The New Tools for Web DesignersWeb Design & Development
Last week there was quite a bit of buzz in the web community. Google released a tool called Google Web Designer, which not only allows designers to create web pages and ads like a traditional design program but also outputs the code for you, so in the end, you shouldn't have to know much about HTML or CSS to create the pages. Along with Google Web Designer, there is another tool called Macaw, which I personally have had my eye on for more than a few months now. Macaw is yet to be released, but they have this really cool sneak peek video of what it is trying to be.
Currently, there are a few tools in the web development community that can export designs into HTML and CSS, but the quality and validity of what they export is pretty questionable. Google Web Designer and Macaw bring more options and the hope that other tools will become better. These tools could potentially save designers who know how to code a TON of time by ensuring that the exported HTML and CSS is valid and intelligent, thus eliminating the need to go back and manually code designs.
For a little bit of nerding out and fun, I would like to share some insights into these two programs.
Google Web Designer
When this came out, I perked up and downloaded it right away. I was very optimistic about what this tool could be and wanted to play around with the features right away. Upon opening it, I was immediately disappointed. Sorry, but that’s the truth.
At first glance, I could tell this was more of an animation tool than a true webpage building tool. Google Web Designer really pushes creating ads and animations, which, in terms of web design and development, is a very small piece of what goes into creating a complete project.
After playing around for a bit, I started to look at the code. What I saw being outputted was unfortunately the usual bloated code that always comes from the tools that promise to be the coder's web design program you have always dreamed of.
Humph. I was quite disappointed, but that’s mainly because I have been waiting so long for Macaw to be unveiled. Anticipating the release of Google Web Designer, Macaw was dropping hints about making a big announcement around the same time. I was so giddy and excited thinking it would be released, and I could not wait to experiment with it.
So the day came, and Macaw did not announce the release. Rather, they announced that they needed a little bit of help through Kickstarter to finish the product. They also revealed that the beta would be available around January. At first my heart was crushed, but then I got over it. If Macaw is truly going to be a web design tool that is not only usable but also exports intelligent code, let them take their time to create a great product.
Ok, so I have really spilled my guts about my love for Macaw, but you are probably wondering why I like it so much if I haven't even tried it yet. To get the answer, watch the video again.
Keywords from that video:
- Fluid canvas
- Fluid grid
Swoon! These are all essential elements to consider when building a modern, intelligent site. These same standards and philosophies are what are compromised with the other tools that are currently out there promising to be a web design application that exports code. Yes, they may export a website that is usable in most browsers, but how fast is it? How unbreakable is it? How will it be crawled? How easy or difficult will it be to edit in the future? How long can it last?
Macaw seems to be both a great solution and a welcome competitor in the current design market that is pretty much owned by Adobe. Here at Papercut, we use some kind of Adobe program every day to facilitate the process of building a website. We are slowly attempting to wean ourselves off of Adobe because a true website is never properly represented by a flat design. We are hoping that with the release of Macaw and the possibility of moving over to Sketch as a design tool, we will be able to be more dependent on true browser-rendered designs, which ultimately means fewer surprises for clients and an overall friendlier experience.
Google Web Designer may not be the best solution for designing for the web, and we won't know if Macaw is either until it is released. I do think it is very exciting that better tools are being built to allow web companies to make better products and provide clients with better experiences. The realization that design tools like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator are not the best tools to begin designing a website with is the first step in encouraging the creation of other programs. I am excited for Macaw to come out, but I’m also excited to see what other programs and tools may be spawned from this new technology.