Over the last few years, the importance of design in the tech industry has grown tremendously—with a greater appreciation for designers who know how to work within development constraints.
At Tendigi, we produce our best work when our designers and engineers work in a harmonious, cross-collaborative environment. We’d like to share 3 of the most powerful ways to make that happen at any organization.
Be more pragmatic with decision-making
You need a solid understanding of what is feasible to build within the scope of your product. The best starting point is to digest your platform’s guidelines and standards (here you go: iOS, macOS, watchOS, material design, and web design).
Be able to see how each component will be built from an engineer’s perspective. Start to learn a programming language. Don’t feel overwhelmed by the idea that you need to know how to build a product from scratch, but any amount of knowledge that comes from knowing how to code will help you make more informed design decisions and will also help you better communicate with engineers.
Design for the best user experience first, then add the whimsy and fun. Remember: Basic UX principles should guide your design from the beginning. There has to be a balance between the amount of effort required to build a feature and the benefit of the result.
Make the engineer’s job as easy as possible
Provide your engineers with clean, well-organized design files that have comps and layers plainly named. Cut assets yourself and name them appropriately for the given platform. I know—this isn’t the most fun job. But it ensures that what goes into the finished product is exactly what you want. It also takes the work away from your engineers, which means they can dedicate more time to building better features.
Make sure your designs are consistent. Run audits over your work at different points in the design process. It’s better to check yourself a million times than to block an engineer from developing down the road because there are differences in the treatment of similar elements.
Make annotated documents when necessary. You can create your own, or utilize one of many tools such as Notebook for Sketch. Living and static style guides can aid in the cohesion of development for your product. Keep in mind that some developers never look at the style guide and work straight off a comp, so make sure to communicate early in the process with your engineering team. Spend your time wisely and efficiently.
Prototypes and interaction animations show engineers how something should work in the most straightforward way possible. If you rely on word-of-mouth to get your point across, you leave a lot of room for misinterpretation and increase chances of the final product misaligning with your vision.
Communicate constantly and respect the engineer’s opinions
Don’t silo yourself (or the engineer) off by only talking when it’s time to hand off designs. When you work together from the beginning, you’re more powerful—and you’ll ultimately create a better product.
If you’re unsure about a feature’s design, how a transition will work, or the flow of a user’s interactions, consult with your engineering team. They have a wealth of knowledge and can approach your problem from an analytical, technical perspective. Don’t be shy to admit you need advice.
These 3 lessons boil down to empathy, organization, and communication. The key with all of these: Make sure you’re in control of the execution of the final product. You want your vision to be realized, right? So do everything you can to equip your engineers with the right materials and knowledge so they can execute your vision perfectly—and so you end up with a kickass product.