Capulets and Montagues. Hatfields and McCoys. T-Swift and Yeezy. We’re all aware of these classic feuds. Two powerful sides with vastly different viewpoints and goals. In our industry, designers and developers are often perceived as being pitted against each other. Graphic designers (and UI designers) live in the land of visuals. Their processes are user-centric, and creativity is central to their work. For developers, their days are spent head down in a code editor. They are naturally practical and tend to place an emphasis on function over form.
For large application projects that require both heavy development and design work, a team’s synergy is pivotal to the project’s success. If designers and developers are at odds, the product will suffer. Agile sprints will be less effective, promised features may not be doable, and code will likely need to be reworked. All these pain points add to the cost of a project. The good news is that designers and developers can (and should) work harmoniously.
Why Team Cohesion is Important
When designers and developers work in silos, expectations get skewed. A designer may create a beautiful UI and get it approved by the client. But when the design gets handed off to developer team, it may not meet their expectations. The developer may have a better idea that will enhance the application. While developers may not be visual artists, their understanding of process flows are critical, and they can provide creative insight. Or even worse, a feature may not be doable or hard to implement. We’ve seen onboarding flows, reporting dashboards, and navigations that failed current web standards of usability, accessibility, and mobile responsiveness.
When these issues arise, tension follows. The designer gets defensive, the developer gets frustrated, and the client gets confused on why they were presented a design that won’t work. Reworks must be done on both ends and the project cost increases. These setbacks can derail a project so it’s important to avoid them.
What Makes a Unified Team
When starting a large application build, it’s important to properly vet the entire team and their methodology. At Alliance Systems, we follow Design Thinking principals. This means looking at problems from three vantage points of Design, Technology, and Business.
We empower every employee with these principals. Project managers, designers, and developers all think critically in an iterative process that is centered on building empathy for the user. Learn more about design thinking here. By having everyone follow these principals, everyone is bringing their expertise while considering all other viewpoints. It fosters a higher-level of collaboration.
It’s also important to consider how the team interacts together. Many teams unfortunately isolate their designers and developers. Designers will work their design to completion, send over the files to the dev team, and move onto another project. Our designers and developers work hand-in-hand in developing solutions. It’s an ongoing process, but designers are consistently having developers review prototypes for suggestions in improving flows and functions. And our developers understand the importance of visual aesthetics and spend extra time making sure screens are implemented just as the designer intended.
The last major consideration is the specific skills and work-history of designers and developers. Not all designers have the same skills. Some designers are great print designers with strong skills in art direction. Others are focused on digital user interfaces with understanding of development concepts. And same for developers. Some developers have loads of experience doing SaaS applications while other have focused on backend internal systems integrations.
Our designers have extensive experience working on digital products. Not only can they make designs beautiful, but their understanding of front-end development concepts gives them a leg up in creating functional prototypes. A designer that understands HTML, CSS and basic scripting can visualize how the development team can implement user interfaces.
For our developers, we work hard top reinforce design thinking principals, so the user comes first. They are constantly using empathy to improve flows and identify parts of the user interface that need refinement.
Summary and How to Identify an Integrated Team
If your application or app requires a robust infrastructure and polished user interface, it is critical that you pick a talented team that works well holistically. When looking at vendors, ask tough questions about how their teams are structured. Find out about the backgrounds of their designers and developers. It will take some extra probing during firm interviews but it can make or break a project.