14th May 2015 — By Dan Hawkins

Photoshop mockups for websites are dead (well, kind of…)

There are many reasons why Photoshop mockups are a waste of time and money for your business.

Website design can be expensive, and you can easily end up spending more than you intended. Getting a designer to produce a whole series of photoshop mockups for your new website could waste a lot of your money that could be better spent on another stage of the process.

I want to show you why this kind of approach is no longer the best way to get a website designed and built.

Don't get me wrong, photoshop is a great tool and can be really useful for designing websites. But using it to produce high fidelity and polished mockups for every part of a website is a bad idea.

There are more effective and modern approaches

Look and feel designs and actual working prototypes can be much more useful when a designer is trying to communicate their ideas to you. These can be discrete parts of the bigger picture that describe how certain elements will look or function. They work well alongside wireframes, sketches and screenshots of other people's websites.

When working with my clients I never produce a full set of high fidelity mockups. Instead, I present sketches and wireframes, more 'worked up' (photoshop) pages, examples of other sites and even small coded prototypes. This is always more than enough to get across how I think their site should look and function. It also saves them money, and saves me time (and sanity) working on the project. High fidelity mockups take a long time to produce but how much value are they actually bringing after the first couple?

Responsive web design has rocked the boat

We now have a wider range of screen sizes to view your website through than ever before, and with that has come the dawn of responsive web design. So if you're creating a website that should look great on every type and size of device does that mean you are going to get a mockup for every possibility? Of course not! That's impossible.

Designing good responsive websites relies on proportions and layouts being adapted fluidly as the device size changes. Therefore these kinds of decisions are much better made when designing in the web browser with real code, then you can see what happens. So trust me, you'll be much better off if your web designer allocates more time and money to the development of your site, rather than useless PSD documents that are just a means to an end.

Trust your designer - they're the expert!

If you believe that you've picked the right designer for the job then surely it should follow that you trust them to produce a fantastic website. So do you really need to sign off on a tonne of mockups? Details on strategy and layout can be decided in wireframes. and aesthetics can be agreed on through those look and feel designs that I spoke about. So if you've agreed on this package of design material and you trust your designer; you can now free them up to get on with building your site!

Some designers use mockups as a set of deliverables that they can then bill you for. I prefer the approach of being open with you about the payment schedule and following the process that is going to get you the best value for your money. Anyways, mockups might be useful if you want to take the designs elsewhere for development, but the materials and approaches that I have described are just as useful for developers. Especially if it's responsive.

If you can find yourself a designer or developer that's willing to get stuck in to the web browser, wireframe and sketch I guarantee you're going to get a great website and you might just be pleasantly surprised by the cost.

Hiring a web designer is a daunting task, especially if you're not tech-savvy. But this is one characteristic you can look for when hiring, so that you know they are at the forefront of thinking in web design. And it could well, save you money!

I’m Dan Hawkins and I write about how people can make their websites start working for their business. When I’m not writing, I also make websites for businesses and people. You can read more about my process and approach to web design if you'd like.

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