5 pain points in designer developer collaboration & how to beat them

Let's dive into the top 5 challenges that developers and designers face.

Designers and developers may seem like the perfect duo when it comes to creating successful projects, but collaboration between the two can often be a bumpy ride. From differences in skills to balancing creativity and functionality, the challenges of working together can be numerous. In this constantly changing environment of technology and design, it's more important than ever for these two to come together and collaborate effectively. 

Let's dive into the top 5 challenges that developers and designers face and how they can overcome them to create thriving projects that meet the needs of the end user.

1. Bad communication style.

Different terminologies and ways of expressing ideas plus a lack of clear communication can be a weighty challenge in the collaboration between developers and designers. They can create confusion and misunderstandings if not addressed properly. The latter can occur when both parties have different interpretations of design specifications or requirements!

While developers are happier with the wider teamwork but want more access to and close collaboration with designers, the designers' concern was the quality of the wider teamwork. Jones, Avis & Kerins (2019) noted that the two roles saw a close - and ideally co-located - cooperation as essential for improving their communication, reducing inefficiencies, and avoiding bad products being released.

Hence, having open communication channels to discuss any potential issues that may arise, and going for regular check-ins and reviews can help ensure that the project is still on track. In addition, it's substantial to consider the end-user and their needs throughout the entire process. This can involve conducting user research and testing to ensure that the project meets the needs of the intended audience.

2. Contrary prioritization.

While both developers and designers are working towards the same end goal, they may have different priorities and set their focus dissimilarly when it comes to realizing the idea.

Designers are typically focused on creating an aesthetically pleasing user interface and user experience, while developers are more focused on the technical aspects of the project, such as functionality and performance. Balancing creativity and functionality in the design and development process is key. Having different priorities when it comes to the creative aspects of the project versus the functional requirements is almost the norm.
Note: Identify the most critical functional requirements and ensure that they are addressed first, before moving on to the more creative aspects of the project! Shared ideation and problem solving can take away so much work!

So having clear project goals is fundamental before diving straight into the project. This can involve identifying and addressing technical limitations early in the design process. Working collaboratively throughout the project, providing feedback and suggestions to each other to ensure that the project meets both technical and design requirements, is essential in order to perform best.

3. Tight resources

To complete the project within the set timeline can be tough, as design and development projects can be complex and time-consuming. Working also with limited resources such as budget, and personnel, both parties may face constraints that limit their ability to create the ideal project. Thus leading to compromises and trade-offs in the design and development process.

Designers habitually work ahead of developers, creating the initial designs and UI elements for the project. This can create conflicts whilst developers have to catch up with the design changes or implement designs within a tight deadline.

Brown, Lindgaard, and Biddle (2011) observed that much of the interaction time between these roles is used to “re-align” individual work progress to ensure a common understanding of the project aims and ensure product development plans are still on track. 

Establishing clear timelines and deadlines from the beginning of the project is a good way to start. This can involve setting milestones for design and development, so that both teams can work together to ensure that the project is completed on time. It is also very beneficial for both parties to communicate regularly and provide updates on their progress, so that any issues or delays can be addressed as soon as possible. Additionally, it is useful to have regular check-ins or status meetings to check that everyone is on track and aware of any changes to the project timeline.

Also to be mentioned: Determining clear project goals and priorities can involve identifying the most critical aspects of the project and prioritizing those aspects over less important features. 

4. No red line

Developers may face designs that are aesthetically pleasing, but technically not feasible or practical to implement, and therefore have to find ways to adapt or modify the designs to work within their technical constraints. 

In order to prevent those limitations, a close collaboration throughout the design process can identify those obstacles early. Designers can share their vision with developers and developers hence can offer feedback on how to implement the design. This helps to warrant that the final product is technically sound, and meets the needs of the final consumer.

Consistency is vital in creating a solid and user-friendly experience, but it can be difficult to maintain when multiple designers or developers work on different aspects of the project. Again, regular check-ins and reviews can help assure that the project is on track and that all team members follow the established guidelines and standards. It can also be helpful to have a designated point person or team responsible for running the project and providing consistency throughout the design and development process.

Tip: Style guides, design patterns, and coding conventions can help. Communicate these guidelines and standards to all team members and check that everyone is on the same page. This also implies being open to changes and being able to adapt as the project progresses to make sure that technical limitations do not cut down creativity or design vision. 

So successful integration of design and development relies on attitudes and work practices such as mutual awareness, expectations about acceptable behavior, negotiating progress and general engagement with each other.

5. Compatibility issues

The challenge of managing different tools and technologies. Developers and designers often use different software tools ,technologies, and workflows to accomplish their respective tasks, which can create compatibility issues and slow down the collaboration process.

Identifying the tools and technologies that will be used for the project has to be done beforehand. This can involve choosing software tools and applications that are compatible with each other, or finding ways to integrate these tools into a unified workflow. Collaboration has a significant, positive impact on product quality and reduces the cycle time and product development cost. The less tools you are using, the easier it can get working together. 

It can also be helpful to provide training or support for team members who may be unfamiliar with the chosen tools. To not slow down the workflow, it can as well help to get designers and developers into your team who have the same skill level. Further, it can be handy to initiate clear documentation and processes for using different tools and technologies, to ensure that everyone is following the same procedures.

As you can see, clear and regular communication is fundamental, following established guidelines and using as few as possible tools will get you all along. It can be a bumpy ride for both parties when collaborating together, but design and development are two sides of the same coin! Pursuing a red line and understanding each other's perspectives will get you a splendid payoff. So heads up! 

We at Widgetbook, share the vision to bring developers, designers, product managers and clients on one platform to finally bridge the gap between design and development!
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Jones, A. J., Avis, N., & Kerins, J. (2019). Factors for successful Agile collaboration between UX designers and software developers in a complex organisation.

Jones, A., & Thoma, V. (2019). Determinants for Successful Agile Collaboration between UX Designers and Software Developers in a Complex Organisation. International journal of human-computer interaction, 35(20), 1914–1935.