Tips For Understanding Developers And Designers

Posted 6/20/2014 5:29 PM by Curtis Lauterbach


Let’s face it, designers and developers don’t always see eye to eye.  Most conflict stems from a lack of understanding a professional’s point of view and how they do their work.  Sometimes developers see designers as magicians that create elements from thin air but sometimes aren’t practical.  Designers see developers as methodical; they commune in a language unknown to the rest of the world.  Those views could be no further from the truth.  Each has their niche that helps the team meet the client’s needs and provide a delightful experience.  The tips discussed will give both professions a better understanding of what each other do and how to collaborate to meet the goal of providing a great user experience!

For Developers

1.  UX is a Process

There is a lot going on behind the scenes before wire frames go to you.  Designers have meetings to gather the client’s needs, create mockups, and images.  Afterwards there are regular meetings to get client feedback to ensure the design is meeting expectations.  When this process is followed it allows you to write code efficiently with a clear outline of what the client expects. 

2.  Know the Client

I hear developers say they have been asked to “build a website” with no direction to its purpose, appearance, or function.  Getting the client’s needs is the first step to provide direction, and serves as an anchor to ensure the project is on the right track.  As a designer, I recommend attending planning meetings to get the information first hand and keep the team informed of what is possible with programming.  Getting information first hand will reduce time writing code as you will have a clear outline and physical artifacts from the design for referencing.

3. Testing

Asking your intended users what they think about the project’s design will help ensure it meets their needs and is appealing.  Without this information, the project will fail as it may not meet their needs.  Testing should be done early in the process to determine if the concept is correct and often enough to make sure the project is on track.  Testing can be done with co-workers who resemble the target user or you can use the general public to get first hand feedback.

4.  Design

There is nothing that says you can’t design.  Simple sketches of your ideas will help designers understand your intentions, and reduce frustrations and time in making your points.  Some of the best ideas come from non-designers.  It is better to show than to tell; people are wired for vision, so why not take advantage of it!

For Designers

1.  Know What is Possible

As a designer, it is important to know the capabilities of current programming.  Why design a product that looks great but is impossible?  The client will not be happy with the product and the organization’s reputation and revenue will suffer!  It is a good idea to have an idea of the current programming languages and how they can be used to make your designs a reality.  Don’t worry about creativity.  You will find it increases along with the quality of your designs!  Your ideas will be realistic, eliminates functions that are not programmable, and saves developers time and frustration. 

2.  Design for Mobile

Currently, most sites average 40% of their traffic from mobile devices.  Wire frames of websites can be testing for mobile compatibility by using mobile emulators.  Emulators allow you to see your designs on a simulated mobile platform before you send it to developers.  Ignoring mobile will alienate a large portion of your target users and reduce reputation and revenue.  

3.  Provide Guidelines

Developers need to know the client’s needs and how your design intends to meet them.  Provide wire frames with dimensions to show what specific elements are, how they function, and how much room each one needs.  Developers will be more efficient and happy having the information at their fingertips, and will have less need for explanation.  A good rule to follow is: better to add too much information than not enough.

4.  The Buddy System

Since your work affects developers, why not have regular meetings or discuss your intentions before meeting with the client.  Open discussion allows developers to see your work, understand intentions, and give feedback.  Discussions will not only save them from the frustration of telling the client that certain elements and functions are not programmable, but also save your organization’s reputation.

5.  Code

Learn about the programming languages your developers use.  You might find them interesting and take a stab at writing a little code yourself.  A couple instances of finding out that not every element in your design is possible doesn’t make you a bad designer; it increases your awareness and helps you create better designs.  Doing so will help you see what your developers go through to make your designs a reality.  The bottom line is, you don’t have to be proficient (unless it is a job requirement), but simply having an appreciation will improve the quality of your work and build relationships with developers.  They will see that you are trying and they just might be more receptive of your ideas.

For Developers and Designers

1Explain Yourself

Both professions can try explaining what they do, why they do it, and how they impact the other’s workflow and the overall product.  Developers and designers may not know much about one another, but showing that you are making an effort will calm frustrations and build cohesion to accomplish the project’s goal.

2.  Cut the Fat

When organizations experience conflict between team members resulting in decreased productivity and turnover, try employing lean UX.  It is a technique that brings team members together to complete the project.  The work is done in two week sprints, where specific outcomes should be completed.  During sprints, the entire team works on completing them.  Afterwards the team outlines the next sprint.  The process continues until the project is complete.  Lean UX’s goal is to reduce product development time as team members are collaborating and working on issues together.   All outcomes (i.e. wire frames and mockups) are discussed and agreed upon by the team before they are shown to the client.  


Applying these tips will help both professions gain an understanding of each another’s views and work practices.  With understanding, both professions will be able to resolve issues before they meet with the client, which will reduce product development times and increase quality.  Ultimately, both professions will be better positioned to deliver upon the organization’s goal of creating great user experiences that will boost its reputation and revenue.