When Designers Should Start Working in Comparison to Developers

The Dance between UX Designers and Developers

In the dynamic world of software development, the collaboration between UX Designers and Developers is crucial for developing exceptional products and user experiences. When you start a new project a lot of questions come to your mind. One that really kept my attention lately is “What should we do first?” or “What’s the best to start this project?”. While certainly those are questions that cannot be replied with a certain recipe. This will depend on the context of the company, the initial negotiations with the client and the nature of the project.

But something that will help us reply to those questions is knowing the optimal timing for UX Designers to join a project in comparison to developers. In this article, I will provide you with reasons and best practices that I hope will make your life easier at the beginning of a project and hopefully by consequence in the following phases of that same project.

As I mentioned, there is no recipe on who should start working on a project first, or if both, the development team and the design team should start at the same time. Your company or the environment (business plan, company policies, etc) can make a decision for you before you can say a word. But talking in an ideal world, I like to advocate for an early engagement of the design efforts as it sets the stage for a successful and user-centric outcome.

Why should UX Designers Start Earlier

Difference on expectations

Leah Buley, on her book called “The User Experience Team of One” says that “Often when a project is beginning, everyone involved has distinct ideas for what the outcome looks like. In team discussions it’s possible for people to express their point of view and think they’re all saying the same thing but actually have very different ideas of what they expect to see”.

This is why designers should be involved earlier than when the first line of code is written. The labor of an UX Designer performed with different research techniques will help the team and other entities involved on the project answer what is this product that we are building.

User-Centric Foundation

The labor of a UX Designer is to make questions and try to answer them by involving all the possible assets and people on the project. Imagine you are building the house of your dreams but you leave the architect for later, you might find out that the windows that the construction workers and you thought that was very useful are not, and that will lead to expensive and unnecessary rework. Well, the same happens with UX Designers.

What You Can Do

Create Extensive Enough Kick-Off Meetings

As your project grows, individual expectations will grow as well. Having everyone on the same page from day one is crucial for a well-executed Kick-off meeting. Prepare an agenda that sets the expectations clear for everyone on the team. Your meeting should not only answer what is the background, scope, and expectations of the project but also give the team points of contact and communication channels to make follow-up questions. Ensure to invite all the developers, designers, and managers to this meeting. Your UX Designer(s) can and should start making questions at this phase.

Advocate for UX designers to be part of project kick-off meetings. Encourage them to actively participate in requirement-gathering sessions and initial brainstorming discussions.

Learn more about how to prepare for your kick-off meeting on Atlassian’s Blog.

Educate Your Team and Your Clients

Emphasize the importance of UX research at the outset to inform design decisions and align them with user expectations. Allow your designer to start working a few days (or weeks, if possible) so they can start their research. Take into consideration that UX is more than what you see, it is even how people find your product or service and all the environment above it. UX Designers know this and they will ensure to start shaping the product in the right way by doing the right questions, if you allow them the time to do their magic.

Talk to your client about the importance of early UX efforts. Setting up the right foundation of the product will make a difference.

Check out this article from Proto.io about selling UX Services.

Bridge the Gap Between Clients, Developers and Designers

Communication is crucial in every step of the process, including the start. Foster a culture of collaboration, where developers and UX designers work side by side from the project’s inception. Ensure both parties have the tools to reach out to each other. Encourage designers and developers to reach out if questions appear.

Check out this great Smashing Magazine article about Designer-Developer Communication.

Remember, we are all in this together 🎵