Why You Should Include Your Developer In The Design Process

Should designers be able to code? This topic never seems to die, with its endless blog posts, Twitter discussions and conference talks. But the developer’s involvement in the design process seems to be addressed very little. This is a shame, because developers have a huge amount to add to discussions about design.

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The unfortunate truth is that many designers have a somewhat elitist attitude towards design. They believe that only they can come up with good design ideas. That is simply not true.

Further Reading on SmashingMag: Link

Everybody has the ability to make good design suggestions, including developers. Admittedly, a trained designer will probably be more effective at finding design solutions. But that does not mean others should not contribute. As designers, we need to swallow our pride and accept contributions from everybody. For that reason alone, we should include developers in the conversation.

The Dangers Of Not Including The Developer Link

Back in the heyday of Digg, I remember a conversation between Daniel Burka (Digg’s lead designer) and Joe Stump (its lead developer). They told a story of a design change to the Digg button that Daniel wanted to introduce. From Daniel’s perspective, the change was minor. But upon speaking with Joe, he discovered that this minor design change would have a huge impact on website performance, forcing Digg to upgrade its processing power and server architecture.

This is the problem when developers are not involved in design. It can be disastrous. It can lead to designs that are impossible to build, designs that introduce unnecessary technical complications, endless back and forth between the designer and developer as they struggle to fix problems created by the designer, wasted days of revision and iteration — all because the developer wasn’t consulted.

Consider also the client’s perception of this mess. The client has signed off on the design, only to be told later that it cannot be built. That reflects poorly on everyone. This is why we need the developer’s involvement in design decisions. The decisions we make as designers have far greater ramifications than we are aware of.

By including the developer in these decisions, we avoid wasted hours of work on something that is not cost-effective to build.
By including the developer in these decisions, we avoid wasted hours of work on something that is not cost-effective to build. (Image credit)

The Developer Can Improve Our Understanding Of What Is Possible Link

But we need developers not only to block infeasible ideas. They might also suggest ideas that we’ve dismissed as impossible. We sometimes filter our own ideas because of the limitations of our technical knowledge, especially if we do some coding ourselves. We figure that if we cannot think of how to build an idea, then it cannot be possible.

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