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How designers and developers can work better together




Did you know that the TNW Conference has a track entirely dedicated to exploring new design trends this year? The full sprint program can be found here.

Between 2017 and 2018, Google produced a series of 24 short videos in which digital designer Mustafa Kurtuldu interviewed a number of designers and developers about the various quirks of their profession, a creative programmer "on" UX Research and Usability Testing ". Despite the ironic title of the "Designer vs. Developer" series, an insight into the multitude of results that can be achieved in each area should be given and a more collaborative way of working between the two disciplines should be encouraged. A utopian vision of teamwork has been revealed.

As almost always online, the comments below the videos told a different story and showed a degree of dissatisfaction among designers and developers working on the coal layer of the industry. They didn't have the same seamless collaboration experience as the people who appeared on the screen ̵

1; which seemed to be the norm for interdisciplinary teams and design sprints. "What I would give if a designer actually listened to me," said one. "I find it refreshing to see that there are actually teams that work together. I have rarely been in this situation and it has become very frustrating to want to do something else with my life." Too bad.

In many ways, the problem of interdisciplinary collaboration has to do with a misunderstanding of who designers and developers really are and what they do all day. "I think the perception of designers is that they are very creative people who work abstractly and fluffy – a kind of stereotype of a classic art student," says freelance digital designer Myles Palmer. "For developers, it's the opposite. They're seen as geeks, they're nerds, they're super serious people who are wired in a certain way. A lot of this wrong distinction is made, and when they work together, people think it's like they bring polar opposites together, but it's just nonsense. One of the people who taught me the most about design is a developer, so this dynamic between us and them is not helpful at all. Everyone should be open to be at each other. "

At this point, designers and developers should be seen as two sides of the same coin. Designers need basic knowledge of some programming languages, just like developers should understand typography and layout. And yes, the debate about whether designers write code should have started in the meantime. (Of course you should at least know a little how to code. Nobody has ever seriously wondered whether it is important for a magazine designer to be able to read.)

Read: [What developers can teach us about responsive design]

Sharing Skills Mutual understanding of the discipline is the key to ensuring smooth working practices between the Teams at Figma, a design, development and prototyping tool that facilitates real-time collaboration between teams. "I think exposure creates more understanding," says creative director Tori Hinn. “We are trying to make programming more accessible to everyone. Every Thursday we invite all employees of the company to bring their lunches and listen to a flash of conversation from one of their employees. They started out as technical discussions – a way for Figma engineers to train their employees in different parts of their industry – but have since expanded to include other topics. It is a very easy way to get to know other disciplines and to better understand the challenges they face. “

In addition to promoting empathy between designers and developers, it is also important to consider how these different skills can work within a company team. The right breadth and depth of understanding can have a big impact on how a project or product comes together, not to mention whether team members have a positive view of the process of creating it together.

On one level, it simply comes down to intelligent personnel. "All work at Figma is very collaborative," says Hinn. “We therefore try to think very carefully about how we hire employees and how we hire them for teams. For example, the design team has people who are experts in a different part of the design world. The product design team works directly with engineers, but mostly independently of one another. Each engineering team also deals with a different part of the product and experience and is deeply integrated with designers and researchers. On the brand side, our designers work with each other, but are also closely linked to developers and designers. That is why we have tried to create teams with extensive experience that offer us the most creative reach. “

At Wolff Olins, one of the largest brand agencies in London, the scope of work is more diverse and the teams build on it project by project according to customer requirements. "We currently have no full-time internal developers," says senior designer Steffan Cummins. "We have had some in the past and may do so again, but it is always about finding the right person to adapt to the type of work we do." The challenge is that we work with developers in so many different functions – whether it's web development, creative technology, prototyping or interaction design – that we have to try to find the right person for every job. “

Meanwhile, this means that Cummins and his team can work with some of the company's best developers at different stages in a project. In some cases, they are only hired for a job at the last minute. "When it comes to the details and the final execution, we usually involve the specialized developers," he says. “At this point, we know exactly what to do. We have a clear mandate and can make sure that we involve the right people. “

Palmer believes that developers, as part of a team, are useful to everyone from start to finish. "People treat digital design as often as a printing process," he says. “You design something, give it to the developer to make, and then send it back to you. This should not be like that. Digital design is a living, breathing thing that evolves over time. Devices change, technology changes, people's habits change, and so it has to change and grow with it. It is a living organism.

“Ideally, you want everyone to work together from the start of the project. It's a much more iterative and entertaining way of working. They do small jobs, drop them there, get people to use them, take the feedback, and then spend another week refining it. The alternative is a system where things are designed without technical considerations, passed on to a developer to build, and the end result is not what anyone expected because of this huge divide. “

Iterative collaboration with both designers and developers can be a great bonus for customers. Instead of waiting for a final developed product to be released, they can play with interactive prototypes in different phases of the project and get a real impression of how a product actually works. "Even a super lo-fi prototype helps to win customers over," says Cummins. "It is important that they can actually understand the interaction."

"We cannot all just imagine things in our heads," agrees Palmer. "You can interpret something as simple as scrolling in so many different ways."

So if it's good for the design process and engages customers, why aren't integrated teams of designers and developers already the industry standard? Unfortunately, it is often budgets that hold teams back. "There is a constant expectation that you can do things faster and better without knowing what is required for good design and development," said Cummins. “This means that designers and developers are often under pressure to develop a product with minimal viability in the shortest possible time.”

“Customers need to understand that creating great digital products takes time and smooth collaboration. It is not a linear process, ”says Palmer. "It's a constant loop. It's a spongy lump that you have to transform. The sooner people accept it, the better."

This story is part of an ongoing series about UX design in collaboration with Adobe XD , the collaboration platform that teams can use to create designs for websites, mobile apps and more. This article was originally written by James Cartwright for AIGI Eye on Design, a publication covering the world's most exciting designers – and the subjects that interest them – treated.


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