Design & Development Working Together

May 18 2017 9:25 AM

It’s a well-known fact that designers and developers think very differently and may actually be born of completely separate planets. This has long been a point of contention in the workplace and has often led to difficulties and even self-implosion of web projects. But this does not have to be! Designers and developers can, in fact, work together in harmony. I’ve seen it happen and it’s a beautiful thing.

Let’s explore how it can happen, and why it should happen, at your company.

Left Brain vs. Right Brain

Through the mysteries of science, some of us somehow came out of the womb using the right side of our brain and others came out using the left side. It’s part of what makes the world an interesting and wonderful place, but it can also be a point of infinite frustration when trying to get on the same page with someone you work with.

Because of this frustration, our tendency is to separate into our own designer/developer subgroups and only talk when absolutely necessary. This lack of communication often leads down a path of destruction, as most of us have experienced first-hand. But this huge difference in thinking processes is exactly why designers and developers should work together from the outset of projects. Here’s a couple of specifics:

Better Problem Solving

Designers and developers see problems and obstacles from very different viewpoints. While a developer may see a clear path to an objective, it might not always be the most user-friendly experience. On the flipside, a designer might come up with a really unique and fun way to solve a problem, but it might also be impossible to build within the confines of known science. Working together, the two can brainstorm and come up with a workable solution that will be optimal to the client.

Project Efficiency

Both halves of the brain working together can often lead to much greater project efficiency. For example, a designer may choose a solution that’s really super cool to solve a complex UX issue, but a developer who is working in tandem with that designer may foresee some potential roadblocks or delays that may present themselves down the line. If these two teams are working separately, that problem may come up much too late and lead to expensive and time-consuming backtracking…which leads to upset clients, which leads to angry bosses, which leads to much suffering and, quite possibly, weeping.

So how can it be possible for these two seemingly incompatible personality types to work together in a civilized manner? Well, it’s actually just like any other relationship. It’s all about mutual respect and communication.

Designers need to realize that developers are not almighty wizards of the internet, able to immediately and easily bring to life our any and every wish by a flick of their magic mouse and some lines of that mysterious code stuff. They are confined to the technology at hand, and sometimes when they tell us that it cannot be done, it literally cannot be done. What they do is extremely difficult, often involving as much research into new technology as actual coding.

Code WizardryHow designers sometimes view developers

Developers need to realize that designers are not intentionally trying to make their lives a living hell or permanently banish them to the Matrix. Designers are confined to the boundaries of the project parameters while at the same time trying to build a unique user experience and get buy-in from a client who just wants it to “pop” a little more.

Bob RossHow developers sometimes view designers.


No relationship will thrive if there is not an abundance of communication. Communication is even more important for those who are polar opposites, like designers and developers. By communicating your concerns and, more importantly, listening to the other’s concerns, those roadblocks you’ve seen in the past seem to start evaporating. At times this might mean putting aside your pride and admitting that (God forbid) a developer might see something in your design that needs to be changed for the benefit of the project, or a designer might find some javascript that will actually work for what you said couldn’t be done.

The most important thing is that everyone remembers that they are on the same team, trying to build an awesome website or a killer product that solves a particular problem. The way we get there is together, by all staying on the same page, and including everyone’s input and talents. Now go give someone a hug!

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