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Shipping a great product requires effective collaboration with engineers. What's your experience?

over 5 years ago from , UX Designer

Early in my career, I mistakenly saw engineers as the opposition--a force that I had to aggressively fight to make sure my work was executed as I had designed. I've since learned that engineers should be your greatest ally and fellow "makers."

A few things I've learned:

  • Treat engineers as designers; include them in major design decisions. After all, they are making your flat/static mockups come to life.
  • Make your design philosophies known to your team. Articulate the "why's" of your design decisions.
  • Provide as many deliverables and resources to your team as possible. The more they see user flows and interaction, there will be less misunderstanding during product development.
  • Be accessible. Sit with engineers, be available at any moment on chat or email. Even after thinking through many different scenarios in your mockups/prototype, there will still be unforeseen questions that arise during development.
  • Finally, remove the "us and them" image from your mind. First and foremost, you are a team working towards the same goal: to build a useful, compelling product.

What's your experience with working with engineers and product managers? What has helped you collaborate more effectively?

(I love my team. For fun, I created personal brand identities for my teammates: http://dribbble.com/shots/1488583-Team-Member-Identities)

7 comments

  • Kevin HaggertyKevin Haggerty, over 5 years ago

    Engineer here, thanks for posting this. Long have considered coding & design one and the same.

    2 points
    • Sindri AvaruusSindri Avaruus, over 5 years ago

      Design and coding are not one and the same by a long shot, but I think I see your point :) They are definitely similar, but top-notch coding requires a completely different personality type than top-notch design, from my experience.

      That is not to say that designers and engineers don't need to cooperate! Quite the opposite :)

      0 points
  • Nick WNick W, over 5 years ago

    As a little tangent, this is one reason why I believe in the 'designers should learn to code' movement/perspective.

    There's a range of values on the spectrum and I don't think you have to be a production level coder. It all comes down to communication. You have to be able to communicate your ideas. If someone builds it, you should take an effort to understand their language to a degree.

    I think the 'designers should learn to code' philosophy lends itself to a two key things: heavy prototyping (either code or some proxy such as a visual programming sofware like Quartz) and open lines of communication with engineers.

    Prototyping allows you to communicate in a way that's much more effective than wireframes, documentation, mockups etc., interactivity is very hard to communicate and prototypes are the closest thing to making that happen.

    A general knowledge of programming also allows you to communicate and better symp/emathize with engineers. Design isn't about dictatorship; it's about working within constraints and if you can better understand those constraints, you can (potentially) create better solutions. And if they're bad engineers, you can call them on their bs.

    1 point
  • Juliano DasilvaJuliano Dasilva, over 5 years ago (edited over 5 years ago )

    Great post! I'm a designer and big advocate of designers + developers = great product. After all, we're working with one end goal in mind: delivering the best possible product. I also advocate for designers knowing to code. I find that we spend a lot of time going through unrealistic static designs when we could be iterating in its real medium.; it's feel real and we fully understand the constraints involved in our designs. Big+ for the post!!!

    0 points
  • Mike BulajewskiMike Bulajewski, over 5 years ago

    A side effect of organizations becoming more focused on the user is that developers can get left behind if they don't make the shift. For example in product feature brainstorming meetings, developers might focus on a feature for power users which end up deprioritized because it only benefits a small percentage of users.

    It's important for designers to be educators and mentors, especially on keeping an open mind about different approaches to a problem and avoiding falling prey to the Law of the instrument.

    0 points
    • David Scoville, over 5 years ago

      Great point. We aren't just designers but design evangelizers. A great designer works to teach and persuade the rest of the organization towards user-centered design.

      0 points
  • David ScovilleDavid Scoville, over 5 years ago

    BTW, this is a really great post on this topic: https://medium.com/the-year-of-the-looking-glass/a3163ff1eced

    0 points