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How Designers and Developers Should (Not) Collaborate

Nov 13, 2021

One of the best moments in my job is when I can join Sprint Reviews – the Development Team is presenting their production-ready work. It’s when you see your designs come to life being part of a customer-facing product.

Many times, however, I’m sitting in these meetings, and I’m cringing, “This looks different than I designed it” or “We should have discussed this earlier.” 

I thought about it like this – Sprint Reviews are a health indicator of the designer-developer collaboration. If you see too many pieces of the outcome look different from your UI designs, it can be a sign to improve the partnership.

Here are three of the common designer-developer collaboration pitfalls I experienced and how I overcame them.  

You see Developers as execution robots. 

I believe developers are designers too. They build something that people will see and experience. We need to enable developers with design skills and empower them to make the right calls to make good designs. Even better, involve developers in your design process.

Working in silos and lack of communication.

Giving the development team access to Figma to inspect the UIs is not a designer-developer collaboration. You need to talk to each other.

When designers and developers never talk to each other, you are set up to fail. I had my best design to production outcomes when I met once a week with our front-end developer to implement my designs. Of course, in larger organizations, this can be challenging. A weekly designer-developer review can result in wonders.

Developers don’t know why they are building something. 

If you don’t know what customer or user problem you are solving with your work, you are likely not building a great solution. I like to Involve developers along the design process, e.g., in design workshops, shadowing in usability tests, or user interviews. It adds so much more background information to User Stories than the usual story refinements. 

Conlucsion

Sprint Reviews are the cherry on the top of designer-developer collaboration, not the only one. Empower your developers to make calls on the design. Have regular Design review meetups with your dev team to align on a common understanding. Involve developers in your design process, so they understand the ‘why’ behind the product design.

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 David Wenk
I’m sharing my thoughts and experiences about B2B Product Development, UX-Design and Innovation.

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