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Connecting the Dots Between Design & Development

April 22, 2016

There are two sides to the human brain – the right side which, is responsible for creativity, and the left side, which is responsible for more analytical and strategic thinking. Inside all of us is a combination of the two parts, and in order to manifest ideas they need to work together closely.

At a digital marketing marketing agency, the left brain/right brain duality is best personified through designers and developers. Essentially, they serve as flip sides of the same coin in that they both have distinct approaches that enable them to thrive in their two distinct roles. But to best achieve a sense of harmony there are certain practices and processes that can help these two disciplines collaborate more effectively.

Getting Started

At the outset of every project, ROI·DNA Visual Designer Chelsea Chueh likes to consult with the dev team to be sure that they’re on the same page before moving forward. The main reason for this approach is not only to open the lines of communication, it’s also to make sure that the dev team is aware of what the design team is planning and vice versa.

Nearly everyone who’s ever worked at an agency can tell a story of when a design team spent a lot of time crafting an idea only to have it shot down by dev due to time or budgetary constraints. But by establishing that cadence early, dev will provide designers with a concrete, realistic idea of what they can and can’t do, and designers can ensure developers that there won’t be any surprises down the road.

“When I start any project, I always like to sit down with the dev team to make sure that we’re all on the same page,” comments Chelsea on the relationship between design and dev. “Sometimes it’s frustrating when they tell me I can’t pursue a cool idea, but it’s better to know that sooner rather than later.”

Interaction Notes

Once the design portion of a project is complete and it comes time to hand it off to dev, another important aspect of design to dev communication arises – interaction notes.

“Developers view things differently than designers, and they can point out things that you might have never thought of. When writing interaction notes, it’s important to be very detailed. As a designer, I sometimes tell a developer ‘this button turns from green to blue when a user hovers,’ but developers will bring up things I hadn’t thought of like how much time should pass before it changes colors.”

Meeting in the Middle

Even though designers and developers occupy different roles in the creation of digital products, more and more people from both ends of the spectrum are learning skills that help bridge the gap of cross functional collaboration.

“Since I know a little bit of CSS, when I write interaction notes I write them in CSS, as opposed to writing it out long form. This makes it a littler easier for the developers.”

Consequently, if a developer knows their way around design tools like Photoshop or InDesign, the collaboration process will be that much smoother in that it saves time in communicating things like spacing, font styles, and more.

Seeing the Full Picture

During any cross team collaboration it’s important to realize that neither designers nor developers are able to see the full picture of the product or experience without the other team’s perspective. What may seem obvious for a designer may be an afterthought for developers.

A mistake that is made time and time again is making assumptions about what the members of the other team will deliver if it’s not specified beforehand. The solution for avoiding such assumptions is to engage in regular communication about a project and if anything is unclear, it’s best to ask.

Lastly, it’s always good to keep in mind that working in a digital medium is a collaborative effort. Developing a process for the best way to collaborate is a big leap towards delivering work that has taken every perspective into consideration, despite the fact that we’re all wired differently.