LearnDesigners and Developers, Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Simon Mackie
writes on December 4, 2008

At The Future of Web Design in New York, the final session of the day was a panel discussion on the frictions and misunderstandings that often arise between designers and developers working together. The panel was chaired by Liz Danzico, while putting across the the developers’ point of view we had Joe Stump and Chris Lea, while on the design side of things we had Ryan Sims, and Daniel Burka.

The audience provided lots of great questions to ask the panel, but, unfortunately, there wasn’t enough time to answer them all (I have a stack of about 60 here on my desk). I thought I’d publish a collection of ten of the best unasked questions and see if the Vitamin audience, which is comprised of both designers and developers, can’t come up with some answers.

Here is the list of questions:

  1. Would I be a better designer to work with if I knew coding myself? Do developers appreciate knowledgeable designers?
  2. Designers: Developers don’t like you because you represent Work and don’t see why said work is wholly necessary. Developers: Designers are scared of you because you are the gatekeeper. This is the dynamic. Discuss.
  3. How can stronger communication be developed not only between designers and developers, but also between designers, developers, and creative teams (art director, copywriter)? How can a team bring them into the fold more effectively?
  4. To developers: if there was one thing ― an ability, a bit of knowledge, an understanding ― that you could instill in all designers with the wave of a magic wand, what would it be?
  5. How do you keep the goal of the project front and center so that design and development can keep a “common good” as their primary function?
  6. What’s the most helpful thing a designer can do before handing over design files?
  7. How soon should a developer be engaged to sense-check a design? At design brief? Before it goes to the client?
  8. Is it a mistake to make the lead developer the project manager?
  9. How can I get the developer to give me an absolute answer on whether something is doable?
  10. It seems that designers are under pressure to design an exceptional and unique experience and developers are under presssure to produce sites with high performance and little/no errors. Designer’s goals add pressure to developers and vice versa. How can our goals work together intead of causing pressure on each other?

Please provide your thoughts in the comments: it would be great to get comments from both designers and developers (no trolling, please!)

22 Responses to “Designers and Developers, Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?”

  1. Fantastic article. Here is what I think:

    1. I am a designer who knows a bit of coding. Does it make me a better designer to work with? Maybe yes, since I can keep in mind what’s doable and what’s not.
    2. I’d agree with Duncan, doesn’t make much sense to me either.
    4. I’d convince them to keep redesigning as and when it is required. There are things which can be designed, but can affect usability and/or create programming issues. The designers should be patient enough to understand the situation and act smartly.
    6. To attach a quick document about the details of the design. e.g. how does the menu look like when hovered, what’s the submenu structure, what slides and what scrolls, a modal window, a lightbox.
    7. As soon as the initial design drafts are being prepared. i.e before it even leaves the designer’s desk. That would save a lot of time and effort.
    8. A more ideal candidate would be the one who knows a bit of both design and development.
    9. Easy, make him sit next to the lead designer when you ask questions 😉
    10. Answer to #7 works for this one too.

    btw, I’d love to see the video too.

  2. The Designer v. Developer clash comes from a differing perspective on the web. The Designer, in his corner, is an optimist about what can be done. While the Developer, in his corner, is a realist about the technological limitations of the web for some users, and of the designer’s design.

    Unfortunately, there is a lot of cross-over in these two fields…but ultimately, the more a designer knows code, and the more a developer understands the experiential value of his code, the fewer rounds that will be needed in this epic battle of geek.

  3. thanks admin good post

  4. developer and designers agree sometimes, only after a 24 hour debate. this is can never be questioned anymore. but you ca actually add up both ideas to make a more functional web right?

  5. Ivydesigns on April 29, 2009 at 1:17 pm said:

    I'd heartily disagree with you. A designer with 'web' in front of their name ought to at best be a competent front-end developer in a pinch. I can design in a pinch, so I think my vantage point is fair.

  6. Ivydesigns on April 29, 2009 at 6:17 pm said:

    I'd heartily disagree with you. A designer with 'web' in front of their name ought to at best be a competent front-end developer in a pinch. I can design in a pinch, so I think my vantage point is fair.

  7. golfman_story on April 17, 2009 at 12:00 pm said:

    Great post, really help me alot. Thanks.

    http://sain-web.com

  8. golfman_story on April 17, 2009 at 5:00 pm said:

    Great post, really help me alot. Thanks.http://sain-web.com

  9. A designer and a developer are like the beauty and the brains of any website. If you want a smart and attractive website, you need both.

    Designers and developers need to realise that without each other their sites are either bimbos or nerds.

    Come together and recognise the beauty and elegance in what each of both of you do.

  10. A designer and a developer are like the beauty and the brains of any website. If you want a smart and attractive website, you need both.Designers and developers need to realise that without each other their sites are either bimbos or nerds.Come together and recognise the beauty and elegance in what each of both of you do.

  11. pixelita on March 2, 2009 at 6:59 pm said:

    We must be odd ducks here. I am mostly a coder, but I understand design (and CSS and HTML obviously). My partner, the graphic artist, does all the design work, but he must understand CSS and HTML pretty darn well because I've never encountered a comp of his that I haven't been able to slice and mortise to whatever CMS we are using at the time.

    I don't understand why there needs to be so much friction. But yes, I do think that designers (read: graphic artists) and developers (read: code jockeys) need a passing familiarity with one another's work (and don't most “web designers” know both?) so that the designer doesn't create a comp that is completely unworkable in CSS. (“You can't get there from here!”), some kind of Escher-ish monster that defies all laws of HTML and CSS as we know them.

    I rely on my partner's design eye to come up with and execute concepts, to make our clients' visions come alive. He relies on me to add those little touches with CSS to pull everything together so that it's one solid package. (I guess I better kiss my partner, huh, since the article portrays designers and developers as fighting like two cats in a sack.)

  12. pixelita on March 2, 2009 at 11:59 pm said:

    We must be odd ducks here. I am mostly a coder, but I understand design (and CSS and HTML obviously). My partner, the graphic artist, does all the design work, but he must understand CSS and HTML pretty darn well because I've never encountered a comp of his that I haven't been able to slice and mortise to whatever CMS we are using at the time. I don't understand why there needs to be so much friction. But yes, I do think that designers (read: graphic artists) and developers (read: code jockeys) need a passing familiarity with one another's work (and don't most “web designers” know both?) so that the designer doesn't create a comp that is completely unworkable in CSS. (“You can't get there from here!”), some kind of Escher-ish monster that defies all laws of HTML and CSS as we know them. I rely on my partner's design eye to come up with and execute concepts, to make our clients' visions come alive. He relies on me to add those little touches with CSS to pull everything together so that it's one solid package. (I guess I better kiss my partner, huh, since the article portrays designers and developers as fighting like two cats in a sack.)

  13. As a front end developer I always try to fit as much of the designers needs as I can however there are times when designers need to know the limitations of the web. Using full background images of a nice pretty beach are ok but the load on the server when you are receiving in excess of a million unique visitors a day will take its toll.

  14. When it comes to situations like this, the number one thing that makes any project successful is communication.

    Everything else can be worked through if communication is solid…

  15. When it comes to situations like this, the number one thing that makes any project successful is communication.Everything else can be worked through if communication is solid…

  16. A web designer doesn't really need to know any coding at all. As long as they can efficiently work in photoshop to create a sliced layout that's really all they need to do.. Of course it helps if they have strong knowledge of HTML/CSS but they can survive without.

    Developers is another story. Ever work with a developer who has no clue what the word design means? It's the most frustrating experience ever.

  17. A web designer doesn't really need to know any coding at all. As long as they can efficiently work in photoshop to create a sliced layout that's really all they need to do.. Of course it helps if they have strong knowledge of HTML/CSS but they can survive without.Developers is another story. Ever work with a developer who has no clue what the word design means? It's the most frustrating experience ever.

  18. yeah I would watch a video. It is interesting to hear both sides.

  19. There was some really good discussion on this article, prior to the thinkvitamin re-design. Have all of those comments dissolved into the abyss of the Intertubes, or do you have them archived somewhere?

  20. Is there video of this session?

  21. This one completely befuddled me, I'm a creative designer, and maybe I'm being “blonde”, but I can't make sense of this:

    “Designers: Developers don’t like you because you represent Work and don’t see why said work is wholly necessary. Developers: Designers are scared of you because you are the gatekeeper. This is the dynamic. Discuss.”

    Yeh. Doesn't mean a thing to me. It's definitely not the dynamic I've experienced.

  22. This one completely befuddled me, I'm a creative designer, and maybe I'm being “blonde”, but I can't make sense of this:”Designers: Developers don’t like you because you represent Work and don’t see why said work is wholly necessary. Developers: Designers are scared of you because you are the gatekeeper. This is the dynamic. Discuss.”Yeh. Doesn't mean a thing to me. It's definitely not the dynamic I've experienced.

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