What I learned from the design team as a front end developer

Just a quick look back at almost three years of working at a creative agency and what I learned as a front end developer from the design team.

  • It’s not us vs. them — Designers and developers come together to make up a team. We’re all in this together, trying to make the best product we can. There will always be pain points throughout the process, but if we can keep an open discussion across disciplines, we develop a mutual understanding of both our struggles, and ultimately our goals. Who knows, you might even make a friend.
  • Nothing is written in stone — v1-design-final, v2-design-final-final, v3-design-final-final-final, v4-design-seriously-final, v-15-so-so-sorry-final, v-75-ok-this-is-the-one. Design is fluid, clients are fluid, development should be fluid as well. It’s easy to get upset when you’ve already built something and suddenly requirements change, but if you can understand the why behind it, you’ll be much better off. 9 times out of 10 nobody is out to get you. Your team isn’t here to waste your time. Accept that things aren’t always going to be the way you imagined, and allow yourself time to roll with the inevitable punches.
  • Yes, those few pixels do matter — I used to absolutely hate feedback from designers. “Move that 5 pixels to the right”, “That animation should be smoother”, “That hex value isn’t quite right”. The simple truth is, it’s literally my job to do these things. Designers don’t simply design just for the sake of it (most of the time). There’s an actual vision and it’s your responsibility to bring that to life as accurately as possible. Think a request is unreasonable, or maybe even flat out wrong? Take a look back at the first point and talk with your peers, maybe you’re overlooking something, or maybe they are.
  • Put in the extra work — Why shouldn’t you? Everyone else did. Your design team was up all night preparing for that pitch or working over the weekend to finish that spec work. You left early everyday this week because you didn’t have anything to do. A lot of times when you’re a developer, work ebbs and flows. You finished that piece early and the next isn’t designed yet, or the client hasn’t quite signed off on that new project. Just because your workload is light right now, doesn’t mean you won’t eventually have to step up and put in a few extra hours. Everyone involved in a project works extremely hard, and it’s important to not only recognize your peers for their effort, but to make sure you work just as hard to reach the goal.
  • Never say you can’t — If you’re working with a designer that isn’t super familiar with development, it’s easy to pass something off as unachievable with a myriad of excuses. “That would take too much time”, “That wouldn’t perform well”, “That’s not in scope”, “It’s literally impossible.” When a designer comes up with a crazy idea, take some time to really think about it, put together a proof of concept, search the web for similar examples, and really push yourself to try and bring that idea to life. It’s easy to get lazy as a developer, but it’s super exciting to be presented with new challenges and opportunities to create something unique. If your designers aren’t constantly testing your skills and trying to push boundaries, development becomes just another boring job.

Don’t get me wrong, I learned a lot about actual development as well, like, pretty much everything I know.

If you take anything away from this, I hope it’s that we’re all in this together, we all have something to teach each other, and most importantly, we all have something to learn. Give your favorite designer a hug and let them know that together we can make anything…maybe.