It seems like a common sense idea: Designers and developers must work together.
However, all too often, these individuals work apart while working on the very same project. The designer works to create elements, colour palettes and typography that looks great, while the developer codes and prepares the material for web publishing. This can cause discord between the designer, the web developer and, at the end, the final design itself.
If designers and developers work together on projects from start to finish, the result is a more cohesive web project with great aesthetics, good user interface and clean code. There is less work and rework during the collaborative process, hopefully resulting in a project that can be completed in less time.
First, it is important to really think about each job on its own. A designer uses graphics and graphic design software (think Adobe Photoshop,Illustrator and InDesign) to create a look for the product. This design is then married with coding to bring it to life.
The designer may not always be the person writing the code and, in some cases, the designer can work independently of the team who will take a project design live. Much of a designer's job is creative and uses both intuition and imagination, often characteristics of people who are considered rightbrained. People in this field may continue their educations in a variety of fields but are most commonly drawn to graphic design and the arts. Designers collect work portfolios to showcase their projects for potential employers. The best designers have a strong grasp on a variety of concepts including colour and typography, space relationships, audience and user experience.
While aspects of a developer's job may resemble that of a designer, the role can be quite different as well.
Developers are often thought of as leftbrained workers. Skills ranging from technical ability and thinking to logic are an essential part of their repertoires. They may have degrees in a variety of fields such as computer science or programming. Most employers will require a portfolio during the hiring process. The best developers are often detail oriented and are keen on specifics.
While designers and developers may often work from separate rooms or even countries, each needs the skills of the other to create a complete website. Therefore, they have to work together.
Simply put, the main reason for which designers and developers should work together is to create a more complete project. From the look to the interactions and the experience itself, the project will only become better when designers and developers collaborate. (And it's almost impossible not to these days.)
Collaboration brings along plenty of other benefits:
A second set of eyes to look everything over and find flaws or mistakes
More creative brainstorming and design
A more complete experience, because designers can understand what the developer is capable of creating
A more cohesive finished product, where all the parts look like they belong and interactions fit the aesthetic
You will learn something about how design/development works
Merges ideas for a more rounded vision of what a project is supposed to be
While I'd like to say that there are not CONs to working together, that would be naive.
There are not many downsides to collaboration, but there are two things to consider:
There can be some costs associated to having everyone getting together at the same time, especially if workers are not typically in the same location. Use tools for teleconferencing and online sharing to communicate when you cannot get everyone in the same room at the same time.
Now that you are thinking about all the reasons why you should work with a designer or developer, how can you put it into action? It starts with clear communication.
Designers and Developers have to put the project first and think about the big picture during the process and as decisions are made. Understand that you will win some and lose some fights along the way.
The best place to start is by taking your codesigner or developer out to lunch, or coffee or for a walk. Get to know them and their style before you draw the first sketch or wireframe. Talk about how you plan to work together as a team and set some ground rules.
Everyone involved in the project should make a point to check in, with everyone else, often (maybe even schedule it into the project calendar) to make sure that everyone is on task and on time. Remember to be nice. Offer constructive criticism and be open to feedback from others. Be open to the fact that you are going to learn new things along the way, be appreciative of that.
Explain design theory in a simple manner to help developers understand where the aesthetic comes from.
Consider interactive elements and how they will work as you design. Make sure all parts are designed for all stages of interactivity.
Design completely. Do not expect a developer to copy and edit similar parts. Create the elements for every state and have them ready.
Ask for help along the way. If you are not sure whether a specific font will work, just ask.
Learn about design. Knowing a little theory in terms of colour and type, and even the Lingo can go a long way.
Be upfront about what you can and cannot do. If a designer is going down a road that is not going to translate on the web, say something sooner, rather than later.
Be available to answer questions and help during the design process.
Get involved in the process from the start. Help brainstorm design ideas that will work with the UX.
One of the greatest bits of advice for designers and developers is not all that new, but is still relevant. The "Manifesto for Agile Software Development" highlights four principles that all designers, developers and interaction designers should live by.
Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
To help bridge the gap between designers and developers and to better work in concert, both types of web professionals need to speak the language of the other. Designers and developers should start to expand their skill sets.
Every designer and developer should have a basic understanding and knowledge of:
Design principles, such as colour, space and typography
Optimal image formats and sizing
Basic understanding of HTML and CSS
Use of web fonts
Trends in design and development
Understanding of user wants and needs
At the end of the day, both web designers and web developers are working toward a singular goal — to create a website or app that entices and attracts users.
To do this, both the design and development must be sound. A site needs to look good and function properly. The colours and imagery need to reflect the brand, while the interface needs to encourage visitors to take a desired action.
The defined lines between designers and developers are becoming more blurred as more designers are learning to code and more developers are paying close attention to design theory. (This is just one of the reasons why design and development articles and tutorials are so popular.) We are all beginning to see that the future of the field includes the title web designer/developer.
Can You Be a Designer and Developer?
All the differences seem to imply that designers and developers are two very different jobs or roles.
However, they don't have to be.
You can be a designer and developer at the same time. More people are beginning to label themselves in this way and it is becoming an indemand skillset. Design and development are converging for a number of people, even for designers who never considered learning development and vice versa.
The question really starts to become less about why designers and developers should work together, but how they can work better and how they can understand each other's duties. At the end of the day, both jobs have a singular goal: To create phenomenal products.
The thing we really need to start thinking about is designing development. The reality is that all development is design and all design is development. You cannot have one without the other, and as design becomes increasingly complicated, this will become even more true. So, maybe what we need is a new job description or a new title that shows that designers and developers are linked.
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