“Which of the PSD-to-HTML providers do you work with?” A few years ago this question had no sense because… there were no such companies. But now PSD-to-XHTML/CSS conversion services are sought-after and growing fast. Is it just a new fad or a real market need?
The idea of a PSD-to-HTML service is quite simple. Using Adobe Photoshop or other software packages, graphic and web designers create digital images — files with *.PSD, etc extensions. To convert them into a webpage template or blog theme, you need to develop HTML code. PSD-to-HTML companies are those who provide such a transformation.
The emergence of PSD-to-HTML services is not just chance.
A while ago we all celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Web. Media actively discussed achievements and outlook of the Internet. The appearance of design-to-HTML coding as a separate service also illustrates that the Web is becoming more mature. Really, specialization of labor and tendency to standards compliance are features of established industries only.
The own niche in the web development process
Each of the web development jobs — design, HTML/CSS coding, and programming in PHP, Java, etc. — plays its own important role and requires its own specific skills and aptitude.
I like the analogy with music creation: composers (in case of Web — designers) express their ideas in images. Then the music (websites) is written down by means of musical notation (HTML and CSS), arranged for different types of orchestras (browsers), and complied with recommendations of musicians’ associations (WWW Consortium) and music critics (search engines). Of course, quality instruments, sound equipment, and stage effects are a must (databases, chats, widgets, etc).
If each job is done properly, the website may get “Grammy”, i.e. a lot of traffic and place #1 in SERPs (search engine results pages).
Web standards, compatibility, and accessibility
PSD-to-HTML providers’ advertisements often say that a resulting HTML/XHTML/CSS markup will be “cross-browser compatible, W3C valid, SEO semantic, and hand-coded.” Why is it emphasized?
1. Cross-browser compatibility
Users are free in their choice which of the PC or mobile devices, operating systems or browsers to utilize. Browser producers are also free in which way to treat a webpage. To ensure correct website appearance in different environments and make it accessible to wider audience, browser-specific code is added to a website HTML/CSS markup.
2. W3C compliance
W3C is World Wide Web Consortium which develops and approves the main Web guidelines, specifications, and tools, including HTML and CSS. When a site meets W3C standards, it is like a Web Quality Certificate. As a first step in evaluating website validity, you can use W3C sites validator.w3.org and jigsaw.w3.org/css-validator/.
3. Semantic coding
HTML and CSS allow getting the same webpage appearance in different ways. Semantic coding implies that you mark up your website taking into account content meaning and HTML tag semantics: e.g., main headlines — with the help of h1 tag (“heading1″) and so forth. Typically a semantic-coded site is more search engine friendly; search engines “understand” it better and rank it higher.
The role of semantic coding has been increasingly growing. Experts state that the coming Web will be completely semantic and provide more correct retrieving and processing data both by computers and human beings.
4. Hand- or automatically coded markup?
In many cases handcrafted HTML/CSS markups are better than those produced by specialized software. One of the reasons is a lot of semantic niceties which are difficult to code automatically. It is like software packages for design or programming — they help very much and quicken the process essentially but they don’t substitute designers or programmers completely.
What is the difference between PSD-to-HTML and PSD-to-XHTML services?
XHTML (eXtensible HTML) is the successor and modern extension of HTML and is recommended by W3C as a main markup language for today’s Web. XHTML/CSS makes a webpage markup more compact and flexible, table-less, and with clear content and design separation.
But there is a sound marketing/SEO aspect too: “PSD to HTML” and “PSD to XHTML” are often used as synonyms in providers’ marketing materials. Here are some other key-phrases typical for PSD-to-HTML service advertisements: “Design to XHTML/CSS”, “HTML coding service”, “PSD to markup”, just to name a few. In fact, PSD-to-HTML companies usually offer a wide range of services, including conversion of designs (*.psd, *.ai, *.png) into XHTML/CSS/AJAX markups, blog themes, templates for shopping carts or content management systems (CMS).
The competition forces PSD-to-HTML providers to develop XHTML/CSS code in line with the latest Web trends. PSD-to-HTML services help to make web development faster and easier, allowing designers and back-end programmers to concentrate on their specific tasks. Who benefit from that? I think all the Web community.
Natalia Savchenko is a proficient web designer and the CEO of HTMLcut.com, a PSD to HTML conversion and HTML coding services provider.