1. Respect the craft.
Building software that works well for people, much less works well, is a difficult and time-consuming process fraught with potential failure at every deployment. As designers we sometimes take for granted the herculean effort that goes into making sure our design vision is executed to the pixel. In order to make the process of software development more efficient, designers need to understand and respect the skills that developers bring to the table. Showing that respect will help devs become your biggest evangelists instead of you worst antagonists. Respect for the craft looks like many things. Ask questions about their processes and constraints instead of demanding that your redesigned “cutting edge, innovative” design system components be implemented right away. Never forget the fact that this may be the 10th update to that same system this month. Respecting their craft means inviting them into your design process to help craft the experience you hope to be good. They might not know what font you used, but they can tell you if your ideas are technically feasible.
2. Understand the language.
Over-communicate. In the design community right now, there is a huge debate as to whether or not designers should learn to code. Rather than wade into that quagmire of endless debate, designers should figure out the language developers really speak. What are their needs? How do they prefer to interact with designers? What will they need in order to complete your beautiful designs? Giving developers context and transparency into why the designs are the way they are will help you speak their language. The best developers will run through brick walls for the project if communicated with in their language. Three examples include: 1. Providing a style guide to all the designs so the developer doesn’t have to wade through endless layers you forgot to name. 2. Provide user flows along with prototypes detailing the complex interactions. 3. Collaborate with them on their Jira or Github tickets to add context and meaning to the project.
These activities and others help you as the designer understand and speak their language. By striving to understand and communicate with your development team you will be building shared understanding. Remember, It’s their baby too and they are invested in its success.
3. You are not the expert.
Designers have spent countless hours pouring over typefaces and color combinations in pursuit of the perfect aesthetic. Designers craft beautiful copy and perfectly aligned visuals that communicate the value proposition. Time doing user testing and research has given them incredible insight into what people think of their designs. They are the expert, right? They know, above anyone else what it takes to be successful. Unfortunately this notion sets up expectations that cannot be fulfilled. Designers should work to be facilitators and understand when to pull in the right people at the right time. Does this mean that designers should not be experts at their craft? Not at all. Designers should hone and refine their craft to an expert level. When designers start working with developers instead of dictating to them, only then can projects reach their full potential.
These 3 things are only a few of the many ways designers can improve their relationships with developers. When working together instead of against one another, the most amazing products and services can be designed and built.
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