Nathan Says: Photoshop [Macromedia savvies read “Fireworks”] cannot correctly emulate the browser environment. It’s true. The fonts are handled differently, colors skew, and pixel-perfect negative space sometimes requires lots of finagling. This fact makes me think I should go all 37signals on Adobe a give it the cold shoulder. But then I remember a mantra from my design education: Always start in pencils. Pencils allow for the exploration of more ideas in a shorter amount of time than full Photoshoped comps. This helps me to not lock in on any one idea too soon, and stay focused on concepts, eschewing execution until necessary.
Graphic mock ups set a foundation for a completed, functional site in much the same way that pencils lay the groundwork for the aesthetics: by allowing me to focus on only what is necessary for that step in the process. Also, in my experience, clients have a hesitancy to skip steps where they should be able to provide input and/or approval, and by giving them that stake in the visual approach, you build a trust that allows further decisions to go more smoothly.