Building your designs shouldn’t be about compromise

I’m Steve McKinney, I write this blog about the design and build of websites. My main aim is to teach you how to implement your designs as you intend. With this I cover a mixture of how to design visually appealing websites and building them with maintainable CSS.

What drives my writing is hearing things like “you can’t expect your designs to look the same as they do in design app”. And while that comes from a good place, it’s a free ride to forgive things like spacing inconsistencies, not adding visual flourishes and avoiding refinements for your responsive breakpoints.

Who is this for?

Either you’re a developer wanting to improve their visual design skills, or a designer with some coding experience. You’re someone who understands the value of not only good design, but the requirement of making it look visually appealing too. Through sharing what I know and continue to learn, I hope to meet this need.

It started out with writing weekly without an aim

I made the decision to start writing this blog consistently in January 2015. Every week, for two years, a blog post went out. I started out writing about anything I was interested in, as long as it was related to websites.

It became clear to me over those two years, there was a lack of content focusing on the visual side of design.

Focusing on designing & coding beautiful websites

I knew focusing on visual design would be a good start. I begun narrowing down to only designing with Illustrator and launched a redesign of the website. Things improved steadily, but I felt limited and ignoring a part of making websites.

The thing being coding, at least the HTML and CSS part. Understanding how to build websites is part of my unique advantage.

A new goal to be able to work with in depth content

During the last few months of posting weekly, I thought about the focus of the website and taking a break. The realisation of posting weekly, with limited time, meant I couldn’t do certain posts. I wanted to change.

My vision for this website is to; teach in depth ‘web’ related design topics. Help you understand why and develop your own rationale. Using Illustrator and CSS as the core tools.

A mixture of practical tutorials and tips

I aim to make no assumptions, as you can find yourself wanting the ‘why’. That rationale can help you to understand better and begin to form your own opinions, or provide references to research further. However, with this in mind, I do feel each tutorial is around an intermediate level.

With the vast majority of tutorials focused around Illustrator it obviously means other applications do appear to be excluded. Designs should always be possible to replicate, but this is something I am aware of.

Some tutorials will feature CSS (using SCSS), and some will feature JavaScript. There are a mixture of articles from quick tips, to in depth design tutorials.

The aim is to help improve workflow efficiency and build up visual design skill. Code adds additional justification and is usually the best way to communicate extra details.

There’s a lot of decisions that get missed, because they’re routine as a designer. I want to communicate these decisions to both developers and designers to bridge that gap.

I’m certainly still figuring things out, but with a vision in mind I can work towards my goal.

About me

I’m a designer based in Manchester. I specialise in visual design and user experience for websites. I’ve been doing this professionally for over eight years. I’ve worked with a large variety of clients in differing industries. With differing needs, shops, subscriptions, services and marketing.

I enjoy being involved along the whole timeline of a project. The earlier the better, I’m someone who likes to get the best understanding possible. This not only helps me provide the best solution and justification for the work but build trust. When a designer isn’t able to build trust with the client, it results in unnecessary revisions and a feeling of not being understood.

Personally, I’ve been doing this since I was a kid. In which I’ve always deemed myself a “web designer” but that’s like calling yourself a webmaster these days. I sit somewhere in the middle of being a visual designer and UX designer. Anyway, I’m someone who has always designed websites with the intention of being usable and visually appealing.

Starting at a young age has given me an advantage, as I learnt to code alongside designing. I saw it as part of the process, should designers code wasn’t a thing when I was 13. I have found there is mixed opinions on my skill from this, I don’t see myself as a “designer who knows a bit of code” or a “front end developer who knows a bit of design”.

I do have a personal style, however, I will always design for the audience and goals in mind. It’s important the user is put first, as they are the ones who are buying or using your service. I know it’s a balance nonetheless.

I enjoy drawing, illustration and hand lettering. I also have a bit of knack for website performance and this website serves as a way I can try out techniques. I’m also a dog lover, if it wasn’t obvious, see the logo, the illustrations in the footer and some article images… everywhere.

Get the articles

It’s my aim to help you be a better designer. Join my monthlyish email list and I’ll send new tutorials to help you design & code beautiful websites. You can unsubscribe anytime.

Also, as a subscriber I can provide critique on your designs—send something through after you confirm your subscription.