Being a digital designer, it isn’t always easy to be in sync with your other team mates: the developers. Both type of professionals have a different view and starting point, when working together on creating a new website, app or other digital platform. However, both groups can learn a lot from each other, and their differing perspectives.
Designers usually think in design systems or design patterns, whereas developers think in modular code that will be easy to maintain. Also, development is more about if you can build something, and developers might be less concerned about why it should built in the first place, or how the user will interact with it, from a UX point of view.
The truth is: the designers/developers collaboration has changed a lot over the years, and there are thousands of different ways of organizing teams. Let’s look at a few practical tips to simplify the workflow, so that both parties feel more comfortable in their team work.
Sometimes, it is necessary for a designer to understand that the developers that work with you, are actually your first ‘real users’. They will have valuable insights in how to realize, execute, or even improve the current shape of your project, based on their specific skillset and eye for (technical) feasibility. We often setup interview sessions early on in this project, to decide what would be the best way to start executing development, and see where and how possible weaknesses, can be improved.
Based on this it is important to reduce design concepts to their ‘base values’. Before explaining all features, bells and whistles, make sure you communicate the essence of the design clearly. For example, by starting at the brand story or value proposition canvas you’ve created. This provides the right context and background for the dev team to understand the ‘foundation’ of the concept.
The objective of consistency is different for designers and developers. For Designers consistency involves creating new designs using a series of basic rules, and maintaining the same style in every section being worked on. This way the site, app, or platform, has a consistent look and feel, regardless of who is working on it.
On the other hand, Developers can build a group of basic elements they can reuse (also have a look at the great work done on Amotic design by Brad Frost) and thus improve their productivity and efficiency. In the long term they no longer have to continue building things, just combine previously defined components.
Even if consistency represents different goals for each team, it helps both to be efficient and save time in creating a common language, and in the long term unified digital solutions.
Something you should understand is that a project is never done, especially in waterfall projects.
The main challenge between the two teams is to build base elements that respect the rules of hierarchy and consistency. As development progresses, new requirements and functions appear that were not previously considered, which means that some components have to be reconsidered to allow these new changes. So it is important that both teams are flexible and continue to work together throughout the process. With other words: build on consistency, but keep an open eye for things to come.
Since there must be a healthy and strong relationship between both teams, communication is a key piece in ensuring this. One of the biggest problems is the differences in terminology and jargon both group of professionals use, so it’s important to establish a clear definition on specific words and terms. What does ‘a good interaction’ mean? What does ‘primary and secondary actions’ mean? What is the definition of a ‘user journey’ or ‘epic’?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions about something you don’t understand. Designers and developers usually approach problems from very different angles, so if communication is lacking these angles might result in problems.
Enjoy working together
In some companies, developers are not involved in the early conception, design explorations, and strategy of a new project. Also, they don’t necessarily speak with users during research sessions. Often this is the case because designers and researchers represent the ‘voice of the customer’ – not the people involved in further implementation of a project: developers. However, also for them it would be good and very valuable to have a good understanding of the target group and their needs.
That’s why it is important to break down walls, enjoy the design process together – and preferably as early as possible!
This blog article was written by Angelica Aimee.