When designers and developers work together, they can make magic happen. We’re talking the unicorns and rainbows kind of magic, when all kinds of User Experience Designers throw their titles aside and work for the greater good. That’s how we roll at DT, and we think you should, too.

If you think about every person involved in a project, designer and developer alike, as a User Experience Designer, it becomes easier to reach across the aisle and create something awesome. The reality is that the way in which designers and developers work really just comes down to the medium that we chose. Although we bring different skillsets and ideas to the project, we have the same goals. When we collaborate and harness the methods of design together, the result is amazing–the final product has an overall better designed experience, and the designer and developer build a trusting partnership and a true sense of camaraderie.

Creating a Better Experience

We’ve all heard that two heads are better than one, but there’s a reason why that saying has stuck around for so long: it’s true. There is a very special synergy when two different minds collaborate to solve a problem. Designers and developers contribute in different ways that are critical to the success of a project. Working together instead of separately offers clients a more seamless, interactive process that just gets the job done better.

Joining forces can eliminate hiccups. When developers and designers work together, everyone is able to plan more effectively. No one has to worry that the initial design (the one the client fell in love with) isn’t going to work. Instead of having designers create a design and pass it off to the developer, collaborating throughout the entire process allows each person to contribute and know that all elements are going to work from the get go. A designer might come up with a clean design that appears to be easy, but when it comes to coding, it could be potentially impossible, and vice versa. Working together prevents having to backtrack after something has already been approved by the client.

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The fact is, when these two fantastic forces team up, they can go beyond just meeting the client’s needs. They can blow their expectations out of the water. Working together helps keep a project on budget and within a specified timeline by letting designers and the rest of the creative team know what’s possible and what’s not. And that’s a win for everyone. Both roles contribute to design.

Creating a Trusting Partnership

Both the developer and the designer are bringing together two very different skill sets that are equally important. We’ve got different tools and we use them in different ways, but we’re all working on the same project.

Behind the Design View Reading List

Designers and developers approach problems from different angles and live in different worlds, but they’re two pieces to a very important puzzle. Ultimately, developers know what is achievable from a technical standpoint. If a client has a tight budget, the developer can provide an alternative, more budget-friendly design that might otherwise not have been known to the designer. While a designer might be very familiar with the visual styles of a product or site, the developer knows exactly where these design patterns are implemented and in use throughout the product or site. And sometimes with an evolving visual style guide — PSDs can get outdated, while the living style guide is always the gospel. Designers also typically have a better idea of what trends are hot, keeping the design fresh and innovative. After all, no matter how functional an idea may be, if it’s outdated, it’s going to be a snooze fest for clients. Designers bring a creative, intuitive sense of style that just can’t be replicated. When you work together, you both have a sense of accomplishment and you know that you couldn’t do it alone — a great bond and appreciation is created for the work that each person does.

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In fact, designers often appreciate a little communication from the developer. It opens the lines of communication and allows for a shared perspective. Don’t just plop it together and implement as you see fit — ask the designer what they think. Communicate. You will be happy you did because before you know it, you just might end up in an impromptu beatbox session, like I had with designer Brad Soroka.

How to Pair Designers and Developers

It’s easy to have developers and designers work together. Knowing we’re all designers puts everyone in position to work together. Although designers carry the name, they could just as easily be called a PixelMakePrettifier or inspirationists. And developers could be Design Mechanics or something equally as ugly (don’t judge me). We’re all on the same team.

Get opinions from others. Regular communication lets designers know that they can trust their developer because they are clued in to their thoughts and flows. It means that they won’t get slapped with a giant “NOPE!” when something won’t work — and that’s because they took the time and thought it through together.

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Designer/developer chats throughout the scope of the project can provide amazing feedback, insights, and ideas, which can really be beneficial. Developers shouldn’t be afraid to reach out, and designers shouldn’t be, either. There are times when a design looks like it will be fantastic, but once it gets built, it might not feel right. A developer should be able to identify this and defer to the designer for their expertise.

Developers should be included in important internal and client conversations, like brainstorming and strategy sessions, from the get-go. When this happens, great ideas don’t have to go undiscovered — they can be polished up and worked into the project right away (instead of toward the end of the project, when it’s likely too late). Doing this allows everyone to share their experiences and insight about projects that the rest of the team might not have known. At DT, we practice inclusivity, and it makes our company better. It can make yours better, too

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Designers and Developers: Two Peas in a Pod

The bottom line is don’t wait to include your developer in a project. Allow them to work in tandem with the designer. Overall, what ends up being created is often more rounded and well thought out than if you only had one role making the decision.

We’d love to hear your perspective – how has working together benefitted your projects?

Comments
  • This is exactly how CadmiumCD’s designer, Rachel Vrankin, and I built the company’s product websites. We iterated on the design, I coded it, then we iterated again. It was a perfect balance and made for a much more effective process in the end!

  • Great post John. At Tomango we apply this principle to every project. I also firmly believe that by working together, designers and developers each become better – more “rounded” if you will – at their craft, because of their understanding of how the other works.

  • Tom Meyer

    I did a little research about this just a few days ago and I found this two very interesting articles. They point to the same conclusion (but instead of Developers they talk about Frontend Developers, which makes absolutely sense if there are Frontend Developers):
    http://www.uxmatters.com/mt/archives/2012/04/great-user-experiences-require-great-front-end-development.php /
    http://bradfrost.com/blog/post/development-is-design/

  • I have worked with some web developers and most of them were out of “knowledge about design”. I think that’s the main reason why designers and developers should work together, so developers can have some basic knowledge about design and can understand a design given to them to code.

    • ABA Applied

      The same principle needs to be applied to Designers. The majority of the ones I’ve worked with have a singular perspective: their own. The same is true of designers but what designers don’t want to accept is that development doesn’t rely on designs but designs DO rely on technology.