Most Web sites begin their life as either a Photoshop or Illustrator document before they’re sliced, diced and often recreated into their HTML or Flash-based brethren. Fireworks, the oft-forgotten member of the Web Production Premium Suite, allows you to rapidly prototype Web and interactive designs, then export them directly to Dreamweaver, Flash, Flash Catalyst or Flex, eliminating much of the need to recreate or repurpose graphics.
Training Wheels for Web Newbies
Okay, maybe comparing Fireworks to “training wheels” isn’t quite fair, but for designers transitioning from a print-centric world, Fireworks makes it easier to design a page layout and send the document over to Dreamweaver for final adjustments than in either Photoshop or InDesign. This is due to Fireworks’ capacity to interpret your pixel-based layout and export the necessary HTML and CSS elements for reassembly in Dreamweaver.
This may be the bridge that many print designers are looking for to begin developing iPad- or tablet-based magazine layouts and designs as it allows for fine-grained control over vector and bitmap images. Also, positioning elements feels familiar to InDesign or Photoshop, rather than specifying a layout using tags in Dreamweaver.
Prototype RIA Interfaces
For advanced Web designers, Fireworks serves an important role in your workflow as well. Fireworks can be used to build the interfaces for Rich Internet Applications (RIA’s) before exporting them for additional coding in Flash, Flash Catalyst or Flash Builder. For example, I’ve had great success exporting designs from Fireworks into Flash Catalyst where I can add interactivity. This allows me to build fully functional, video-based microsites without the need for any coding.
Fireworks is a bit of an oddity in the Creative Suite applications. At first glance it appears that most of Fireworks’ features duplicate those in other, more commonly used applications. Upon deeper inspection, however, you’ll find that Fireworks is really a gem of an application, allowing you to quickly perform complex or time-consuming web production tasks, particularly in the early stages of client review and approval. As more work needs to be done by fewer people, in less time, with smaller budgets, Fireworks may finally have its day in the sun as an integral tool in the Web designers toolkit.