While working with clients from various industries I often face the assumption that developers' involvement is a part of the last phase of work. During the creative work on a digital product, we use post-it notes, organize workshops, and draft ideas, what in the final version gets to developers hands. Thanks to whom, our concepts and prototypes become a working product. Should creative work be separated from the development?
Work on improving the user experience is often planned in sequences (cascade waterfall project management). Usually, it starts with research and building strategy and finishes with a visual project and user testings. The next phase is development and monitoring (ideally constant improvements) of a working product.
The distinction between the phases is even more visible when there is an outside company involved, responsible only for a small segment of the whole process.
Software houses, research agencies, and design agencies are often separate entities working in a realm of internally established schedules. Even if the organization has an internal development team, and contracts out only research and design, the separation of these two phases is very distinctive. Meanwhile, it is the close collaboration between clients, designers, researchers, and developers that may shorten the process, as well as the cost of the product.
Software developer and UX
It is getting harder to define the role of UX Designer. Who is an experience designer, after all? Is it a person whose decisions influence the experiences of users? Is the developer also a UX designer if he makes decisions about the development process?
Regardless of a position, all product team members make decisions that influence the final experience. Best graphic design, animations or thoughtful features, would be nothing if the product is unavailable on the device which the user has; if it is too slow or the code does not support the product's accessibility.
We can detect and fix those kinds of problems during a post-implementation audit and tests with users. However, close collaboration can predict those problems in the earlier stage of work on a product saving time and resources, which, later, we can use for the development of the next features.
Engaging the developers is not only helping to avoid mistakes in the process. It is also about their perspective as a people who know best about the technical aspects of a product, necessary in creative digital solutions. It can be an inspiration and lead to concrete results.
Developers in the design process
Close collaboration in the design process is invaluable in case of projects that are technologically advanced, complex, and long-lasting. Collaboration between Mobee Dick and Diebold Nixdorf or Mobbe Dick and STS are perfect examples of such work.
In both cases, a team of designers works in the client's headquarters, side by side with the in-house developers' team. Working in the traditional agency style on these projects would be possible, but from the perspective of management as well as cost and time optimization- it would be more expensive.
Developers work alongside the designers on creating information architecture, designing user paths, and prototyping. Notifying the potential problems early in the process enables introducing changes in the design. Programmers often suggest interesting solutions, which are the result of their technological knowledge.
In the traditional model of collaboration, an agency sends a graphic design project ready for implementation. In the waterfall process, there is usually no time to go back, revalidate the suggested solutions, and introduce changes based on the developers' suggestions. Developers are often left alone with a project, and due to the pressure of time, they leave out functions, which cause technical problems. In this way, finished products can have a completely different form from the one delivered by the agency. This can tremendously influence users' experiences of this product.
The possibilities of constant cooperation:
- Seamless communication
- Confidence that all involved people see objectives and risks in the same way
- Possibility of faster detecting mistakes, optimizing them and resolving conflicts.
Inviting development into the earlier phases of the design process has numerous benefits. Intertwined research, design, and development expedite work on the product, we can see the results very quickly, and from a broader perspective, it enables us to create effective solutions.
Developers themselves say this:
The close collaboration of a designer and developer enables us to discover early what the current system is missing, what impinge necessary changes to the project and extensions to the system to develop the solution. Additionally, it allows us to rapidly assess the level of complexity which has a direct impact on the future implementation, division of work, and estimation of costs.
R&D Department w Diebold Nixdorf
Including development in a UX process is also a chance to promote good design practice in teams often focused purely on the technical aspects of products. In the same way, designers can benefit in the early stage from the quick verification of processes and application of interfaces, based on technical constraints which they might not know.
Regardless of how dispersed the teams working on the digital product are, we should aim for close collaboration between all members. Eventually, users will evaluate the effects of our work based on the final product. That is why it is worth thinking about all specialists as one team, with a common design and business objectives.