“Design is a process- an intimate collaboration between engineers, designers and clients.”
Do you agree? Is design a process?
My answer is yes
From a raw idea on paper to a final product is a bumpy ride. And it is not possible to undertake this journey without clear collaboration between the designer and the development team.
If there is sync between the designer and developer right from the beginning, then the entire process becomes simpler.
People often mistake design and development to be two separate entities. That is where the problem lies.
If the whole team works as a single unit from the beginning till the end, then the process becomes transparent.
What happens if designers and developers work as segregated units?
This is a very important question that is not addressed much. But before moving on to the ways to collaborate for better design, we need to have an understanding of this.
1. Designers, before meeting developers, go through an entire phase of research, analysis and implementation.
Once they have decided on a certain design they meet up with the developers to give a face to their design. This is where the problem starts.
2. Developers have a completely different perspective to see things as compared to designers.
Designers understand the design intent as they are designing the product. But we forget it’s the developers who bring design to life.
3. Also, sometimes designers’ ideas may be difficult to implement. They are unaware of technical possibilities that can make solution better.
4. Developers also tend to feel disengaged because they are just handed the solution.
Due to lack of understanding of each other’s domain there are a lot of unnecessary back and forth loops.
Hence to provide the best user experience, Designers and developers should be open to ideas and cross-collaboration.
Designers should try to evaluate the design in terms of coding efforts and developers should try to understand the basic design ideology.
So, how should they collaborate for a better design?
In the present time, communication is the key to success. This merged with collaboration is the ultimate recipe to prevent yourself from wasting money, time and labour in the early, middle or late stage in producing a product.
So, let me list down some useful tips on how designers and developers can collaborate to produce better designs.
1.Involve everyone in the research phase only.
Every project starts with design research. You try to understand the people you are designing for, their needs and current behavior and the context in which they will use the product.
This is the perfect stage to involve the developers. When this happens, the developer working for these products will know the real motives and goals of the product.
They will treat the product as belonging to them. Brainstorming is the need of the hour!
2.Asking the developers to take notes is also an option for collaborating work.
You can ask them to make different notes for different things when the designers are in a discussion with the clients.
Such as writing all the positive points on a certain page and the negative feedback or questions on a different coloured page
This will make them focus on the remaining project rather than trying to remember the questions they had or the idea of a certain team member.
3.Designers should ask the developers to share their opinions immediately after the discussion session is over.
The entire team should sit down together to go through all the observations and the developers can point out what stood out for them and what all is possible via coding and what things are beyond their reach.
4.Both the parties should sit together to look for meaningful patterns.
This is the where you get together and review all your notes, make observations and turn them into ideas.
This will help your team to be more informed, invested and empathetic with users from the start. You cannot do without a developer at this stage. This is where design truly starts.
5.Now is the time to turn all your ideas into products.
Designers and developers nee to come together to make sense of what all has been learnt and come up with design principles and UI concepts for the product.
Developer’s presence in the interface sketching is essential as they can provide you with more ideas and, most importantly, give you an insight on technical limitations or opportunities right away.
6.Share the ownership of the project with your team.
They automatically become more proactive when they feel a sense of ownership with the project.
During this stage of implementation, a lot of hit and trial experiments are conducted to finalise on a design prototype.
It is not essential for the developers to be present for every experiment, but it is the designers’ duty to share the results with the developers to keep them updated and involved.
7.Designers and developers need to have an understanding of each other’s domain.
As a designer, you should try to increase the participation of the developers as much as possible.
You should involve them in your user studies or research and the process of deciding on a design. And as a developer, you also cannot sit back with folded hands.
You also need to take efforts to be more active and participative in the design process.
It is not important to be present at every research session, but you cannot remain alien to your users. That will prove to be a big setback for the project.
8.The designers should design keeping development in mind.
As discussed, a major issue that both designers and developers face is that sometimes a certain design cannot be coded and therefore it messes up the entire project.
In order to avoid this, the designers should aim at creating a clean and simple UI. Standard knowledge of HTML and CSS on the designers’ end can prove to be very useful for the project.
Maintaining consistent colour palette, using grids and breakpoints keeping in mind the design responsiveness etc can help in making the code modular, reusable and consistent.
9.Developers should also work to understand design intent and all the latest design trends.
They need to step out of their comfort zone and develop an understanding of how design impacts users.
They should participate in brainstorming design discussions and help in making this entire process effective.
Having basic knowledge of graphic design can also go a long way in creating a better design.
10.Designers and developers should share the same workplace.
By workplace, I mean that they should move in one room.
The entire team should work from there. This helps the designers and developers to have a better understanding of each other’s areas and you learn about the subject matter of each other’s field of work.
Since developers are sitting right across you, they can immediately clarify any design question or suggest alternatives.
All these things make life easier for everyone and this all comes together in the creation of a beautiful design.
11. Lastly, communication and respect are the two most important ways in which designers and developers can function smoothly.
Both the parties should remain in constant touch with each other and update one another on the product status. They need to respect each other’s job and value their time.
This will make both feel valuable, appreciated and comfortable.
Hence producing a quality product, best design!
Hence, we now know that sharing design with developers is not limited to sharing specs, assets, interactions etc.
It also includes understanding the design intent and behaviour for every segment of the application.
Clarity of design is integral to each and every phase of the design cycle. Thus, designers and developers should work as a team to find an optimum solution.
This in no way suggests that development takes priority over design. I believe to create great user experiences, design and development need to go hand in hand, and not as isolated processes.
As good design attracts users, good code at the backend hooks users to the application. Without each other they cease to exist.