How to improve the designer-developer communication

Everybody knows that developers and designers have to work closely together to create products that are functional and attractive and desirable at the same time. After all, nobody would use a beautiful application that is slow and not responsive and nobody would use a functional application that has poor User Experience. Designers and Developers have to be aligned to provide as much value as possible for the user.

In this article, we will go through a few points that teams should focus on to deliver the best products. The order of these points is random, we believe that all of these points are equally important.

1. One terminology

A wireframe can be something completely different to a designer than to a developer, the same goes for a prototype, design, or any other term. It’s important to share one terminology when working on a project. Thanks to this you will avoid misunderstandings in its later stages. 

At the start of a project, during planning, spend an hour or two to create a sheet with the terms you will use throughout it. You can create separate sheets first and then compare them and find a common ground when needed. It’s much easier to spend 2 hours on writing and comparing than 10 hours on developing or designing something that is not needed. Thanks to shared terminology you will avoid misunderstandings later on.

2. Don’t point fingers

Everyone is equal in a team, everyone plays a role and everyone takes responsibility. On top of that, everyone makes mistakes from time to time. It’s important to create an environment where every team member feels safe, this will improve productivity, attitude, and collaboration.

If someone makes a mistake they should feel that it’s okay. Both designers and developers have to work to create the best product development environment possible. 

3. Make guidelines

Terminology is the first part of the equation, but guidelines are the second one. The team should create guidelines for the development so everyone will know and understand the order of things. After you prepare the guidelines it’d be good to share them with all stakeholders.

You surely know that stakeholders have a lot to say when it comes to the project, but not all of them have experience in developing software products. Thanks to guidelines they will understand the flow and how everything functions.

4. Develop a healthy attitude towards feedback

Sharing and receiving feedback is crucial for process- and self-improvement. It’s something that every individual has to work on. Sometimes it can be hard to receive feedback, especially if the thing that you worked on for so long gets criticized. But both designers and developers have to understand that it’s not them that receive criticism, it’s the product that can be better.

Don’t you want to create the best design or software possible? To do it, you have to take feedback and learn from it. Remember to also share honest feedback, thanks to it other team members will hone their skills.

5. Always ask questions

Not everything is crystal clear from the get-go and get-go fine. If you don’t understand something ask other designers or developers about it, they will be happy to help you. Moreover, they will be happy to talk with you about it, because they are learning thanks to it too. 

To improve the communication between designers and developers we have to talk a lot together. Our disciplines are very similar and very different at the same time. If you are a developer and ask a designer about a wireframe or the users or anything else you will learn something new that you can use later. The same goes for designers, if you wonder how something works or anything connected with the code, just ask one of the developers. All of us are humans and humans like to talk about the things we are passionate about.

6. Educate the developers about design

This point is connected with the previous one. Designers have to explain to developers why something looks like it does or why something should function the way they want it to. But it’s just a part, the most important thing designers have to tell developers about are the users.

Developers rarely get the chance to go into the field and do user research. That’s exactly why designers have to communicate this to them. The best projects get created when both designers and developers understand the user, but not everyone will get the chance to connect with future users.

7. Be open to hearing and studying new ideas

All of us come from different backgrounds and all of us have different experiences, that’s an advantage. Designers and developers have to communicate often and share ideas, even if one idea won’t be implemented it can lead to another one that will be. Of course, it can be difficult for some people to share their ideas, but we have to step out of our comfort zones from time to time. 

8. Talk elegantly when implementation problems arise

Problems happen, it’s normal. You have to be open and share why it happened so other team members will avoid it in the future. This will build a culture of trust and mutual respect and support inside the team. Whenever a problem happens other designers and developers will surely help you out.

9. Ask to be sure the developers understand you

You can create the greatest design in the world, but even the greatest design needs someone who will bring it to life. What if it comes to life but functions completely differently than you anticipated? It means that hours or even weeks were wasted…

To avoid such scenarios as a designer you have to communicate a lot with developers. Explain everything thoroughly, ask questions, give detailed answers and be available when needed. Questions will arise during the development, it’s important to answer them and to ask a follow-up question to make sure your vision is clear.

10. Create a real relationship

There are many developers in the world, designers as well. But if you create a real relationship inside one team, this relationship will go a long way. Being friends with other team members means that you can always count on them, even when your ways part at some point.

Good relationships last for a lifetime, at one point or another in your career they will surely come in handy. During the project, this relationship will help you to collaborate more efficiently as there will be trust inside the team. It’s always better to work with people you like.

11. Organize well and share all the information

There is a huge amount of information that flows around during every project. Some information gets lost somewhere on the way and some team members may not be aware of a new change or some important input. Do your best to share all the information regarding the project.

One way to do it is to use software that will facilitate communication between designers and developers. Tools like Slack, Google Workspace, Figma or Jira come in handy. The whole team should set up the same environment for communication.

12. Show examples for the solution

Sometimes it’s hard to explain something that came up in your imagination. But you can learn from other companies and show how they did something. Everybody knows that there are great projects in the world that we get “inspired” by.  Show those projects to others and you will avoid miscommunication of new ideas.

13. Make retrospective meetings

If you work in software development you surely are familiar with SCRUM. It’s an agile methodology that helps to facilitate work. At the end of every Sprint, there is a retrospective meeting where you go through the things the team did.

Retrospective meetings are the perfect place to talk about successes and failures. But most importantly, about the things we can improve on. Use those meetings to also appreciate your team members, give kudos and show them that you like this team and project.

14. Speak simply

Industry jargon is cool and terrible at the same time. It’s cool when speaking in a close circle of people with the same expertise and it’s terrible when there is an “outsider”. Avoid jargon and speak simply so all team members will understand what you mean.

It can be that you’ll have to use a specific word at some point, but if you have to do it ask if everyone knows what it means. Another thing you can do is to say it and explain it in simple terms. Thanks to speaking simply you will avoid miscommunication between designers and developers.

15. Unlock yourself and be your best

There are both introverts and extroverts in a software development team. A part of them is open and says everything and the other part is quiet and doesn’t always speak up. But some extroverts get quiet in online meetings.

It’s crucial to try and kind of unlock yourself to share your insights and expertise. Thanks to this you will be your best self, you will show that you know your stuff and that you are a reliable person. Nobody will judge you, all of us get stressed when we have to speak in front of a bigger audience, but it’s normal. 

Conclusion

The relationships and communication between designers and developers aren’t always as good as they could be, but all teams can take steps to improve it. If you focus on the points we made in this article your team will surely create a beautiful and functional project in a friendly and collaborative environment. All of us have to remember that creating a great team environment is a team effort and everyone plays a role.

Article written by Felicjan.

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