People DO judge a book by its over. We may have the best product, the highest quality, the most useful software, etc.; if we present them in a slipshod manner, they will be perceived as slipshod; if we present them in a creative, professional manner, we will impute the desired qualities.
January 3, 1977
In the past ten years, I have noticed a disconnect in many companies when it comes to product design. I’ve worked in companies that had product owners who would write user stories to implement a client requested feature however the requirements were very vague and left the interpretation of the design up to the developer. The developer would get no information on how it should look or where it should go. Developers have so much pressure to get features complete that they run through the UI, drag n’ drop some buttons on the page and quickly get it functional so they can move on to the next requirement or focus more on the back-end work. The problem is with enough developers doing this the UI gets overcrowded, unorganized and generally not intuitive. I have learned a few things from watching this scenario play out over and over again.
Developers are not designers
- Developers heart is in the back-end of code. They enjoy and thrive on the functionality. The UI is just the part they have to do because it is needed for the job. As a result, the UI gets rushed. The overall finished look of the page is what I call “buttons on a page” where nothing has a purpose. It looks like someone just put controls or form elements on the page where they could find room for it.
- Developers are stuck in “battle ship gray.” That’s all they have seen for the last 15 years and it doesn’t really matter to them. As long as the program works well the UI’s purpose is only for getting input and input only. Who cares how it looks as long as the application is functional.
- Developers have a hard time seeing detail. A designer can hand a developer a screen mockup and tell them this is the new design to implement. When they say it’s finished it is obvious that they did not produce the design exactly as shown in the picture. Even if tasked with updating a small portion of the application on their own based on the design of the rest of the application, it will be easy to note that main concepts are ignored like border colors, text color, padding etc.
- Developers don’t know what can be done visually and most of them don’t know the right controls or form elements to use to get the job done.
What Designers Bring to the Table
- Design Phase: A designer is going to be able to produce wireframes of a site, web app or mobile app. These wireframes will be reviewed by management, changed or updated with new requirements all before a single piece of code is written.
- Technologies Required: A designer has an idea in mind for the technologies that are required to implement the design
- Knowledge of the Audience: A designer is going to offer a design that is suitable for the target audience. A designer is going to have the end user in mind and knows how to ask questions such as how will this site benefit the user and what value can this site provide to the user. A designer is going to offer a design that is user-friendly and intuitive as they keep up with the latest in user experience.
- Creativity: A designer will produce work that is more creative or out of the box as they are applying the design trends that have been proven effective coupled with their own artistry. They may even be able to create rapid prototypes as many designers also have technical skills in web technologies.
- Working with Development: A designer will be able to work with development to relay the requirements.
- Content Creation: A designer will be able to modify or create content or use typography to aid in the design. They will know which types of fonts/colors leading to use to create content that is easily readable to the end user.
- Fine Tooth Comb: A designer is able to look through a site, web app or mobile app with a fine tooth comb and be able to see things that others can’t. Maybe padding looks off, maybe some text is not clear and needs bullet points to separate the content, or maybe a slight color variation would help to distinguish one set of content from the other.
- Design System: A designer would be able to implement a design system for developers to follow and to communicate to project managers. This would include a style guide, style components, wireframes, brand colors and much more.
This is not to bash developers. Developers are great at creating software solutions for business products. They are excellent at software architecture, i.e., the database layer, security, web services, back’end code, frameworks/ languages, and client-side work. This is what I believe developers should focus their time and attention on, not trying to figure out vague requirements. Designers add many benefits to organizations and will significantly increase company revenue and sales.