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8 Web Design Mistakes That Developers Make
By Samuel Ryan     Website Building     Comments

An excellent website takes a savvy blend of both great design and great code. Because of this, you often find designers having to figure out code and developers trying their hand at design. Speaking as a person who spent his university years studying among other developers, I can safely say that programmers are not designers. Thankfully, we were graded back then for having reusable code and proper OO methodology -- never for our aesthetics. But nowadays, one of the greatest assets a developer can have is a keen understanding of design.


Now I understand that a programmer may never need to know anything about design (or for that matter, a designer doesn't ever need to program). But the truth is, every programmer has personal projects, frugal clients, or management roles that require design. Furthermore, I can say that often, a freelancer's greatest asset in pitching potential clients is their keen understanding of the entire website building process. So coming from someone who studied as a developer but now also does design (or at least attempts to), here are 8 common mistakes I've either heard as a developer.


"I Know What Looks Good (and I Have Photoshop)"

 It's one thing to be a bad designer. It's a far worse matter to be a bad designer and think that you're good. Every good designer has a well-calibrated "design compass" that comes from constantly looking at good designs. You need to spend time looking at great designs from sites like Creattica or the Behance Network. You might also want to pick up the occasional design magazine. Just as good programmers enjoy looking at (and usually critiquing) other people's code, a good designer is always scanning other people's work, whether it be a website or billboard or menu. Without a good "design compass," no amount of Photoshop filters will save you. 

"Just Use Blue and White"

 Most programmers scoff at the idea that a designer might spend several hours choosing exact colors for a website. However, colors will always matter more than you think and you can't change them after a site is being built (at least, not without great effort). Like most things, looking at the color schemes of good designers will help, and the best place to look for color scheme ideas is COLOURlovers.

"I'll Just Center Everything"

For most, it seems almost natural to center align titles, taglines, and parts of copy. But usually, centered text on a website looks amateurish, while left-aligning is a much safer and usually better looking option. Furthermore, be mathematically exact about your website sections, taking advantage of rulers and gridlines in Photoshop. This doesn't mean your design should look grid-like, but eyes can and will notice when sections are supposed to line up, but do not (especially with text). Every pixel matters.

"Use the Free Font...It Looks Fine to Me"

There was a time long ago when (a) all serif fonts looked the same and (b) no font was worth paying for. I have learned much on typography since, and continue to learn more about the complex world of web typography. You can have a great website with only a little color if you have great type (and such is the basis for any great design anyways). Again, becoming better at typography requires reading and training your eye by looking at good sites. Please, never categorize all fonts under either "fun" or "boring."

"We Can Fit More Information in That Space"

Having worked on both programming and design teams, a common disagreement between the two is "utility of space." Programmers want to get as much information above the fold as possible. Designers argue that the eye can't take that much and would rather just have a logo and tagline above the fold. Try finding a happy median between the two, knowing that (a) busy websites can be ineffective, (b) "whitespace" is sometimes a fallback for lazy designers, and (c) the so-called "empty" portions of a site are sometimes necessary to set off the other elements.

"I'm Not Paying for a Picture"

Bad imagery/photography can ruin a reasonable site, while great imagery can make a simple design look really good. And with the resources on the web, there should be no excuse for using poor imagery. For non-commercial sites, check out stock.xchng or Flickr -- just make sure that the license behind the photo allows its use. For commercial work, there are multiple microstock websites out there like iStockPhoto or Veer.

"I Don't Need to Ask for Opinions"

More often than not, you will be your design's biggest fan (through your rose-colored glasses). So you need to ask designers you know for an honest critique. Unfortunately, most people I know who've asked me what I think of their design just wanted approval, not critique. Let your ego go and put on your learning cap. There's a reason that these people are designers (and get paid for it) while you are not. Then after you get their feedback, respect them, trust them, and implement some changes.

"No Need to Get Too Detailed"

Just like you can have mediocre code that needs improvement (but still "works"), you can have a design that is passable, but far from great. It's easy to look at great designs and think, "That doesn't look like much." But in reality, a great design takes a good deal of time (especially for new designers). But with these great designs, you only get to see the end product, and not the amount of editing and revisions that the designer went through. Furthermore, you'd be surprised how a detail as simple as a stroke line makes a world of difference. Don't ever consider a design "done" the first time you put the elements together.

All in all, great design (like great code) takes time, patience, and skill -- and thus, should be duly respected. As a programmer or content writer, you may never need to design a website, but it doesn't hurt to be better. 

Community Comments
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Excellent article yet again! I am a programmer, and work with a designer, and I am positive that I suck at design - and i learned to just no longer question his "quirks" when it comes to design. Ill still offer my opinion now and again, but more times than not even I realize that it didnt make sense or was unreasonable etc. Although - same goes for you designers - give programmers some slack when they say that something you designed would be way too complicated to implement "just cause you think it looks cool". ;)

There are very few developers who have enough of a design eye to avoid these mistakes. On the other hand, you could probably write a matching post about the coding mistakes designers make. This would be why two brains are often better than one.

I will admit...this is me. :-( I'm getting better though, it's nice having people you know give you honest advice about what your designs look like. I think over the years of developing I've seen what works and what doesn't and it's pretty consistent that even if you have a great site/product if it looks like a$$ then it wont succeed*.

*Obviously there are exceptions.

Jeremy Davis
Great timing for this post for me. I am just starting to transition from being a developer to exploring the design route. I read somewhere else that you know you're a designer when you easily justify buying a font. Not there yet, but I have bought photos. So maybe halfway there.

I agree that some developers don't have the eye for design (and I know many designers who get frustrated at developers when a site doesn't look like their original comp :)

But many mistakes should be avoidable and learning should never stop. So although I wouldn't say that developers need to be designers (or vice versa), I would say that developing a sharper aesthetic sense can really make a developer stand out and open up more career paths and opportunities...

I have to admit that I'm terrible at design (and I thank you profusely for your advice), but I'd like to point out that everything is relative. Regarding "We Can Fit More Information in That Space", although I religiously believe in white space, there's a certain Mr. Tufte saying that dense interfaces can be better for some cases. And he has some credibility... :-)

Also check out kuler.adobe.com when you're stumped for color. I especially like the "create" section. You can drop in a color that you definitely want to use as your base color, and it can show you other great options. Great post.

Jason Milburn
Good stuff!
I'm actually looking for someone who can handle PHP/MySQL, and E-commerce stuff - I barely have time to handle my freelance work and improve my design skills much less learn to code dynamic web content. Anyone interested in the details, let me know...
Great site Samuel, I read it religiously.

Evan Meagher
I finally got Photoshop to work in Wine the other night and have been looking forward to being able to design again. This article was a great primer! Good timing!

Very useful and informative. Thank you!

Very interesting stuff!!! Thanks!)

I can't say I'm surprised to hear that site designs by non-designers are often clunky. And what about poems written by politicians? Or cars repaired by chefs?

What strikes me as more interesting is the casting aspersion on things like blue underlined links. They may not fit your palette, but they're a big win when it comes to usability. And many gorgeously-designed sites are turkeys in that department.

@Toby - Your logic is poor...chefs are never expected to repair cars -- but almost every developer in the world has had to design/build a site himself at one time or another.

So, yeah, helpful article...

Great read. I am a designer slowly on my way to becoming what I hope to be great developer. I have to admit that 9 times out of 10 my designs have suffered due to lack of coding experience. As I have gained more coding experience, I have been able to implement much better design. Thanks for keeping things real.

Digital Revolutions
Very nice article. Great stuff!

A User
I am a user, I am sick of searching for links on webpages because I don't remember the site's color scheme. Please blue links tell me to click and I can. I know this. Grey, red, etc. it doesn't make any sense. Each site is different because another web2.0 junkie thinks he knows what he is doing. I'm the user goddamn it! STOP!

Very good input for developers and designers alike. collaboration is a great learning experience. i am novice at programming and like to work with great developers because they can do a much better job than i and i learn more about what they require from me, and i would expect the developer to want the same. Enjoy your blog!

Very nice posting.

One thing that jumped out to me is the line that encourages us to look at good websites to improve our grasp of typography.

I feel that it's crucial to go offline for type inspiration. Type on the web is often poorly represented or only used at l% of its full potential.

Can't say it's us, but must admit - we do get taken away by some of the thoughts about free fonts and free images. However, sometimes clients get too pushy to select certain image exactly because they've seen something similar on other web sites. "It worked for them, should work for us"

Ted Rodifer
I have been a designer for years. I prefer design over coding. However as a freelancer I really have to do both at least until I can afford to hire a dedicated developer. This article is great for the beginner, but also for the experienced user who has gotten slack in there efforts.

Great job, keep up the good work.

Very useful. Thanks

steve wang
man this is so wrong, it doesnt say so on http://www.opentopix.com 3rd page

Interesting article, Samuel.

I'm pretty new to Web design & development (which probably explains the following), but I always find it a little strange when people create a clean divide between programmers and designers.

These days, I don't think it's right to have people who just do Photoshop mock-ups; how about the interactions, Ajax, and overall flow of a site? And, at what point does the person who designs a site in Photoshop get to interact with it through hyperlinks - is it before, or after, the design has been set in stone?

Nowadays, Web sites and applications need frontend and backend developers, with the frontend guy handling the design implementation. So, the problem seems to be that many people simply don't see two disciplines in web development; they just see 'programmers'. Some of these programmers should handle design, others should handle logic. Or at least that's my newbie view on it all!

Another great article as usual Sam.

@Neil - I'm right with you on all of that. When I came out of school several years ago, designers got one class in "Dreamweaver Basics" while programmers had a couple classes in "Database and Internet Apps." Neither really prepared people for the web and so, over the last decade, you have all sorts of people jumping in (print designers, C++ programmers, hardware hobbyists, etc.)

Only recently have we begun to figure out defined roles, and nowadays, you usually have categories like front-end dev, back-end dev, internet marketing, SEO, etc. Although there's still a lot of crossover and people trying to "do it all," I would hope that the public at large has a better understanding than "that guys makes websites."

Gary R Boodhoo
decent advice and nicely presented, would like to mention that for those serious about design and typography, the best thing you can do is spend time away from the computer for a while.

Spend an hour a day for a month simply drawing & subdividing rectangles with paper and pencil, the result will be a good designer.

The same could be said for interaction designers. Using pencil & paper, show 100 ways to navigate between 10 pages of content.

I completely agree with Neil's comment above. Graphic designers need to explore behavioral ideas as well as visual ones. While there are other ways to explore high-level behaviors, being able to implement working mini-prototypes is the only way to truly understand the physicality of working with an interactive system. That is - design for the input device before designing for the output device.

Cool article!

yeghia elivis tchakmakian
ok. my website is down, and my email is generic gmail.. but unfortunately you are all novices. i put my full name webaddress, email and myspace.com/yeghia becuase most of the people reading this don;t give 2 sh@@ts, design is dead. yes, design is dead. i work for um..... fk it wb. we control a lot of the market share. good design is not what execs look for. marketers as full of shit as they are, and you guys(marketers) are full of shit, contorl the medium of the day. even though they r 10 yrs behind. developers are idiots. they r web geeks who know how to code, but coding is givin more respect that design, the visual interface we might call it is less respected than the code. most of the morons who hire a good designer have no idea of what design really is anyway. so what is my conclusion?... 01+01 doesn't make a design, asking a designer to do math is like asking an accountant to do a picasso. fuck human resource people; go to hell.

This was a good article, I'll subscribe to your feed.

James Abela
If I were dividing tasks on a Website, I would suggest the following:

Database programmer / backend Programmer - The person who makes sure the database and content management system actually works.

Frontend Web-Designer - The person who decides layout and design of each page using html

Content / Copy Editor - The person who writes the words for the Website.

Graphics designer - Chooses imagery and colours for the site.

Online marketer - Somebody who promotes the site, creates newsletters and generates income.

In large corporate Websites there will be these jobs and more, but for most companies there will be a Webmaster who does all this and make the coffee :-)


P.S. I deliberately chose blue and white on my site, because blue is associated with calmness and teachers need that when they are doing last minute planning for a lesson...

Great article. So true!

You got another subscriber.

@James - I think your categories are spot on, and I'm glad you point out that in many companies, there's no budget for a web team, so one "webmaster" does do everything. That doesn't mean he should be doing everything, but sometimes you have to do what you can with what you have.

So having a few design chops is not to say that a developer ever needs to be a great designer, but more about being the best "web guy" you can be for the role you're forced to work in...

That's good! Thanks! It is written simply and with skill. Good luck!

Tristan Bethe
Really nice read. I found the part about aligning everything to the pixel out the hard way.

For alternative free and not so polished stock photos can i suggest www.imageafter.com ?

The interesting aspect of this design discussion is, of course, form over function --or more importantly, function should FOLLOW form. There is an entire company that bases EVERYTHING, not just their website, on this philosophy, –yes Apple. They have more to their business philosophy of course, but this is rule number 1.

Have you seen Sony website. they have recentl;y changes their site and made it more user friendly & informative.

Nice article,,a different approach.. it's also about usability and understanding the requirements and audience,,,sacrificing these for design is prob the bigest mistake developers/designers make

Nice article Samuel, very well written. "Just Use Blue and White Again" <- Cringe factor :9

A short comment on stock.xchange (or sxc.hu): most pictures on that website are usable for commercial websites, even without attribution. You have to look carefully though, because not all photographs are licensed the same. Another option for free (commercially usable) photographs is www.morguefile.com. If you're happy with giving proper credit to the photographer you can also use some of the beautiful photographs on Wikipedia's image repository: Wikimedia Commons (http://commons.wikimedia.org).

Furthermore, aside from the graphical and technical aspects of a website you should also really have someone who pays attention to the interaction and usability of a website. It's all too often that you see a website that is fast and technically ok, looks great but isn't usable.

An Jay
Great and useful article. I agree with usability and understanding the requirements and audience is important.

Web design and development forum
I agree that whitespace is always wanting to be filled by 'artists'.

Whitespace is great, as it's potential advertising space, should you want to do that.

Unfortunately, the customer 9 times out of 10 only want it to 'look nice', and don't understand elements, padding, margins etc...

ASP Web Hosting
Yepp, looks worryingly familiar :)

Gifts Site
Excellently written article, I dont comment very often but felt that you deserved it especially linking to decent resources without incentive.

So true that a design is never finished, the end product in my experience is usually very different to what I started with and im still trying to be the programmer and designer, learning this stuff never stops.

The article is right. Great design is not easy, even with all tools available today.

Jared Lorz
Hmm an interesting point but I'm not sure if I agree with you.

Jared Lorz

Good article, but I cant help to wonder why the pages about design you refer to all looks like crap. Specially typophile (though that is not specifically a design page, but also TheFWA, FaveUp, Design is Kinky and Behance Network. They all link to lovely stuff, but the pages themself looks like a planecrash

Great article! I agree with you, particularly on using premium fonts where necessary, and DEFINITELY not having everything centre aligned!!

"Just as good programmers enjoy looking at (and usually critiquing) other people's code, "

What? Are you insane, looking at other people's code drives you insane.

As for the rest - you are just wrong - spoken like a true designer stuck in a world producing crap HTML covered in tables.

Get with the times - I especially liked your "it's hard to change colours" comment- not if you know HOW to code the website in the first place.

This is why we have tag-soup on the internet, designers playing coders.

I'm Anonymous Too!
Hey, I like the points you make and I give props to anyone who makes a stand knowing that people will argue with you no matter what.

And oh yeah, I'm fine with table usage at times - hell, some of the top sites in the world including Google use tables for their layout stuff - I 'm sure Google doesn't care one bit about folks thinking they're "bad coders" :-)

I'll join the list of people saying "Good post" - for someone not having a design background, you're correctly identifying the importance of typography and grid.

I experienced the same revelation - at first, you think that none of it matters - but there's so much design that can happen on the text level it's ridiculous.

This is a great list for developers that I think allows them to take the next step toward design thinking... great job.

Yeah, I do need to transition tables to divs and other edits when I get a chance, but honestly (and I hope the web-standards folks don't kill me for saying this), it's low priority behind innumerable web projects.

So I'm okay with the criticism and I don't lose sleep over it :)

Your advice about fonts is dead wrong.

You should stick to fonts which people will likely have installed and specify multiple families in your CSS. E.g.

font-family:helvetica arial sans-serif

If you specify some fancy font in your CSS then very few, if any, of your visitors will have that font and hence will they will see the text in what ever font their browser uses by default.

You can of course create images of text and use those in place of actual text or use that Flash thing that creates a flash object containing text in the font you specify. But you usually shouldn't, or if you do at least make sure there is actual text in your page as well for accessibility.


Ummm, all he said was that fonts are different and you should be willing to buy fonts when necessary. He made no reference to actual content type or what to use for CSS. Sounds like you have a chip on your shoulder...

i know it's much cooler to find something to argue about and make myself look l33t, but to be honest, the points here are good so i'll be a sheep and say "nice job"

Paul Annett
It concerns me that you suggest people should take photos from Flickr for use on non-commercial websites, without explaining to look for a photo with the appropriate Creative Commons licence which allows this. Most photos on Flickr are copyrighted and all rights reserved to the photographer - it's not a huge free stock photo library as this article implies.

@Paul - Thanks for the heads-up. Will revise that part right now.

Paul Annett wrote:
> it's not a huge free stock photo library as this article implies.

Well.. consider this:

* 6,684,654 CC-BY photos
* 4,697,114 CC-BY-SA photos
* 2,244,277 CC-ND photos
Over 10 million photos that are usable on a commercial website, if you give proper credit and comply to the licensing terms. It might not all be good for your website (i doubt the many baby and kitten pictures will be of much use to the typical website), but there are sure to be some gems in there.

If you have a non-commercial website you have an even greater choice:
* 20,224,526 CC-BY-NC-ND photos
* 8,291,633 CC-BY-NC photos
* 16,724,805 CC-BY-NC-SA photos
Everything together, that's over 50 million photos. Seems like a huge free stock library :)

I do agree with you that many people aren't educated enough about what's free and what's not.

pete morley
Very good article.

With regards to text, I use a workaround called sifr.


it lets you display fonts the end user may not have by defining the font in a small swf file, while still keeping your text searchable. If the user dosent have flash, they simply see a font dictated by the css.

There are some very valid points about the line between developer and designer and i agree with your article on several points about the lack of design sense developers have, but there is always a flip side where a designer tends to know to little about the environment he is designing for. Let's start with the idea that Firefox and IE (among other browsers) are not Photoshop and websites are not always static images.

- "I Know What Looks Good (and I Have Photoshop)"

i agree assumptions are a bad idea

- "Just Use Blue and White Again"

although i do agree that there are lots of colors in the spectrum and we all to often choose boring schemes, the problem is when a designer decides to use too many shades of grey There's just no difference on a website between #0f0f0f and #161515.

- "I'll Just Center Everything"

that's just dumb.

- "Use the Free Font...It Looks Fine to Me"

fonts can really help a website out but if you're designing a website you should know that certain areas of a website will change and will change often. For this reason you cannot make everything in some obscure font because it's just not possible to write 20 pages of copy in that font then create an image and swap them out with the current copy. use the special fonts on things that don't change like logos and headers, and use the crappy but available web safe fonts for copy blocks, and nav text because another unforseen force is the client who decides that the link titles need to change daily.

- "We Can Fit More Information in That Space"

I agree here, you really can't afford to compromise a good design with junk stuffing. I've actually had the opposite issue where designers try to hard to make the fold and don't make the site able to grow in height by using a background image that doesn't repeat or stretch. There are way too many sites that look like the pock marked roads in the northeast. just keep sticking garbage in every available inch and you're sure to ruin a site.

- "I Don't Need to Ask for Opinions"

If you're this stupid you deserve to fail.

- "I'm Not Paying for a Picture"

being broke is no excuse. borrow a camera, "rent" one from best buy, anything but don't make any more text only sites, pictures make us happy.

- "No Need to Get Too Detailed"

It's all in the details

Very good piece. I know I'm guilty of a few on the list. But like most people said already, getting better with each passing project. Thanks for the tips. will be very useful.

Brad Pyne
Looks like this article landed you another spot on Digg's top 10. Nice article!

Flickr and stock exhchange do have images you can use on commerical sites, just be sure to search for ones with that kind of license.

great insight! I am a new designer and this helps a ton!

I think you might want to change your title to Designer, not Developer. Drastically different roles, you know...

Good article though.

I like your article, especially the first point - to be a better designer one has to admit there's room for improvement. However, when it comes to typography you are limited to the fonts that visitors to your site have installed on their computers, unless all text is to be embedded in an image. So whilst Supersexyfont12 might look great on your pc, it could end up just being dull old Arial anyway.

Marketing. A cruel and harsh reality that ruins good design every time.

There are some really cool points in this article. I do have some reservations about some of the points tough.

- I Know What Looks Good. Designers know what looks good, but they often don't know what works well. In the example sites I saw some really slick design but had some unfortunate usability issues.
- Use the Free Font...It Looks Fine to Me. I had to say to designers so many times "Yeah, that font looks really cool, but we can't use it on the web because users don't have it installed on their PC. And if we make everything a graphic with that font, it really hinders the usability and accessibility of the site."
- I Don't Need to Ask for Opinions. I agree that everyone should solicit opinions. But if you focus too much on the opinion of other designers (and thus try to impress peers instead of users), you end up with stuff that is clever rather than good.

Excellent article!

Drew Beta
I started in fine arts, moved to design, then moved to development. needless to say, I am a valuable resource in my company because I understand both sides of the spectrum and speak both languages. I agree, developers should learn more about design. I have seen some sloppy code because developers have a hard time seeing the big picture of how a site's design fits together. I believe that Zeldman calls this classitis. Though, designers are equal offenders because they think that it's acceptable to have hundreds of lines of Javascript to get the effect that they are looking for (selection boxes cannot be styled!).

joel m. reyes
im a programmer and eventually learned how to create my own designs :) and this article is great! its really helpful.

I'd wish the financial advisors and accounting firms who deal with 3rd party designers would look at this article and understand that developing and designing websites is not the same as how you use a printed brochure. Unfortunately, I've encountered the enlighted 20 percent who get the idea of how difficult it is to achieve a well designed and well maintained website. The 80 percent are mostly marketing "me-too" iconic designs that will never see the light of compliance or FINRA audit approval. That being said, I'm bookmarking this link and sending it to the account managers on what not to have our clients do when they need a website design that does not look like a template and any of the 8 tips on this page. Kudos.

Great article! and SO true! I work on a team with a developer (i am the designer). I have learned quite a bit about code and he has learned a lot about design... but we still couldn't replace each other! Check out our '10 Questions to Ask Your Website Designer' article.

Sheri L. Johnson
I thought some really good stuff was shared including some resources and I am a web designer. It is always good to hear what makes a site great.

Another completely predictable list that is just a front for a bunch of namedropping for other websites. Well done!

I like IdN (International Designers Network) magazine in print and online (idnworld.com). Also, I get inspired just randomly looking at typography and images on flickr. Going to your local art museum though, and examining/learning about works of art are on the top of my list.

Mark Hesmondhalgh
Great article, I'm a developer but like above, I am absolutely crap when it comes to the design side of things.

Some very good tips. Thanks!

Good photos don't have to cost much. If you want great stock photos at a low, extemely affordable price, I would recommend dreamstime.com. It's all user driven and a good way to sell photos if you are a photographer, too. They have a really great collection and an image usually only costs a dollar or two.

Matt Huggins
Arial and Helvetica look the same to me, and the quiz linked proved nothing...am I alone here?

I'm sorry to say this, but if you are still using tables in HTML and no CSS, then you shouldn't really brag that you are a "designer".

I still see a lot of "designers" making websites that look like the ones I did back in the nineties.

Chase Carter
As a designer I must commend you for such an excellent article. I couldn't have put it any better. You covered all of the points I think are crucial to a great looking design. Thanks!

Great article.

Let me ask you guys something though...what do you do when clients INSIST on breaking some of those rules?

I have a client that doesn't want anything ever below the fold. Everything has to be crammed into a space of 600 pixels tall but keeps cramming more content in that space.

It's tough because on one hand the design looks like garbage now and I don't want to work on it...but on the other hand the guy pays really well so I can't tell him "no".

Hahah, great read and I couldn't agree more. I'm a programmer and my worst enemy is designing. I'm happy with a table and a background in the table header, but that doesn't seem to draw in the hits.

I have to disagree with a couple of the points made here:

Regarding fonts: Stick with the basics. As someone pointed out earlier - helvetica, arial, sans-serif; or Times New Roman, serif; - if you go with something unusual, your viewer may not have it installed. Have you checked to see what it looks like when the font falls through because it's not installed?

As far as color goes - how is it difficult to change a color scheme? Just change the colors in the stylesheet! I have completely changed the color scheme of a site in 2 minutes with a couple of global replaces on the stylesheet. Unless you're using graphics as a major component of the color scheme, it's not that difficult.

@Devin - I've come to the conclusion that some projects pay the bills and some projects are creatively rewarding. I would group those clients in the former category (where you probably feel more like their employee) while hoping that one day, I'll have all of the latter (where you probably feel more like their partner). Both types of clients have their roles in freelancing and I don't look down on either, but making the distinction helps me avoid unnecessary angst. And by the way, I love your site...

@Tony - On the fonts, I should have made a better distinction between graphic/logo fonts and content type fonts -- I was referring more to the former and agree that standards for the latter is a must. Same thing for colors -- I wasn't referring to text and links (which as noted are easy to change in CSS), but more towards your "entire" solution which can include a host of graphics, depending on how much you skin your site. For a site like this, moving from earthy tones to cooler ones would require several graphical changes...

Thanks very much for these great tips. I am guilty of "having photoshop", haha... I just created a site that I think "looks ok", but found it terribly difficult to convert to code. I really admire people that are good at this. I will havng on to your tips for future use.

john schuster
I have made most of these mistake, and I will probably make a few again, It more important to publish some thing as best you can then not at all! code on.

Finchley Web
Great article and great blog. Keep up the good work!

Mike Evans
Thanks for the great advice and the links. You have a new subscriber.

Devin, If the client insists then there is nothing else you can do. Some people want it their way.

Grant Clark
Excellent and well written article, it's that rare thing to find, the person who can develop and design to a high standard in both spheres. I know of only 2 who qualify in my book and I'm constantly amazed that they don't get more recognition!

Great article! I work for a website builder software company and a lot of people use our product to build websites. It's tips like these that help them to make their websites better.

J. Brandon Loberg
Excellent article, particularly in terms of typography.

Over the past couple of years, i've been doing almost exclusively print work, where my already profound appreciation of type increased tenfold. Recently i've begun taking on web projects again, only to be reminded how disappointing web typography is. So many websites just slap type onto pages with little—if any—regard for it's comparability to print. Granted, HTML is annoyingly clunky (even with CSS), especially when one is used to the precision and flexibility of, say, InDesign. However, i've found that although many designers go all flaccid at the prospect of hand-coding, the extensive understanding it intrinsically provides allows one to make use of myriad workarounds in order to achieve convincing approximations of print-quality type—essentially, it's using the language to its full potential, i.e. while most designers settle with an image of, say, the letter 'A' with the CSS property 'float:left;' in place of true drop-caps, there are several ways using just text and a little CSS to achieve the same effect. It looks (and prints) nicer, and best of all, it's available to a PHP/SQL backend.

As has been discussed, it seems there is a problem concerning the rift between designers and developers, and from what i gather, they apparently aren't speaking to one another. As intuitive as either party may be, it's important for both to understand the dynamics of a site—both across pages, as well as the flow of content on individual pages. More than ever, websites are dynamic documents in several respects. One is obviously that their content is constantly changing, but another is that, since the introduction of user-resizable text (i.e. 'View>Make Text Bigger' aka 'the bane of my existence'), it's important to understand how text size will stretch and strain your carefully wrought pages to the point where things start to break, or at the very least resemble a mutant form of typographical 'modern art.' The important thing is that your programmer understands how things flow, or where they don't, and the limitations requisite in both respects...

Great article.

As a designer I'm fortunate enough to work with a developer who knows he's not a designer (sometimes to my chagrin though: "Do you really need me to explicitly tell you every last detail of the design?").

Now you need to find a designer who can write " 8 Web Development Mistakes That Designers Make" because I know some of the code I piecemeal together when I'm coding on my own is pretty ugly.

I agree with everything you said about the free fonts and buying fonts. I am not exactly a professional designer but even as a user having a good clear and easy on the eye font helps a website look so much better!


Chuck: In the best of worlds a true designer isn't a coder. Let someone else do the CSS, etc.

It's enough work to come up with creative design. Asking that person to also be a technician is, while often necessary, seldom ideal.

keshav kaushik
yes, you are very much right to an extent that a majority of freshers in web development industry is making it a habbit of not applying the general and yet important guidelines while developing their applications.
I guess the under mentioned sites are fullest in their development:

Good article, except for one point...

It might be a mistake that a blog entry without date and time at which it is posted :)

Ed Garcia
I read your article and it was great.

I wrote a supporting article on some points you mentioned here, from a 100% designer that used to program. In truth I will never do more than design, the same way many programmers couldn't see themselves doing design.

And I find very rare occasions where one person can do both in a business environment - aka deadlines. Once I can get a client to commit to a design it can be sent to the programmer and replication is much faster than "design and program as one huge step" that happens when one person takes both jobs.

I got my programmer that does sites for me and a team like that is a great environment that can speed up sites. Once I have the design (graphics/HTML/CSS/includes/forwards/flow-structure/hosting account) all he has to do is duplicate it on the programming. Simple, right? Well, not really simple but a lot more streamlined, I believe. :)

In my post I linked to yours. I am here hoping this is the most correct way at doing a post back without being "spammy".


Vitaly Gorn
Hi, great article and great advices.
I've wrote a post with some thoughts on this topic some time ago...

1/30/2008 6:59:35 AM

same goes for you designers - give programmers some slack when they say that something you designed would be way too complicated to implement just cause you think it looks cool. ;)


Chitika Review
Another mistake that developers make is designing a 100% flash based website without providing an alternate html based version for visitors who don't use flash.

well its all excellent ideas but "Just Use Blue and White Again" give a unique look no doubt

Web Hosting
Every designer even how experience they are should never stop learning on how to do graphic design. this way you will always br on top of your field. nice article

Tim Donahue
A great article! I run CoolHomepages.com which you might be familiar with - we cover like-minded content to what you do here -- but wanted to mention www.BigStockPhoto.com as an even better source of high quality low cost stock images, art and photos.

You might enjoy this 10 Commandments of Web Design also:

Digital Base
Very nice article, good writing, interesting read.

This may not be the primary concern of a developer per se depending on what the role of the developer is but All to often the content the customer needs to be distributing is often the last concern and more often than not you will have developed a bunch of static pages even if the site uses a content management system. Make sure you could the initial content as soon as you can and then fully instruct the client how to use a CMS to provide compelling content to the intended audience as well as search engines. You just not programing for browsers, you are programming for people.

Well, I am a mural artist, and educated in programming. Self taught web publisher, the last few years has been a life endulging, time consuming endless roller coaster of events. (all from sitting on my butt on the computer). I dont think there is ever an end to learning any part of this! Once you learn something, it updates or dies and you have to learn the next big thing. Design and Coding both come to find out. All trends go in circles, so never forget what you learned! I just wish someone could point out a good place where coders, designers, marketers, project managers, ect. can all meet online in a virtual environment and create websites for internet customers at cost effective rates and nicely divide the responsibilities as needed for sufficiency, modern and professional websites. Would that be hard? Instead of a corporate intranet, have a website that customers can choose functions/themes, ect. and could get things cheaper and faster. In theory, it seems that a virtual production line could be created. lol, maybe a mixture of Craigslist, Scriptlance, shopping cart, and a corporate intranet software. Nice article Sam! It sure got alot of minds ticking!

small business seo
another great post, welcome to our RSS. as an SEO who gets dragged into web design jobs far too often and spends all my time explaining that we are not web designers, and that although yes we do use the same programs (apart from photoshop) it is a very different job, and that you would be much better getting a web designer to do your web design and an SEO to optimise it.

its also so easy to make great websites from the thousands of excellent templates made by real designers out there today, i feel for anyone new just starting out in web design now. your list is a pretty good list of what not to do from what I can see ;)

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This is a great perspective coming from the designers needs

In light of that, here's a list of mistakes for the consumer side of things:

The 10 Great Fallacies of Web Design - as imagined by the consumer

Interesting post.I really appreciate your knowledge.

website design
Good article, but I cant help to wonder why the pages about design you refer to all looks like crap. Specially typophile (though that is not specifically a design page, but also TheFWA, FaveUp, Design is Kinky and Behance Network. They all link to lovely stuff, but the pages themself looks like a planecrash

Web Design
Good day! I really appreciate your post. It is very interesting. I learn things that is new to me. Now I am very much careful in making my design. Thank you for your good inputs.http://www.dcglobal.us/

web designer
Every designer possibly encounter this mistakes from the past and it is important to learn from your mistakes for you to improve more not only in your work but also as a individual.

great, that your post. It is very helpful for the developers to avoid that mistake
and also helpful for great design .great

King Beto
Good article. As a programmer, this is really useful. Greets,

There's a clough between Web Developer and Web Designer.

Nice Article, Fave!

Ilcho Vuchkov
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Aggie Jane
"More often than not, you will be your design's biggest fan (through your rose-colored glasses). So you need to ask designers you know for an honest critique. Unfortunately, most people I know who've asked me what I think of their design just wanted approval, not critique. So let your ego go and put on your learning cap. There's a reason that these people are designers (and get paid for it) while you are not. Then after you get their feedback, respect them, trust them, and implement some changes."
I am absolutely agree with, but different designers have different "eye" for web design and different people have different reactions too. So the limits of beautifull web design are some kind fuzzy.

Web Designing India
I thinks every designer possibly encounter this mistakes from the past and it is important to learn from your mistakes for you to improve more not only in your work but also as a individual.

Website Design Company
ok There's a clough between Web Developer and Web Designer.

Jad Graphics
Yes, this is definitely true. I made some of these same mistakes when I first started out.

XSitePro Reviews
When I saw the mistakes you have listed I just had a grin myself as I made some of them couple of times.

This is definitely a lesson to learn.


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website design
useful information, thanks for that

Amit Web designer
I thinks every designer possibly encounter this mistakes from the past and it is important to learn from your mistakes for you to improve more not only in your work but also as a individual.

Many websites are still looking awful.

Web Site Design
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Website Design Company
great information

Pregnancy Symptoms
Great info this will really help me when putting together my next site. Very useful information !

Website Design
Thanks a lot of guys r u looking right way.
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Lasik Surgery
Graphic designers need to explore behavioral ideas as well as visual ones. While there are other ways to explore high-level behaviors, being able to implement working mini-prototypes is the only way to truly understand the physicality of working with an interactive system.

I've seen what works and what doesn't and it's pretty consistent that even if you have a great site/product if it looks like a$$ then it wont succeed*. I thinks every designer possibly encounter this mistakes from the past and it is important to learn from your mistakes for you to improve more not only in your work but also as a individual.

logo design
nice article really helpful in improving skills

Good points. Actually even seasoned webmasters make horrible mistakes by overdoing websites. This article is a must for them. I agree about the pictures enhancing website appeal. I've attracted more audience via well taken stock photos. They seem to keep your readers engaged and develop more trust in you. Thumbs up to the author.

Web directory
The author put out great points. Short and sweet!


I thinks every designer possibly encounter this mistakes from the past and it is important to learn from your mistakes for you to improve more not only in your work but also as a individual.

Very important points regarding web design.

Great post! When I first started out I tried to program and design but I am a terrible designer. I then took the time to find designers who could not program and we worked out relationships so that our customers could benefit from both of our skill sets.

bridal shower
I think there are too many "web designers" out there who just jumped in and starting learning html and put up pages. They think that since their pages work they are a professional, but many times their designs are flat out hard to look at.

baby toys
Interesting list. Hope you post more.

inventory management barcode
Nice thought about design.

adult diapers
That list is often happen for new developer who have any experience in web design.

Mortgage Broker
It is a difficult issue as web designers tend to be artistic and developers scientific. It is well documented that very few people have the two attributes.

I would say that a balance of white space with proper spacing and leading for the text are quite important. Also setting a reasonable, non-adjustable column width.

Optical Migrane
Great post about the mistakes a web developer makes. Thanks for the article..it might be useful for many developers.

Migraine Headache
Good post about the mistakes a web developer makes. Thanks for the article..it might be useful for many developers.

Optical Migrane
Lovely post about the mistakes a web developer makes. Thanks for the article..it might be useful for many developers.

Informed Consent
As a designer I must commend you for such an excellent article. I couldn't have put it any better. You covered all of the points I think are crucial to a great looking design. Thanks!

Golf Trolleys
The mind works in strange ways although you may have some people who are biased in either art (designers) and scientific (developers), most people are a mixture. Some days lots of inspiration other days its better to just clean your office. I call those days the non-productive days.

Great pointer for developers who are looking to understand what design is all about and why it matters.

chicago web design
Love how you included the "No Need to Get Too Detailed" post from psdtuts. I think its great. Thanks for a great post.

Chicago website design
Awesome article! As a programmer, I struggled hard at first to learn CSS, which I always felt was the realm of the designers. But now in my current management position at a premiere Chicago web design company, I encourage the design team and the programming team to work hand and hand on a daily basis and to learn what each team is doing.

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Sunny Days & Rain
What is all this?
My name is Samuel Ryan and I make websites. Sometimes, I write about it. I disappeared from this blog for a couple years, but I'm jumping back in now -- even began using my twitter account. If you care to know more, go here.