4 Ways for Designers and Developers to collaborate better.
This post is written in co-authorship with Matt Le Fleur, iOS Developer at MyDrive.
Collaboration and communication between UX designers and developers on any design project are key to go from a basic requirement to an amazing product.
Our product design process has massively improved over the last year and we have learned a few important lessons (Retros rock!). At the end of the day, we’re all in this together. In this post, we’ll be sharing the 4 things that have helped us build a better design and development culture.
1. Explain UX to your team
Matt and I went to lunch the other day to start working on this post and my first question to him was: “what do you think we’re doing to make sure designers and developers collaborate at MyDrive?” The first thing he mentioned wasn’t about collaboration in itself but about communication. When he joined, I did an introduction session on UX and he found it really interesting (and fun).
It’s true that the words UX design are still confusing to some people within an organisation. The word “design” is often associated with graphics, when really its definition lies in the process behind making products that work well for the people who use them.
During this session, I try to break those misconceptions. I ask new joiners what they think UX is and then present its different aspects and of course what the MyDrive UX process is. We also play a few games to learn about some of the concepts the team might not be familiar with.
It’s the first step to working together!
2. Sit Together
At MyDrive, we work in an Agile environment and in cross-functional teams. Cross-functional teams are a pretty central idea to agile. It breaks down the silos and ensure that everyone is aligned and working together.
In that regards, I sit between Matt, one of our iOS developers (and co-author of this post) and Arturo our Lead Application Engineer. Sitting together enables us to pair whenever we need and to quickly get feedback. The other day I was iterating on a design following a few user interviews and I was stuck on something. Matt looked at my screen and suggested this great idea which I hadn’t thought of and in a few minutes I was sketching this new screen which solved some of the requirements I had. Pairing/sitting together also grows empathy between development and design as we can easily see what someone is doing and the struggle they can have in their own job.
I really like pairing because it gives me the chance to talk through my design with the development team. Last but not least I love sitting with the rest of my cross-functional team for one simple reason: we have a lot of fun!
3. Share Knowledge
Android and iOS Developers are usually the best advocates of their respective systems and I often rely on their expertise to give me tips on how to improve my designs. Sometimes it’s as simple as a conversation on Slack.
I invite them to participate in our design sessions and we use the Effort/Impact matrix to assess an idea for its impact given the effort required. Our Android and iOS devs help us quickly filter out which ideas might not be worth the effort.
4. Use tools like Zeplin or InVision to handover designs
I was introduced to Zeplin by Felipe, one of our awesome iOS developers, who used it back in Brazil where he’s from.
Zeplin is a collaboration tool for UI designers and front end developers. It works as a plugin within Sketch, so uploading designs can be done in one click. Once my designs are on Zeplin, I can easily annotate them with all the relevant information for the developers and if they have any questions then they can also add their own comments. As it connects to Slack everyone in the team can be notified whenever a design or a resource is updated! One of the other advantages of Zeplin is that it generates style guides and resources automatically.
Zeplin is also a really good way to onboard our new mobile devs when they join MyDrive. They can get a feeling of what our app looks like without having to actually download it and drive 🙂
Our team loves working in this way and we believe that collaboration is a skill that can only be learned, and it’s one that is extremely important for a team to succeed. We’d be really keen on hearing about your own experience. Feel free to contact us on Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn.