Is ASP.NET MVC Inappropriate for User Interface Designers?

| by Jonathan Allen Follow 641 Followers on Feb 15, 2011. Estimated reading time: 2 minutes |

Applications, both on native and on the web, generally fall into two categories. Most are utilitarian, with a lot of investment in functionality and little or no active involvement from graphic artists beyond the initial mock-ups. Then there are the ones that focus on appearance first, with full-fledged user interface designers working alongside the programmers every step of the way. These people are often expected to work directly with the HTML, MXML, or XAML.

The story of XAML is a mixed one. It takes a lot of effort by the programmers to ensure their code works correctly in Blend’s design-time environment. But if they do it, the user interface designers can see exactly what the finished product is going to look like just as if they were using an HTML/CSS tool.

For ASP.NET MVC, the picture is far worse. While it has made great strides in making development easier, Michael Taylor argues that the technology regressed in other ways.

But there is a problem in MVC land. We're building UIs so why can't I visually see what my page is going to look like within the designer? It brings back memories of the ASP/HTML days where you'd write your UI and then run IE to see what it looks like. From a UI designer perspective this is insane. One of the really big features of ASP.NET (and perhaps Visual Interdev) was that I could write my UI and then switch over and view it without leaving VS. I could even drag and drop controls onto the form and voila I could make changes until it is just right. No such ability in MVC.

Michael’s specific complaints are easy to understand. Without the ability to render the MVC blocks at design time, there is no way to see how changes to the CSS will affect the view in the designer. That said, there are workarounds available. One option would be to run the site and copy the generated HTML into a static file. From there the designer can play with the styling using whatever tools they prefer.

Another problem plaguing the industry is the inability to see browser-specific rendering issues. Like most tools, Visual Studio doesn’t warn developers when they use techniques that may not be compatible across browsers. So designers are left with the unenviable task on manually examining each browser to see if their CSS actually works.

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Wasnt any better in web forms by Francois Ward

Except that in Web forms, unless the page was very, very simplistic and mostly table-based, didn't have any layout javascript, very simple CSS, didn't use many hidden controls, etc etc etc, what the designer showed you was a bunch of irrelevent boxes stuck in the top left corner.

Even if you had it perfect and coded "for" the designer, it wasn't exactly pretty. Just run the app if you want to see the page...

To be honest, the amount of web designers (not programmers) who could handle ASP.NET WebForms, design time support or not was near-zero. If you really need non-programmers to work with your pages, just save yourself the trouble: use a web publishing CMS that is meant for that, or a workflow where the designer does design and hand it over the programmer.

A joke? by Jimmy Bogard

Is this a joke? I don't know of any real UI designers, besides those that just do ghastly Photoshop->HTML converters that use drag-and-drop tools. The HTML designers I know design with web standards of HTML and CSS. Their designer is Chrome, Safari or Firefox + Firebug. This isn't a "problem". This is fixing a problem. I cheered when VS allowed you to turn off the design view. I turned mine of years ago, and haven't looked at it since.

I really have never heard of any hardcore HTML designers that have had this complaint. I've only heard complaints about the design view, that it modified the HTML, was a poor visual representation, and in general hindered rather than helped.

'Design VIew' in an IDE is never a substitute for a browser by Phil Peace

Not sure where to start, I disagree in most respects. With ASP.NET MVC you get to control all the HTML which is rendered in the browser (as compared to ASP.NET WebForms), which makes it better for the designer. The eventual users of your website will use a browser so you will need to use a browser when designing the site in order to properly determine how the site will work and look.

Is this article inappropriate for Infoq? by Kevin Sheffield

You are the reason the rest of the web dev world thinks .net devs are crap. You want to see what your page is going to look like in a browser, open a browser. The only reason to rely so heavily on a designer is just lack of knowledge of CSS and hoping to get by without ever having to learn anything. Moving crap around and working with the properties window until you think it looks good if not web development.

ASP.NET MVC2 or MVC3 by cheng junwei

Do you mean ASP.NET MVC2? I think razor engine in ASP.NET MVC3 is pretty good.

really? by cengiz han

I worked with designer who complains about the design view. Because it was modifying the HTML.

I don't think a designer with strong skills wants to use drag and drop tools for designing a web application/site.

This is really funny.

not sure the of the problem by Ben Keeping

Our designers have no problem using ASP.NET MVC to do design work ... they're clever enough to use <F5> in order to refresh their designer (I mean browser).</f5>

Reflexive MS Bashing by Kevin Stevens

While one can make a case about whether one likes MVC as a dev platform, this has to be the lamest bit of trolling I have ever seen. Anyone on my team looks for design view, they have to wear the Hat of Shame.

Multiple renderers, so why rely on a single "Design view" by Chris Edge-Alexander

So much wrong with this article that my sixth comment re-write still doesn't cover it.

So I've given up and have decided to use the time I would have spent on a seventh comment re-write on checking my many free and highly accurate "design views" (i.e. primarily Chrome, IE, Firefox, Opera) to check that my pre-coffee break work is still cross-browser compatible.

have you ever actually used webforms?! by Chad T

Me: "OK the page is ready for you to spruce up"
Designer: "Uhhh.. ok how can I style the heading of the table?"
Me: "Oh, easy, you just need to apply a HeaderStyle-CssClass attribute to the asp:GridView..."
D: "O.o"

I could even drag and drop controls onto the form and voila I could make changes until it is just right.

Hahah, more like "Voila! Page now no longer renders properly in a browser". Seriously, just go and try this on any web page, the results will be disastrous.

No one drags and drops controls in web forms, and no one actually uses design view.

This highlights bad design practices by Mike Gale

A lot has been said here already about the lameness of design surfaces.

Looking at the illegal markup of the web I wouldn't be surprised if people calling themselves web designers do the things described in the article.

In my view using different browsers is just part of the job. Anybody who only looks at the page and doesn't change window size, alter font size and (if needed) run through whatever the back end services write on the page, is still going to make mistakes.

I notice a growing number of sites where this hasn't been done. A growing wave of unusable web pages.

No good... by Marco Antonio Orestes Teixeira

I do not see a big problem not having the design mode on my ASP.NET MVC project. He just spoiled me. Depending on the amount of controls (at the time of WebForms), the page took too long to be rendered, and would have only the skeleton of it without information (if not static info) that should be the focus of the rendered UI.
To this I say, if you want to see how your page will look like, run it in the browser with real data! The design view for the ASP.NET MVC, in my opinion, is crap.

Comic Genius by Paul Cowan

Keep 'em coming, such comic genius is often scarce in the tech world. Slapstick humour like this encourages us to laugh at ourselves.

Why don't we deliver our applications through visual studio and forget about browsers and such nonsense.

Excuse me but... by Alain Mereaux

I'm just wondering who is Michael Taylor.
Is he a well known UI design guru or something to be quoted like that on InfoQ ?
Or the article author was just so out of idea that he just pulled out a random low quality blog article to fill something here ?

The "IDEs Design-View" is just another browser... by Daniel Fisher

That even if (in the case of VS) it comes from Microsoft does render differently than IE. There are enough Browsers behaving differently - there is not need for WYSIWY(N)G

A real designer (person) will always use Photoshop, Fireworks or whatever to *design* a page and second bring the design to HTML+CSS.

Re: The by Russell Wilson

If you are using the Visual Studio Designer to determine what the UI will look like rendered in a browser than you probably lucky your app even works at all let alone looks good.

Tough Crowd by Charles Cherry

Boy, I sure hope Jonathon doesn't jump off a building or something. You guys are a tough crowd.

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