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Do you expect design competency from your developers?

over 6 years ago from , Designer at Yahoo, Designer of NeuBible

In a world where designers are more and more expected to understand and participate in development, how much design savvyness — if any — do you expect from your devs?

22 comments

  • Stefan TrkuljaStefan Trkulja, over 6 years ago

    Depends on the definition of "developer" in your question.

    If they are a front-end developer I send my designs to, I certainly expect them to have at least a basic level of design knowledge. In my experience, front-end devs who are completely ignorant of design principles rarely deliver top notch results.

    If it's a back-end developer, then I don't really expect them to be design savvy, although their understanding of UX can certainly help in a team. On that note, it also depends if they are a part of your team or just someone you contracted to be a one-time coder for your project.

    If it's a combination of both, see 1.

    13 points
  • John LockeJohn Locke, over 6 years ago

    I would say that the days of having design and development in strictly siloed camps is over. I think it is reasonable to expect basic HTML-CSS compentency from visual designers and certainly front end developers should have a good grasp of visual heirarchy and what makes design work. If back end developers have a grasp of IxD or UX, that's a good thing as well. It's kind of impossible to be part of a cohesive web team without learning more about the roles that each other play on that team.

    3 points
  • Giulio MichelonGiulio Michelon, over 6 years ago

    I can't imagine a front-end engineer with no competence on design.

    2 points
  • Nick MNick M, over 6 years ago

    Developers should not be touching things like styling or layout. This is the ideal to start. Through working with a designer, and via osmosis, they will pick up some of the finer points of design. This means that - in my mind - designers should be delivering styling and layout deliverables that are production-ready. This also helps to blur the lines between the job roles, and level-set expectations for designers to not create things that aren't realistic or pragmatic, based on the technical landscape.

    1 point
  • Suresh SelvarajSuresh Selvaraj, over 6 years ago

    In a previous company, we had to design a signup form for a job section. One of the fields the user had to enter was 'date of graduation'. The designer put a note on his mockup saying "shows calendar".

    The dev who implemented that page made a very interesting decision. Since it wasn't specified how the calendar should be, he decided to choose his own calendar widget. His criteria? Easiest one to integrate.

    And, we ended up with a calendar that had only two buttons for navigation - back one month, forward one month. You couldn't skip directly to a year. So, if you were applying now and you graduated in Jan 2000, you would have to click on the back button about 150 times! Damn annoying for the user, but hey, we just need one line of code!

    Yes, I would like the devs to be at least a tiiiny bit design savvy :)

    1 point
  • Aaron Martin, over 6 years ago

    It's been eye-opening to see that there are some pervasive attitudes and reactions across multiple companies and situations. I've been trying to redefine the mental model here at Hightail in regards to the design/development partnership, and it's been slower than anticipated.

    I think it comes down to something closer to what Suresh S. said, and most developers don't know what they don't know about design. The teaching of design-thinking to devs is what I'm trying to craft. It's a bit insulting to think that in a few interactions anyone could be taught the secret of visual design success, so I'm not looking to do that. But, I think that there are things we can actively teach both front-end and back-end engineers that will make the exchanges easier. So what is it that they don't know that they don't know?

    0 points
  • Nathan HeraldNathan Herald, over 6 years ago

    I expect everyone to know when something isn't good enough and then to ask for help.

    It's fine if an iOS dev doesn't already know how to kern large headlines as long as he knows to ask for help when something looks off. It's the same with designers. Developers don't create what's dictated by the designers; instead the designers should have good intuition about when to ask for information about storage, scaling, animation, performance, etc. If everyone knows what's good and what's not, then it all works out.

    It also helps if everyone constantly uses the product or website. Things will eventually frustrate someone enough that they will begin to ask around about how to fix it.

    I imagine a lot of the responses have more to do with past relationships than anything else (mine included).

    0 points
    • Aaron MartinAaron Martin, over 6 years ago

      I think you're right about most of the feedback being specific to past relationships. Most of my thoughts on the subject were tainted in the same way, thus my question.

      0 points
  • Dharmesh PatelDharmesh Patel, over 6 years ago

    Agree that FE developers should know about design.

    But sometime I wish I don't know much about design as other developers. It hurts when you get crappy design from your designers and they force you to implement it.

    I don't want my designers to participate in the development, but designers should know about data, performance, and scalability.

    0 points
  • Maciej ZadykowiczMaciej Zadykowicz, over 6 years ago

    With the iOS devs I work with, pretty much yes I do expect them to have some design savviness. I just like to pull them into the entire process, and talk design freely so that we’re all on the same page. So far they seemed to enjoy it. That doesn’t necessarily mean I’d trust them with the Sketch sources, but with discussing ideas or their implementation it certainly helps greatly, especially since sometimes they actually have to design something I didn’t think of in the first place like a fringe case scenario or an offline quirk.

    0 points
  • Jeremy TreudenJeremy Treuden, over 6 years ago

    I agree with most of what has been said so far, however, I tend to feel that a developer with "enough design knowledge and creativity to be dangerous" can truly be dangerous, just as a designer with "enough developer knowledge" can be dangerous too. It certainly depend on the specific knowledge and personality of the people(s) involved, but I've seen designs and development turn sour when the designer either thinks to highly of his "development" skills or the developer too highly of his "design skills.

    In the end, I think having some rudimentary knowledge of both design and development for any creative professional is a definite plus, but passing a certain threshold in your "knowledge" doesn't always translate to your "skill-set" as nicely as you'd think.

    However, either way, as long as there is a solid foundation of mutual respect of each other's skills, there shouldn't be too many shortcomings that pose serious problems.

    0 points
    • Suresh SelvarajSuresh Selvaraj, over 6 years ago

      Oh I agree... people with little knowledge are extreeeemely dangerous alright! :D. It leads to those horrible conversations like "Why do you need 3 days? I can do that in an hour, coz I took this course once and I now know just as much as you do, even though you've been doing this for 5 years". And the problem is, you can't even explain it to them coz they don't know what they don't know ...

      1 point
  • Elmo JenkinsElmo Jenkins, over 6 years ago

    I dont expect much. But I do get frustrated with very simple things such as bolding text or aligning elements get missed. I like working with developers that while coding they think of things I may not have thought of. Very helpful and at times has me defending my ideas - but by defending them I am also solidifying why its the right path.

    0 points
  • Temi ATemi A, over 6 years ago

    In my experience, it tends to help if a (front-end) developer has some kind of design eye; which tends to mean understand basic design principles. They don't necessarily need to be able to design well themselves.

    Compared to other devs, I've found they're less likely to ignore/minimise the importance of certain design decisions. They tend to understand why a choice has been made or get it pretty quickly once explained.

    0 points
  • ben johnstonben johnston, over 6 years ago

    Totally depends on the scope/goals of the application(s), and the size of the team or organization, but I tend to prefer that everyone have at least enough design awareness to participate in discussions. One of the best ideas I've ever implemented was casually drawn on a whiteboard by someone from devops.

    I only expect them to do what they enjoy doing, and the same goes for visual designers. I identify as a 'web designer', but I'm usually in a text editor. Does that mean I expect everyone on dribbble to be — or aspire to be — a supreme sass-master? The answer is no, because I don't enjoy (read: I suck at) many of the things that they rule at, and that's OK. That will always be OK.

    0 points
  • Andreas DruschelAndreas Druschel, over 6 years ago

    Yep, but not the whole program.

    0 points
  • ポール ウェッブポール ウェッブ, over 6 years ago

    At my startup I am both front-end design and development. I have mother guy helping me with the JSON/API stuff, and we have a back-end engineer. These other two guys don't seem to care much about the look of things, but they appreciate nice-looking UI.

    0 points