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'Do you design for CSS?' is a battle cry often rallied during the initial meeting between developers, creatives and clients; the parrying response often a reassuring 'yes, or course we do'. Then a few days later, a beautifully composed design is sent across, and the developer gives a disappointed sigh and exclaims, 'you just can't build that in XHTML and CSS'.

This seems to be a common scenario that could so often be avoided with a little more communication and tweaking to both the design and the code. Designing for the web has a whole host of different rules than that for print and they have further ramifications than just using web-safe fonts. Thinking of integrating with a CMS? That means giving the client control over the site too. Weeks of work developing an aesthetic, validated site could potentially be undone in just a couple of hours if this power is wielded improperly, and rest assured that the client will expect you to put it right again every time, and without charge. In our opinion, a reasonable request.

Communication and understanding are everything. In many cases, that funky feature could be implemented in the code, and the boxes probably could line up without using tables. But design the site in the right way and it might not matter if a search bar is not quite 57 pixels from the top, and it should certainly be possible for the client to add a 3 line news story headline instead of a 2 line one without ruining the nicely aligned layout of the site.

This paper sets out to explain just some of the techniques that could be employed on both sides to produce something pleasing for everyone. We doubt it will solve all the problems in a company culture, but if you are lucky it might get creatives and developers to enter into the same tea round.

2. Creative Considerations

A web page is probably the most fluid medium that any graphic designer will work on. Simply put, a web page will never look the same on two different computers (or two browsers) and if the content on that page changes regularly the page will never look the same on two different days.

In this instance a successful design is one that can be really flexible and be pulled and pushed around by the content and still not break. Development time will decrease if designs allow for slight differences in width, height and alignment between browsers, instead of needing to be pixel perfect.

2.1.1. Variable height

For example, a common problem is websites that have a fixed height. It is very easy using a graphics program to design a website to put in some Greeking (say two paragraphs of Lorem Ipsum) and design the page to fit around it. In fact the design becomes so perfect that text almost becomes a graphical element of the page, and almost a thing of beauty in itself. Lay this on top of a complicated non-repeatable background, and you are left with a very limited layout.

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