You’ve got to include your developer in your design process

You’ve got to include your developer in your design process

Sufyan bin Uzayr's Layout avatar

The internet is abuzz with discussion about why designers should learn to code, or at least be aware of the basics of web development. If designers know a thing or two about web development, they can better understand how their design will look when it’s finalized and coded in a template. Maybe that odd widget area in the footer needs some extra padding in order to fully work with your responsive design, after all?

But the other side of the story is rarely discussed.

What about developers? Shouldn’t they be included in the design process too? After all, the developer is an equally important part of bringing a website to life, and they can provide useful inputs in the design process if given the opportunity.

In fact, I’ve got three reasons why your developers should be an integral part of the design process, right alongside your designers.

Developers make design decisions anyway


Developers have to deal with design considerations anyway, even if they’re not a direct part of the design process. In fact, throughout the course of web development, devs make decisions that affect and improve or even alter the actual implementation of a web design.

As such, your developer’s role is not just to bring sketches and designs to fruition but also to deal with the nuances related to the creation of a website. It makes sense, therefore, to include developers in the initial design process itself. As a result, they are better equipped when the time comes to make calls or cuts related to the design.

Collaboration leads to better engagement


Often, many projects fail to come out in an impressive form simply because there’s a lot of back-and-forth action going on. The designer might not be fully aware of the practical aspects of web development, but the developer often comes into the loop only after all the decisions have been made.

In other words, developers come too late in the picture to offer suggestions that would be useful — even valuable — to the design process.

For example, let’s say you ask your developer for feedback about the location of social sharing buttons in the sidebar. They tell you that while it might be possible to add those buttons, it might adversely affect the overall UI of your website because the layout isn’t totally flexible.

A simple discussion with your developer can bring out flaws that might otherwise be overlooked. Needless to say, such lack of symphony helps no one. If, however, the developer is involved in the design process right from the first step, you’ll notice enhanced collaboration, not to mention better engagement and harmony between designer and developer.

Developers can offer new ideas of their own, too

Having a developer in the design process can serve two broad functions.

First, a developer can offer additional viewpoints and ideas that a designer might otherwise overlook. Second, certain design considerations that make sense to the designer can actually be infeasible from the developer’s perspective. A web developer would be able to spot elements that aren’t fully practical and help to develop an alternative solution.

Of course, that collaboration between developers and designers goes both ways: Developers acquire a better understanding of web typography and color selection, and designers get familiar with good coding practices. Each can then alter their art to suit the latest web trends.

Not a bad combination, eh?

So how do you get developers involved in design?


For a start, ensure that your developers are present in some preliminary meetings to discuss the project. If you have a session where your clients discuss the design with your designers, invite your developers too. Right away, this lowers the chances of backtracking due to lack of coordination.

However, make sure that these meetings aren’t overdone. The more meetings your developer attends, the less time is left for them to actually code and debug. So do invite your developers, but be thoughtful about what meetings are necessary for them to attend.

Obviously, the developer’s involvement in the design process can have many benefits. Whether yours is an agency or a distributed team, fostering teamwork between your designers and developers will only serve to bring out a web project in its best shape.

Comments ( 3 )

  1. Nate

    February 11, 2015

    This was a very informative article and I'm glad to hear this conversation happening more and more at conferences, agencies, and everywhere in-between.

    One thing that would have really added to this article would be some real world examples of how adding a dev to the design process has helped your agency. I love hearing these stories and they really help shed light on the issue and a more engaging way.

    Thanks for the article!

  2. Erin E Flynn

    March 26, 2015

    Yes! Love this article and will be sharing with many of the designers I work with! :)

  3. Ron Gramann

    April 22, 2015

    Good to see the walls of specialisation and compartmentalisation breaking down. As a developer with many years of experience, I've always felt underutilised by being left out of the design process. Everyone involved in the design stand to benefit by the skills and experience offered by other disciplines.

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