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As I mentioned earlier, most web designers spend a tremendous amount of time planning and designing sites before they ever write their first line of code. As such, it's essential that you have a strong set of tools to help you with the design process. With that in mind, I want to spend a little bit of time talking about the tools that I use in my own design workflow and how they might be useful in your own. First I recommend getting a good sketchbook. Every one of my sites starts with a series of sketches. This allows me to get ideas down quickly, in a nonpermanent way, and I can take notes, write down measurements, and work through problems before I ever start creating digitally.
In fact, I love working in sketchbooks so much that I continue to sketch things out and make notes throughout the entire design process. Next, I want to point out a few online tools that I use. First up, I want to show you Typetester. Now Typetester allows you to compare up to three different fonts to each other, and what's really nice about this is the list of fonts that you can choose from. You can choose from the safe list, which is essentially fonts that are on every single machine out there. You have your Windows defaults, your Mac defaults, and even they go down into Windows Vista and Google Fonts. So if you're thinking about using the Google Fonts API, you can test out some of their fonts directly here.
So when you choose some fonts, after choosing some fonts to compare to one another, you can come in and change their size. You can change the tracking, the leading, the word spacing, colors. You can change the text that they display. This is a great way of comparing fonts side by side or even seeing how well certain fonts work together. Another online tool I use a lot is Adobe's Kuler. You can find this at Kuler and that's with K-U-L-E-R, kuler.adobe.com. Now picking a color scheme is one of the most important steps in web design, and Kuler really helps take a lot of the guesswork out of it, especially if you're really bad with color like I am. So let me show you kind of how this works.
Number one, a lot of people are members here, and they'll upload their themes and they'll play around with themes, so lot of times you can just kind of go through these themes that they have here and choose one of those and kind of use that as a starting point. Now you can also sort of mix and match your own. So if I click right here to toggle the color viewer on, notice that I can begin to move these around. So I can move different colors around. I can mix up my own colors. I could even say, okay, I want this to be the base color, and let's use complementary colors. And then you can sort of move these around as well, and the relationship between those colors remains the same.
Now once you do that, you can go down here and tweak these colors individually using the sliders, and you can grab the HSV, RGB, CMYK, LAB, and even the HEX value to use in your own sites. Now you are limited to five colors at a time, but of course you can pick a color and then continue to sort of build off of that to build a much bigger color palette out of that. So a huge fan of Adobe's Kuler, and it's a free service, so that's really nice. Now as far as Desktop tools go, I use a combination of three applications when designing page mockups. Now some designers prefer to design directly within the browser, but I really like to generate fairly detailed mockups before I begin writing code.
To do this, I use Adobe's Photoshop, Illustrator, or Fireworks. Depending upon the project, I may only use a single program or some combination of the three. Now typically, I use Illustrator when the layout calls for heavy use of vector artwork, icon creation, or, like you are seeing here, when I need to design a responsive layout that's going to have several different views based on the size of the screen or the device that's being used. I use Photoshop for all bitmap graphics, photographs, or mockups that make heavy use of image composition.
If I need to create a prototype, especially one that allows clients to preview interactivity and usability, I'll use Fireworks, as it has a lot of different built-in prototyping features. Now speaking of mockups, the one question I get asked over and over again is how do I go from my mockups to finished code? Well, currently there is no export option from any program that creates acceptable code, so if you're looking for that feature, I'm sorry to disappoint you, but it simply does not exist. Now what I do, and the process that we're going to be exploring for the rest of this chapter, is use the mockup to help me plan my initial page structure and generate assets by exporting out graphics and other page content.
Of course everyone's design process is different, and the tools and processes that work for me might not be a great fit for you. If you're a graphic designer, you might already have a tool set that you use that you're very comfortable with and maybe it's a little different than mine, but it allows you to be just as productive. That's fine. I encourage you to use what works for you. Just think of this as an introduction into a specific workflow. Take from it what you think will work for you and then modify it for the specific projects or strengths that you possess.
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