What is Design to Code: an Elegant Approach

Design to code focuses on transforming elegant visual designs into precise code that replicates the intended appearance. This process requires a synergistic effort between designers and developers to achieve accuracy, significantly reducing the time from days to minutes. But what's the history behind this evolution, and what does the future hold?

In this guide, we'll delve into:
  • The process of transforming design into code with pxCode
  • What is design to code?
  • The evolution of converting designs to code
  • The design-to-code workflow and its associated obstacles
  • What are the benefits of using design to code?
  • The constraints inherent in design to code conversions
  • How designers and developers collaborate and their respective roles

The process of transforming design into code

The conversion of UI design to code involves translating visual and interactive designs into a programmable format that browsers or mobile platforms can interpret. Tools like pxCode automate this process by allowing designers to import their design files (from software like Adobe XD, Figma, Sketch, etc.) and then generating HTML, CSS, and JavaScript code. pxCode emphasizes responsive design, enabling the designs to adapt seamlessly across different screen sizes and devices without requiring extensive manual adjustment.
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What is design to code?

Design to code is the process of turning graphical user interfaces (UI) designed by UI/UX designers into functional code by developers. This encompasses the transformation of visual elements (like layout, colors, and fonts) and interactions (such as clicks and transitions) into a codebase that creates the actual software interface.


Figma -> pxCode -> Code

Essentially, design to code involves converting design concepts into functional software. This process transforms visual designs into coded applications. Ideally, this conversion is facilitated by tools that automate the translation of designs directly into the coding environment, streamlining the creation of the final product.

The evolution of converting designs to code

Historically, the conversion of design to code was a manual and often tedious process. Designers would create mockups or prototypes in graphic design software, and developers would interpret these designs to write the corresponding HTML, CSS, and JavaScript code by hand. This method required close collaboration and communication between designers and developers to ensure the final product matched the intended design accurately.


workflow

This process involves a repetitive cycle of referencing the design, coding based on it, and then comparing the outcome to the original design to make adjustments. It's a method that requires taking screenshots for comparison and making corrections, which is not only monotonous but also leaves the developer with the task of deciphering the structure, grouping, and how to implement responsiveness, among other things.


An alternative approach leverages tools designed to streamline this transition. These tools address the underlying issue common to both methods: designs are often created with elements positioned absolutely, lacking the necessary context for translating them into responsive layouts. Essentially, original designs don't inherently provide the details needed for seamless responsiveness. This still places the onus on developers to interpret and implement these aspects, which can significantly extend development time.

The design-to-code workflow and its associated obstacles

  • Fidelity: Maintaining high fidelity to the original design throughout the development process can be challenging, especially when translating complex interactions and animations.
  • HTML Structure: Grouping involves constructing a comprehensive hierarchy, organizing elements from the highest level down through a structured tree.
  • Responsive: Code logic encompasses all aspects of making the design adapt to various screen sizes, including decisions on automatic margins, wrapping content, and specific breakpoints for different devices.
  • Code Quality: This refers to code that is clearly labeled and organized, utilizing semantic tags, class names, assets name that convey their purpose or function effectively.
  • Communication: Miscommunication between designers and developers can lead to discrepancies between the designed UI and the implemented code.
  • Time and Efficiency: Manual coding from design is time-consuming and can introduce errors, making the process less efficient.

What are the benefits of using design to code?

  • Speed: Tools like pxCode can significantly reduce the time required to convert designs into code.
  • Accuracy: Automated tools can help maintain fidelity to the original design with less manual intervention.
  • Collaboration: Facilitates a smoother workflow between designers and developers, improving project efficiency.

This method boosts the speed of developing apps, leading to greater satisfaction among developers by eliminating the need for tedious, line-by-line coding and constant verification against the design. It automates around 80% of the coding work, freeing developers to focus on the core business logic, user interactions, and more engaging aspects of development.


Manual coding is prone to errors, often leading to discrepancies that may seem minor but significantly affect the brand's representation. Automating the process of aligning spacing, colors, and font weights ensures a higher level of precision, thus improving the overall aesthetic quality and reducing the friction typically encountered between designers and developers over such details.

The constraints inherent in design to code conversions

  • Complexity: Highly complex interactions and custom animations may still require manual coding.
  • Learning Curve: Designers and developers need to familiarize themselves with the tools and processes involved.
  • Tool Dependency: Relying on specific tools like pxCode might limit flexibility in certain aspects of design or development.
  • Framework Supports: A clear constraint lies in the framework compatibility; while numerous frameworks are accommodated, not all are, resulting in restrictions for certain specialized scenarios.

How designers and developers collaborate and their respective roles

  • Designer: Focuses on creating the visual and interaction design, ensuring usability, aesthetics, and the overall user experience.
  • Developer: Uses tools like pxCode to convert the design into code, focusing on functionality, performance, and adaptability across devices. Developers may also manually tweak the generated code to fine-tune the application.

In summary, the design-to-code process, especially with the advent of tools like pxCode, has significantly evolved to become more efficient and collaborative. While challenges remain, the benefits of streamlined workflows, improved accuracy, and faster development cycles make design-to-code an essential aspect of modern web and app development.

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