SXSW 2009: Designers and Developers: Why cant we all just get along?

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009 11:30 AM
Chris Lea, Lead Architect for Media Temple/Virb
Liz Danzico, The School of Visual Arts
Ryan Sims, Lead Designer for Virb
Joe Stump, Lead Architect for Digg
Daniel Burka, Creative Dir for Digg/Pownce
Andy Beaumont, UX Dir for Flutter + Wow
Rob Corradi, Creative Dir for NeonState

Panel Description

Often times designers and developers’ relationships are contentious. Designers want features that would require two Googles to run and developers want features that nobody but the nerdiest of the nerds would care about. This panel will showcase some of the top designers and developers who have worked through their differences and feel they’re making better products as a result. Sometimes designers know users’ needs best and sometimes developers can enhance a feature with their innate understanding of the system. Knowing this, why can’t we all just get along?

“Developers work on the code and see Designers as pixel perfect.” This panel seems like it will be pretty bias toward the Designer, and kind of against the Developer. 🙁

Everyone wants to be involved in a project, but to be honest it isn’t always practical. If everyone needs to be involved in every stage of the process, how to you deligate that? It is important to have both the developers and the designers throughout the entire process. If you do not you’ll get a project that will fail. Joe Stump for Digg suggested taking some time and thinking about what addition you want to add to the project. This way you will not just bring a solution to a large group/audience and cause confusion for them all.

If a developer says he cannot program the website to work with the design provided he is either a poor developer, or he’s lieing. Every design can be developed to work.

Questions and Answers

Questions and answers were turned in on color-coded index cards. Over 100 were from designers, and only 10 were from developers. A joke was made explaining why only 10 were turned in by developers basically saying that “designers are just more smart and already know” or “developers just don’t care.”

What if Designers learned the basis of coding so they know what is possible?
The more the developers take time to help the designer then the more they’ll understand what is easy, and what isn’t. And this process just takes time to finally learn this tool set and meet in the middle ground.

How much should developers be allowed to drive design? Or should they just give direction and take a back seat?
It depends on rather developers are involved in the features at a high level, and that the designers need to be involved in what they’re best at: design. Developers should let the designer know what can and cannot be done in the preliminary design. Sometimes the designer just does not know the developer has the data or the ability to do things above and beyond.

Should designers make more money? So they match with developers?
The panelists basically said they feel the designers they know get a competitive rate for what they do.

Can developers do everything, although they sometimes say they cannot?
Yes.

How do the designer and developer dynamics change based on the size of the company?
As a developer there are periods where you need to nerd up with other nerds and do nerdy things in your little bubble. But as times are changing we almost need to build a bridge over the gap and get more involved with the designers. Even going out to lunch with them and just talking with them to get that one-on-one interaction with them.

How does one push design when developers do not want to learn new technologies?
Fire the developer. Challenging them with shame is also good, such as, “I thought you were a good developer?”

Are there any good books you’d recommend?
Design Patterns was recommended for designers to understand developer processes.

I’m a designer that’s for the developer, but I get a lot of slack for being a “traitor,” how should I balance this?
First off, calling them a “traitor” just shows that you’re not even playing for the same team.

Agile is a way for designers and developers to get together. Why are designers against it more?
Designers tend to design for Web 10.0 and not Web 2.0 and that gets away from the whole concept of Agile development. However, a designer still needs the vision and cohesiveness to know where they’re going in years from now.

CSS can be learned by designers, but can it be learned by developers?
As a developer it is exciting to learn what the design process is, that mental flow, and how its thought through to give it to the end user/client. This is a valuable resource to know, and if you have developers who are resistant to learn that then try to teach them what benefits it has.

Projects managers cause rucus, how do we tell them that?
The best types of managers are those who become the mediators to make sure there is a steady flow of communication and meet with the clients. Some managers try to incorporate everyone’s ideas, and that doesn’t work so it ends up getting messy.

Tell us the best fight you’ve had between designers/developers and how it got patched up.
The green badges on the Digg website was causing a lot of slow downs and the designers wanted it, but the developers couldn’t get it to work right. So now they’re dedicating a tremendous amount of resources to get it right.

Ending Remarks

For the designers out there think ahead of time what you don’t have to do in real time. Think about things like: “what if you only had to show this feature once per hour?” Start thinking how you can be less intensive for your asynchronous design.

Hang out with people you normally wouldn’t. Hang out with the people in your office who are on the opposite team so you can start to learn more about them. It helps you and them emotionally.

You need to get over the thought that designers and developers are both against each other. Get over the notion of people being “traitors.”

Instead of phraising things as “features” instead use “problems” and “challenges.” This will seem more appealing to the developers.

Posted in Geeky, SXSW 2009.

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  1. Pingback: almost daniel » designers and developers: why can’t we all just get along?

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