Three simple rules for collaboration between Design & Development
Learn how to get people talking to improve quality and efficiency
Like many Product people, I started the job before I had the title. My employer had just started the journey from print to web design and was struggling with the mindset shift this required. Transitioning from Marketing to ‘Digital’, I inherited a textbook Waterfall project where the print-native design team had almost literally lobbed their work over a dividing wall: ‘Build this!’
Sadly, I couldn’t stop that project from exploding in flames. But the next twelve months saw a rapid evolution in our approach: basic Lean, DevOps and User Centred Design concepts were discovered and adopted. Costs went down as quality and speed increased. When I was formally introduced to Agile in my next role, it felt warm and familiar.
But perhaps the most important change we made was to colocate design and development - and to get them talking. It took a while to build understanding and rhythm, but making communication frequent and informal had a remarkable effect. As we moved from ‘forming’ to ‘storming’ our ways of working, I was able to summarise our approach in three basic rules, which I still use with teams today:
The finished product should be as close to the design as possible
The design is not beyond challenge
Never hand-off a design that cannot be built.
These rules are designed to drive quality through dialogue:
Developers must focus on quality execution. The subtleties and balance of a design should not be lost in translation
Developers are empowered to inform the design (and designers are expected to at least listen). For example, they could query a pattern inconsistency, suggest approaches to different form factors or recommend a new approach to micro-interactions (I particularly like to co-refine animations and transitions during build: these are very difficult to get right before development but add real feel to an experience)
Finally, everyone should appreciate context. Technical constraints, budgets and timelines, business and product strategy are all real. Small changes can often generate massive efficiencies or gains. Everyone should focus on delivering value.
In an increasingly hybrid and remote world, tools are developing to make physical colocation less vital. But shared goals, iterative design and development, and frequent communication have never been more important. Even as my product skills evolve, these three simple rules continue to anchor my approach. They help me encourage collaboration and respect between disciplines - and remind me that it’s through strong cross-functional teams that products become better, faster.
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