In some parts of our industry, development and design are done in separate silos. One team makes a deliverable for the other, iteration over iteration, until a product is born. I don't like this approach. I've found it's far more enjoyable and far more successful to integrate the two silos into one. In short: I love working closely with designers. Here are four reasons why:
1. Better integration makes better products.
I'm not a gifted artist. I know a few basic design principles, and I have what I would describe as a "fluent" understanding of user interaction, but that doesn't mean I'm qualified to help design a stellar product. Our designers, on the other hand, are aces at this stuff. Anything they touch turns to polished, easy-to-use, interface gold.
This is important when something goes wrong in the middle of a development phase. In the separate-silo approach, it can often be a hassle to contact the design team, so the development team ends up doing some patchy design work. This is not how great products are made. With everyone under the same roof, the design team is right there. If something comes up, they can take care of it on the spot. This really makes a product shine!
2. It's educational, in both directions.
Coming back to my skills as a designer, they constantly improve when I'm working directly with designers. Watching how designers work and make decisions is my favourite way to pick up new tricks and improve my design and user interaction skills. And this works the other way around, too. I'll often find myself in conversations with designers where I explain to them how Flex is different from HTML, and that while CSS3 has some great new styles, they still don't work in Internet Explorer. This sort of interaction is part of working together on a project, and it's always beneficial to both parties.
3. I can focus on doing what I do best.
On any project with a front-end, there are always questions from the client related to the UI. Can we make that button bigger? Is that really the best font choice? Do we need more blue? If this is strictly a development project, these can be hard to handle. Even if I really do know the answer (we most certainly do not need more blue!), it still takes time out of my day to explain why. When I have a designer at my fingertips, I don't even have to think about it. I just defer the question straight to the designer, and get back to implementing that slick new feature.
4. It makes my life easier.
Speaking of adding features, this is generally easier when I'm working closely with a designer. There are two major reasons for this:
- Interaction between the development team and the design team happens right from the start, so even before the first coding phase begins, I'm already in the loop as far as the design goes. This gives me a chance to think about how to implement the major interface challenges. By the time we're ready to start development, I've already mapped out a plan for how I'm going to tackle the design. This ensures we get off to a good start.
- Having direct contact between the development and design teams is great for managing difficult features. If I see a feature in the design that I know is going to be really hard to implement, I can let the design team know. Maybe they'll rework it a bit, or maybe we'll adjust the development estimates accordingly. Either way, it gets accounted for. This is something that simply can't be done without the development and design teams working in tandem.
Development and design are not meant to be separate. If you're a developer stuck in a silo, try reaching out to someone on the design side to see if you can bridge that gap. You'll both enjoy the project more, and see better results.
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