A developer on the design team?

December 15th, 2014 |

People tend to think of these two roles complementary but ultimately separate. Design would come first and, in the case of a website or web/mobile app, development would come afterwards. But with today’s web, that’s just not the case.

CollaborationThe more complex the design, the more designers and developers have to communicate and work in tandem. This is the way we work at Waqa Studios, where a clear division between the roles of designer and developer just wouldn’t allow us to deliver for our clients.

Let’s take a responsive website, for example. Our design team starts on a mobile-first responsive design. This means we start by thinking about the smallest screens first and work our way up. I say ‘our design team‘ – so that’s a graphic designer or two, right? …they make a start on this first stage of the project – the design – and when done, they hand over their finished work to a developer? Not usually. Often the first stage of design when working on something complex is defining layout and structure. This means wireframing – designing without colors and textures, concentrating on organizing content, concentrating on where user interface elements will appear (UI design) and how pages and functionality will string together to form a complete user experience (UX design).

It may be that the lead designer is also the person charged with planning the UI and UX design. Design isn’t just about making things look good, it’s about making them work well with minimal effort, and a good designer knows how to do this. But they don’t hold all the pieces.

A developer should also know about design. They should know what works and what doesn’t in terms of UI and UX components. After all, they’re building them, they’re testing them and they’re handing them over to clients to use.

They also know what’s technically feasible to a degree a designer won’t. This is a big deal – something might look really cool but it might not be possible with current technology or at least not within the time-frame and in budget. Endless back-and-forth to rehash ideas, post-design modifications and worse, post- client approval modifications, not only create delays but make for terrible service to the customer.

On the other hand, a developer might also be able to suggest something a designer dismissed as impossible, making for a happier customer who can show off an innovative new idea. And in return, during development, a designer might be able to suggest a solution to an unforeseen problem a developer came up against.

At Waqa Studios we integrate designers and developers into all stages. This makes for better design and better development. From integrated internal communications tools, to joint meetings with clients, to mixed workspaces, our goal is to spread experience and skills sets across all the work we do.

So, if you’ve got a project in mind and are reading this, opt for a provider that integrates its teams. If you’re looking for just one service, just design or just development, make sure the design stage has some developer input and the development stage has some input from the designer.

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