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The Perfect Web Design App & Why Fragmentation is Okay

Last night I stumbled upon Project Meteor. If you haven’t seen it, you should check it out. They are in the quest for the perfect web design app. One that includes and embraces all the things that a modern web designer has to consider when making a site. Things like fluid layouts, responsive design, hover states, etc. It’s very plausible. It’s awesome that they have started the conversation on this. It made me want to write this post.

Side note: I think their web page does them more harm than good with the broad stroking rules that they’ve stated there but I get what they are asking for. They are dedicating a single pager to massively complicated problem.

When I imagine the “perfect” web design app, I start sweating. Not because it’s impossible but because I know how much work went into making Breezi and how much perfectly coordinated work over such a long period of time is need to bring such a thing to life. I’d also fear that by the time it would be done, it wouldn’t be relavant anymore. I only say this because I haven’t yet seen a single tool that does even half of the web design process correctly for a segment of the market. Let alone contemplates ideas such as responsive design.

Think about all the web design tools available. If you judge them by even the items they set out to do right, they would fail miserably. People just make do because almost all of them suck and there are no other choices available. Adobe Muse, Fireworks, Rapidweaver… you name it. They can’t even finish what they set out to do. Not because the people behind them aren’t competent. But because it’s a super hard problem. We should be applauding all of them and asking them to just focus on finishing the flow that they set out to do properly instead of getting into new demands.

Given where we are with the tools that we have available to us, I wouldn’t want one app to contemplate all that an ideal web designer should contemplate. Just take a second to detail out 20 different websites and what the ideal modern web designer has to consider in order to do them correctly. What tools does he have to use? Why does he use them? How much time has gone to develop these tools and are they useful? Why did it take the developers of that app that long to make a tool for just this one part of a designer’s flow?

I’d challenge someone to come up with a proposal of how an app that ambitious would work. Start to put together a technical spec of how to go about such a thing. It’s v1 would be a monster. That’s an under statement. It’s a pointless exercise. Do 20% of it right. That would be a massive undertaking by itself. Assuming it is done right. That’s the big question. The only people that have experience with these super difficult flows are the awesome people at Adobe and they are having a super hard time executing this. I’m not talking about some half-baked “lean” bs. I’m talking about a real product that contemplates the full flow and actually works.

What we have to consider is that

  • Everyone goes about designing a website differently
  • Web designers & developers can’t solve all the problems. Most of the time they pick a few to focus on for their clients.
  • Standards move very quickly & not everyone agrees on them
  • A good web design app without all the nice stuff hasn’t been done yet!
  • The demands of the market are extremely fragmented

For Breezi, we grabbed a few defining principles and stayed true to them.

We tried to bring most of the ideation process in the actual app by making it relavant (actual css) and fast. We also assume dynamic content. That’s why we didn’t go free-form. We made it relatively fast and super responsive. We believe that using print metaphors on the web is going backwards. You shouldn’t be able to move around stuff like you’re in inDesign. That’s wrong. We also contemplated extendability with an “app” model and a full API that we’ll be exposing to allow people to write their own apps for the site. We’ll also be releasing a full layout builder within Breezi that will help designers create the perfect structure for their site. We haven’t made our way down to fluidity but we’ll get there as well. As for the code that Breezi produces, it’s not the prettiest thing in the world but we believe in solving one problem at a time. If you want a tool to solve all your problems, come talk to me in a decade. Maybe I’ll have an answer for you.

We didn’t nail all the ambitious ideas out yet but we got many of them done. We put the infrastructure in place. Now we’re moving. We’re developing the experience under what we believe are the right philosophies. We are also not pretending to give you the perfect web design app. We don’t think that will ever exist. But for a good number of designers designing simpler websites, we want to be a pretty good choice. Once we fulfill that, we’ll start thinking about helping others with other problems.