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Well, that’s all well and good but that fact of the matter is clients want to know what their site is going to look like. […] What’s you’re alternative workflow?

I can still show them pictures. In fact, when designing in the browser, screenshots are really easy. And no, when a client asks to see an unfinished site, I don’t usually get complaints about it not being finished yet.

This ultimately leads to a million emails phones along the lines of.
“Ahhhhh, the form isn’t working”
“The links don’t work!”
“What’s that latin?!?!”

For the most part, my clients communicate by email. I tell them emails are always free; send as many as you want. I do replies in the AM and in the PM, weekdays. If someone wants to discuss things on the phone, they get time built-in to their project to do so, and if they talk too much, it’s billable.

As to the specific complaints, forms and links don’t work on PSDs, either. And Latin is still Latin.

But lorem ipsum can always have a lead-in sentence. “Your company profile will go here when the site is done. Until them, this is some placeholder text. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet…”

If it is a major milestone of a larger project, or which several people might be looking at, you can also use javascript to take the place of unfinished functionality. For example, when you click on a link to an unfinished page, alert( 'this link will go to page X, where your visitors will be able to blahblahblah… );` In fact, building out a concept design in this way is helpful for me as well, because I can build the page out with mock functionality and be sure that everything is set up and ready for “the real thing.”

However, this question doesn’t really follow the “basic web design” topic. “The basics” are HTML.

there is still a place for straight up designers out there – I work out of a co-work place and there is a girl there who is just this and works for Automattic.

I’m not saying that the “web designer” job doesn’t exist. Quite the opposite; I think it exists too much. I am not speaking down on the designer, but on the job. (And, if this particular girl has a great, fulfilling job, all the better: but this is not the standard.) As the web advances, agencies that use this model are increasingly becoming quantity-over-quality mills, where everyone is competing to do the most work for the least pay. I don’t feel that’s right.

Designing HTML with HTML makes sense. Designing with HTML is not complicated. (It’s certainly not more complicated than photoshop.) If one enjoys it, they will likely discover an aptitude as well; from there they can advance very quickly on their own merit.