There’s been a lot of heat around a Photoshop plugin called WebZap today. Long story short, it allows designers and developers to create Photoshop mockups of websites and UI kits in just a few button clicks. A lot of people are excited about it. Others - including myself - not so much.

To me, this plugin just spells bad news. I can see the vast majority of the people who buy it creating a huge array of unoriginal web designs and UI kits, just so they can flip a profit selling them to other designers. Or worse still, we start to see a pattern form from these boilerplate designs, not dissimilar to the way that Twitter Bootstrap started popping up everywhere. Part of me feels like the developer behind this plugin is making a profit from the designers who buy it, use it, and don’t learn a single thing about the real design process.

That said, I think that my main problem with this plugin lies much deeper than the plugin itself. Every single day, at least one UI kit will pop up on websites like Dribbble and Forrst, many of them for sale. Pretty reasonably priced, too. But I don’t really understand why.

I don’t know who those UI kits are aimed at. They’re not aimed at designers, because any designer worth their own salt would design a UI kit themselves. Surely they’re not aimed at developers, since they work with the talented designers? Yet these kits are bought in mass volume, leaving their creators sitting on a fat pile of cash as they button-bash their way to the next cash cow UI kit.

And then what? What happens after the kit has been purchased? It’s not like HTML - you can’t just whack it into your web app and have a bunch of plug and play buttons to use. So they just sit in the downloads folder waiting to be used, along with all the other UI kits this chump has bought.

My real problem with WebZap is its customers. I worry it’ll land in the wrong hands. It’s certainly not a learning tool, which I think is what is really needed more in the design professions. Particularly in web design. There simply isn’t enough learning going on. And tools like this won’t help. In hindsight, I feel bad for getting so sarcastic about the product. A lot of work went into it, and I have no doubt that in the hands of a professional designer, WebZap will be an incredibly useful tool. But designers - especially those new to the field - please don’t forget that generative tools like this are useless without the design skills and knowledge accumulated only through manual labour and good old fashioned processes.