A number of the workshops and conversations at UX Week in San Francisco a few weeks ago revolved around collaboration and the softer skills associate with the work that we do, and our workshop was no exception. Sometimes we, as product designers, focus so much on process and deliverables, we forget to think about the "who" we talking to.
Jennifer Fraser and I conducted a workshop at UX Week that emphasized an extreme case: developers and designers. While it's critical for us to work closely together, it's sometimes easier said than done. We covered the process stuff like daily scrums, cross-disciplinary brainstorms, and group Skype chats. But we also covered the communication challenges, which based on my experience, are more difficult to address.
Designers and developers have very different personalities. This doesn't always apply, but I feel safe saying that it usually does, indeed, apply. Developers tend to be introspective, knowledge-seeking, task -focused, logical, and like to have a plan. Designers, on the other hand, tend to be outgoing, instinctive, empathetic, and embrace ambiguity. These personality and work-style differences result in challenges, and as a result, we often speak different languages. Thus, the theme of our workshop: Developers are from Vulcan, Designers are from Wonderland.
We studied Myers Briggs profiles and other models to help us characterize familiar scenarios. And we had a laugh when reading this post about a personal relationship that seemed to characterize our stereotypical interactions between designers and developers: http://www.elizabethesther.com/2012/04/a-conversation-between-me-an-enfp-and-my-husband-an-istj.html
The following slides from our talk reflect some of the suggestions we made to help designers and developers better understand and communicate with each other.
This is a great quote to remember: "The communication process is complete once the receiver has understood the message of the sender." (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communication). It takes some effort and time to understand the folks at the receiving end of your words, but if you do and communicate accordingly, your conversations (and products!) will be much more successful!
About the Author
Mary Piontkowski is a user experience specialist who has worked with high-profile companies such as Adaptive Path, Organic, and Macromedia. Through her strategic approach, creative expertise, and mastery of a variety methods for design and innovation, Mary has helped build robust experiences for Fortune 100 and 500 companies such as Macy's, Levi's, PayPal, Sun Microsystems, Hasbro, Sprint, Allstate, and Microsoft. "I'm a strategic design leader who thrives in ambiguity -- situations that require change and transformation. My defining work revolves around digital experiences. I believe good design and innovation come from collaboration between cross functional teams and through close attention to user insights, business goals, and some instinct. I find that strong leadership requires a mix of soft and hard skills, from emotional intelligence and adaptable communication to strong facilitation and persuasion skills. I understand that the context of a situation must be understood in order to ultimately have influence within an organization and with end users alike. I believe in adhering to standards, but am always looking for opportunities for invention. While I am strongest in a leadership role, I believe that design leaders should always stay involved with the creative process."