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I have to say I come down on the side of using a dedicated design tool for design.

One of the keys to producing good design is making your feedback loop as small as possible. That means that you shorten the amount of time from when you have an idea to when you create a visual realization of it. This is one of the reasons that so many of the greatest designers will sketch out ideas on pencil and paper before ever sitting down in front of a computer.

Writing HTML and CSS is inherently a slower process than designing in a dedicated design tool. Designing IN these languages forces you to get caught up in the details far to early in the design process.

I’m not saying that Photoshop is the best tool for designing anything. It started out primarily as a photo retouching tool and has become bloated into something else entirely. It was never intended as a web design tool. There are certainly better alternatives out there.

My biggest concern with this design process is that it seems to encouraged a lot of the same basic shapes and layouts in websites. You can always tell when a designer has pulled out the old pencil and paper for their rough ideas because the website they produce is generally so much more visually dynamic.

Having a thorough understanding of html, css and all the other technologies involved in the web is essential to being a good web designer. But having a full time designer who can pass their design off to a full time developer generally produces better results. There’s just far too much to keep up with to be world class at either. There are of course exceptions to every rule.