How to Boost Efficient Designer-Developer Collaborations in Tech Companies

BY Luisa Gibertoni & Stefano Armenes

Are you sick of hearing the same old story about the eternal fight between designers and developers? So are we! You know that classic scenario...When UX designers ask for a unicorn but developers discourage that request because the deadline is too tight, and finally the team ends up making a donkey with a blue tail and everybody is happy...

Here are a few tips to boost collaboration between the two, brought to you by a team of UX/UI designer and Front End developer working together in one of the coolest tech startups in Italy, who learned that combining strengths and skills is the key to creating a meaningful tech product. 

But first of all, why is the designer and developer relationship so important? Quite simply, the pair acts as the engine in charge of product development and evolution, especially in fast-growing tech start-ups. 

Every day, the team needs to forecast problems that may arise along the path, strive to find the right compromise between value for the customer, speed, and quality. Simultaneously, we have to understand each other even though we sometimes speak different languages. We must exchange knowledge to better cope with problems and find effective solutions. Not easy, right?

Waste and reworks are our enemies and we must try to avoid them as much as possible, including unwanted functionality, interface visual inconsistency, poor user experience, broken flows, loading problems, service malfunctioning, bugs, etc.

Reworks cause inaccuracies and slow down the workflows because we have to focus on fixing errors that could have been avoided by forecasting the problems. What causes these reworks? Well, oftentimes, they are linked to a lack of internal communication and often poor collaboration efficiency among team members.

Sometimes it can be difficult to create a relationship of mutual trust, especially in working environments that encourage competition rather than collaboration (fortunately, this is not our case!). A good working environment is a ground on which efficient collaboration can take place and grow healthily.

To improve communication and make the dev/designer’s collaboration and life as easy as possible, here are 3 activities we carry out on a regular basis: 

1. Conduct Product Discovery Meetings

On a weekly basis, we participate in meetings known as  "product discovery". Those meetings are fundamental to ensure the successful development and implementation of our product. Within the product discovery meeting, we exchange knowledge about particular functionalities that have been prototyped by the product team. It is our moment to share all types of feedback in a totally transparent and fearless way: doubts, implementation difficulties, worries about how a feature will evolve... Most of the time we need to deepen the research and come back with a new proposal to share with the rest of the team. Those meetings are a safe, non-judgmental place where enthusiasm prevails, as well as a positive energy  that enhances the bond between the developer and designer teams.

2. Find a compromise

For all you perfectionists out there - do not be afraid of the word "compromise"! We are not talking about sacrificing the quality of our work but meeting each other halfway by finding the right balance to release a minimum set of measurable, valuable features in a short time, for the good of the final result.  After all, would you build a very complicated scientific instrument at a very high cost without making sure it could really serve the users? We wouldn’t!

This is what we mean by  "compromise" - we build products for our users, and sprint after sprint, we refine and improve them, taking user behaviors into consideration with every step. 

When we talk about “measuring”, we mean listening to the final user. This iterative and "step by step" approach brings advantages both in terms of design and development. For example, we get to know the products we are building inside and out, and we can therefore manage our code better if we need to. 

3. Experiment daily

We don’t just communicate in our weekly scheduled meetings but on a daily basis. Developers and designers, as well as the whole engineering team and the product team, should always be aligned on ongoing developments. The daily stand-ups help us keep track of the daily workflow, but we always find extra time to keep in touch and exchange ideas - which are always welcome! - and go over smaller details and how we can do better. We share a storybook, a tool that allows us to build UI components in a totally isolated environment, write documentation and test them interactively, which is used by the designer to test components and give continuous feedback to frontend developers.

So to cut a long story short, efficient collaboration is fundamental to ensure a smooth workflow and the best results possible. Collaboration is essential, and it’s never too late to start working on it! Creating an environment built on mutual trust and communication will not only benefit the company but will help you work better and smarter! 

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