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Why Developers Don’t Get Design (And What You Can Do About it)

written by - Ben Ravilious

Coders who understand and respect great design are a rare breed. Why is this?

It’s partly the nature of the tasks they face and partly the typical personality of those who end up in the coding profession.

Coding is a less subjective activity than design so coders tend to see things in black and white (it either works or it doesn’t – who cares what colour it is?). They also tend to favour function over form because that’s the bit they have influence over.

From a personality perspective, coders tend to be “left-brained” people who are more interested in solutions rather than emotions. The classic geek PICNIC (“Problem In Chair, Not In Computer”) attitude epitomises this. From a logical perspective, a problem-solving mentality makes perfect sense but is often downright annoying when it comes to communicating with and understanding clients!

The problem with web and app development is it’s a full-on collision of subjective (design) and objective (code) requirements which need all parties to be familiar with working with the each others’ disciplines.

Here are some tips for making collaboration with coders easier:-

  1. Involve them right from the outset to avoid technical problems jumping up and biting you on the ass mid-project (and if they’re not interested in that then look elsewhere!)
  2. Treat them like partners rather than suppliers – form and function are the yin and yang of web/app development and both are equally important.
  3. Artwork is not an adequate specification for anything that is significantly bespoke or customised. Don’t dump artwork on them without explaining the functionality and interactive and dynamic aspects of your designs. Some form of written specification is always a good idea if there is anything bespoke in your brief.
  4. If you want it done on time and on budget don’t make significant design changes once you’ve handed over artwork – it’ll end in tears. The more of a fine-tooth comb approach you take to specifications at the beginning of a project the less last-minute panic you will have leading up to launch.
  5. If the deadline is paramount, make sure they and you build in contingency time for testing and de-bugging. This is something you the designer should be involved in as you’ll not have been staring at the same code for weeks.
  6. If you want a cost to take to your customer but the developer wants to see designs first, show them some wireframes or sketches and get them to produce an estimate.
  7. A fixed price quote is the best charging method as that requires all parties to agree on the full requirements before commencing work.
  8. A staged payment arrangement for coding where the final payment is withheld until final snagging is completed is advisable.


About UltimateWeb

Our team has been helping graphic designers build web sites and apps for over 13 years.

Our clients get the best out of us not just once designs are signed-off but also right at the start when the technical requirements are still on the drawing board.

There are great developers out there who understand design. If you find one, hold on to him or her!