Third Party PSD to XHTML Services

by keif on November 28, 2008

No doubt some people feel “basic” coding is beneath them. They feel they should be focusing on Java, JavaScript, UI Design, UX, etc. etc. Coding that PSD to valid, cross browser XHTML? Complete with CSS styling? Dealing with whatever browsers you want to support?

Funk that, especially when we have dozens of businesses fighting to do this for us (for cheap!).

Prolific competition and cheap? How can I lose!

Yes, much like that extended warranty you bought, how could you lose? Very easily!

Generally speaking, it seems you get what you pay for. But sometimes you have to realize that doing research is the best ROI. In the age of the internet, one man shops quickly get bought out by the competition, so that we can go very quickly from “my friend runs this” to “he sold it for more than it’s worth, and now it’s a shit service.” It happens, as I had dug up old reviews and contacted people – which I suggest you do. Never rely on sites and written reviews (they could be paid reviews and not disclosed, and some people will rant and rave after one use, and quickly change their mind after two uses!).

In 2006 they were hot shit! So they still are…right?

No my friend, they are not. Like I said, any time you see a review for a service, research it. Their are prolific sites that offer up reviews but I’ve noticed a lot of them allow ballot stuffing (it seems all you need is an email address to post, and those are quite easy to get). So you can see they have some heavy negative reviews followed by dozens of similar “OMG, these guys saved me, they rock so hard!”

First thing you need to realize, you are outsourcing, and more than likely this work is going overseas – and generally outsourcing is a mixed bag of issues. From the services I checked out, they claimed to be “based” in the United States, but I noticed some of their class names held Russian words, another I noticed some Norwegian – and it’s most important that as I worked with some of these companies, I “figured out” how best to work with them – regardless of who they were.

The Secret to Working with Third Party PSD to XHTML Services

It’s simple, really:

  • Do not rely on their order forms to tell them everything.
  • Do not make assumptions on what they will/won’t do.

You combat this by:

  • Giving them requirements if it’s not on the order form!
  • If they offer money back guarantees and you aren’t happy – USE THEM.

Tell them exactly what you expect – if you think certain areas should have 10 pixels of padding around them (maybe *you* think it’s common sense) but they may not!

You may have selected CSS sprites – but do you want it done a certain way? Did you want certain headings to be clickable? TELL THEM.

I guess this ultimately falls down to communication skills as it often does – overcommunication is better than too little, and it’ll save you headaches in the long run!

How to Deliver your PSDs

No doubt, sometimes you may be working under deadlines so you may spread your work out into batches – this is a dangerous approach if you think “oh we can tweak certain fundamental aspects of our designs as we send them.” Bad, bad, bad.

If you are planning batch approach, communicate this before hand so your potential partner services understands, and make sure the basics of your templates are SOLID before you send them out!

I suggest having your templates done first (so you can reuse the code and maybe not need to have every PSD sent out to be done) and make sure your sidebar and navigation areas are solid (and this is where you describe how large the click areas are). Once these areas are solid, I’d make sure all future PSDs follow these pixel perfect hand-offs to insure an easy transition with the future PSDs sent off, and it’ll also save you a lot of pain.

Have you used any services like this? Got any tips or tricks? Let us know!

  • Турок

    Тема ну просто пиздец.
    Неужели ничего поактуальней не нашлось?

  • John Roberts

    Used a few weeks ago, and got decent results, as judged by the original designer and the interaction designer who tied together the output we got from the service. As you note, communication is key: there are many things you should share ASAP that go beyond the options in their form.

    Their responsiveness was quite good, although we were hampered by time zones (their team is in Eastern Europe; I’m in California). But they are clear about that from the start, so it wasn’t unexpected — and I did get the ability to hand off stuff as I left for the night and see the results in the morning.

    I would use them again, with an emphasis on additional information.

    Also, great if you know the _entire_ package you’re going to hand off up front, rather than bit by bit. The extra work we required was in part because I didn’t have all the PSDs up front.



  • keif

    @Турок my Russian is horrible, and the translations I’m digging up aren’t being very clear, so until I can get a hold of my friend in Russia I’m at a loss :)

    @John – yeah, I wish it was easy enough to get all the PSD’s handed off from the beginning – unfortunately batch hand offs seem to be necessary on larger projects to keep the code flowing.

  • laura

    Hey there, I saw you added me on Twitter so I came to your site to check you out. :-) I see you have my friend Chris on your Blogroll, and noticed your Robert Owens post back in August. I was on the Web Team for his campaign, small world! Hope he got your vote, he is DEF. as genuine as you suspected. We just worked together to defeat Ohio’s House Joint Resolution 8 last week, in fact. Sorry for sticking this comment here, the Owens post didn’t seem to have Comments enabled.

    So as not to screw up your whole page with this unrelated comment… I fully support using third-party services for something so 2006 as converting a PSD to HTML. Although I must say, this basic coding is not beneath me… yet!

    • keif

      I tend to close down commenting after 90 days (I’ve noticed the spam increase more than useful commentary, but I should probably rethink it since askimet kicks enough spam out the door for me).

      I was hoping to work more with his web campaign, but my schedule only allowed the bare minimum, but he had my vote (and will continue to have)!

      And it’s not that PSD to HTML is really “beneath me” – I’m not totally above it, just sometimes when the project demands it, I take advantage of it so save some time.

  • laura

    P.S. Here’s one not on the list:

    It’s free to try out for 2 weeks, and if you like them you can pay $20/mo. for unlimited. Judging by their strict PSD formatting standards, it looks like something worth trying out.

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