Becoming a High-Value Team Member

Full-stack designers, Unicorns and ______ other crazy terms have been coined recently that relate to the select few talented individuals that are able to stretch their technical abilities across the whole spectrum of design and development. These are the individuals that are able to actively create a database, program the web app/platform that communicates with this database, create user centered designs and then develop these and connect the dots. This sounds great, being a well-rounded expert, but as I have spoken about over the last few days, due to the rapidly evolving nature of our industry it can become neigh impossible to keep up with the latest techniques and development trends across all aspects of this process.

To re-iterate-

  1. Back-end (Database development, programming languages (C#, Ruby, Java)
  2. Front-End (User-facing website development [HTML, CSS, Javascript]
  3. Design/UX (Problem solving, Visual Design, Research, Wireframing, Prototyping, Usability testing)

This is an extremely one-dimensional look at each of the components that make up a modern day application, but it is purely to illustrate the point that there is a complex amount of information to digest if you even want to scratch the surface. Over the last few years I have discovered the more that I learn above any of the above three, I uncover even more that I don’t know. It’s a challenging but rewarding experience that ensures that there is always something else to learn.

If you’re a wizard that can develop an interface in a couple of hours, or a designer that has a fantastic knack for colour theory, that’s really useful. If you would like to expand the usefulness of your team however, it is of great help to everyone if you delve into learning even just the foundations of the other parts of the spectrum. A mutual understanding is then realised, particularly in the designer-to-developer relationships, as a simple design change can sometimes mean hours upon hours of development work. If you are able to reach an understanding as to how basic front-end development works through HTML/CSS/Javascript then you might start designing with your developers in mind- i.e. wire framing using a grid is considerably more helpful than just dropping elements onto a page and calling it a day — just because you understand how it should look taking into consideration design fundamentals, does not mean the rest of your team does. Make their lives easier by making your work accessible and usable. Design for great experiences but understand where the difficulties may lie, create alternatives and roadmap complex modules.

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