Marine Aubert
Feb 14 · 7 min read

Since times immemorable, designers and developers have been in an ongoing war. As old families in little villages feud, designers and developers usually don’t fit together. Inherited behaviour, lack of communication and overdeveloped pride account for the rest.

In this game everybody loses: designers are disappointed because their interfaces don’t look or work as they imagined, developers are on the defensive because UX designers think every feature made is “buggy”… and users end-up with an interface that reflects this conflict.

At the end of the day, this cold war is meaningless. Designer. Developer. Please surrender.

Photo by ChuXue Lu(@luchuxue1997) on Unsplash

An open-war genesis

So where does this historic conflict originate?

Over the last century, developers literally made the internet. Interfaces weren’t pretty, but they were functional. You could say that the internet was the developer’s territory.

By the end of the 90’s, design on paper began to decline. Designers were pushed by job employment reality to work on CD and DVD and began to code in Lingo and to develop Adobe Shockwave content. After less than a decade, the DVD market dropped, and designers once again had to readapt to the market.

At the beginning of 21st century, designers began to invade the internet. In some companies, designers and developers had the same function: webmaster. A generation of frustrated people was born. Developers and designers all tried to make pretty websites without working together. It was the age of slow-to-load flash websites and HTML pages with image files as titles. Everyone made banners and tried as much as they could to find their spot in the web industry.

Freedom from both sides arrived around 2007 and 2010 thanks to users and technical progress. Users began to use the internet as a real tool and designers started to focus on user needs. Google began to impose its power on the internet by generating SEO challenges on front-end code, and CSS came to a certain maturity. We no longer labelled designers as webmasters, but as web-designers. They finally found a place in this new digital era. Developers too regained their dominion — they could now focus on the front-end VS back-end developer conflict. Hurray!


UX/Dev: how they see each other

Even if designers and developers finally agree to each have a part of the cake, it appears that in reality good relationships are not natural between these two; it’s like water and oil. Here are some common misconceptions that they think about each another.

UX designers, as seen by developers:

  • Doesn’t care about the developer’s point of view
  • Knows what the user needs. UX = User Experience. Got it?
  • Has seen a feature on Instagram. Why not just do that? Looks easy to do, right?
  • Hates that developer talk to them as if they were children
  • Is annoyed because the developer didn’t follow their prototype. Is a pixel perfect just a concept to them?
  • Thinks he knows how to code because he did his portfolio on WordPress. So boring…
  • Considers all developers as colour-blind
https://crystallize.com/comics/recurring-nightmare

Developers, as seen by UX designers:

  • Thinks he is a misunderstood genius
  • Doesn’t like marketing teams — “ Oh… you mean, they are really working?”
  • Follows the specifications but happily points out that mistakes were made
  • Immediately disagrees with everything and one, as a principle of life
  • Doesn’t say anything when we ask his point of view. Change everything without asking. Mwahahahahah.
  • Thinks the UX designer is meant to be making the website’s pretty ornaments (that’s for users right?)
https://crystallize.com/comics/this-is-fine

That’s right! Sometimes developers seem to be like « He Who Must Not Be Named » for designers. Why so? Is this statement really true? If you are a UX designer and you live for this kind of conflict, here’s my advice to help you have a virtuous relationship with developers and begin to enjoy your collaboration with them.


Why UX designers and developers should be partners

If you only believe in full stack designers and developers, please stop here. If not, do keep reading.

Everyone has a specialty and knowledge. I’ve never met someone capable of doing everything by themselves — there’s always a flaw.

Designers and developers need each other to build meaningful services.

Designers and developers are meant to be working hand in hand. Even if a UX designer created the best interface ever, the job would be pointless if it didn’t work functionally. This alone is a good reason to start working in collaboration with developers.

If designers don’t check the feasibility of what they’re suggesting, developers will let them know they’re wrong — rightfully so!


Collaborating

Some technical issues are actually more UX issues. If a page’s loading time is too long for instance. Or if a page is asking for too many JavaScript calls. Hence the need for a close collaboration between UX and devs.

Developers must know designers’ issues to understand their propositions. They have to be aware of personae and user flows.

Designers should try to involve developers in their reflection. Not only will they be surprised to see how helpful it is, they will also discover how to make a powerful interface. Challenging each other and agreeing on an action plan will eventually be really rewarding in many ways.

Plus, developers can provide welcome assistance when justifying design decisions to a client.

Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

Designers should code

I know, this subject has become so commonplace, so the question is more about how much should designers know.

To work in collaboration with developers, designers have to understand at least what they do, how they work and what tools they use.

If developers work with Bootstrap and designers don’t have the Bootstrap grid in mind when designing, the interface is often simply not feasible.

Even if they know how to code, designers should not be presumptuous. As much as they hate when someone auto-proclaims themselves as a UX Designer because they are just human and they have made a website with shadows, developers equally despise people coming to them and saying they have built a website with WordPress templates, so they know how to code (seriously designers, stop with that).


Challenge in the nick of time

Should designers ask developers for advice after the client’s validation, they’ve made a big mistake. It will be too late to make changes and both the client and developers may end up unhappy.

Designers should at least ask for developer’s validation before showing their work to their client. First, it is a question of respect. Plus, it will improve the credibility of both parties.

In fact, it is the IKEA syndrome: people always prefer something they’ve built by themselves. By integrating developers on design processes and reflection, designers ensure that a deep relationship based on respect and communication is possible.

Photo by Kaleidico on Unsplash

Invite developers at King Arthur’s Round Table

Over the last few years, designers have finally won the challenge to have a seat at the table — but with great power comes great responsibility!

No one ever lost credibility by sharing information with people involved, on the contrary!

Too often, developers are considered just as a resource. Who would forget to invite the construction manager to a building site meeting?

In Societe Generale, we must have Business & IT members in all our pizza teams to involve each stack of the project in the reflection. This allows us to take the right decisions and to make sure that the MVP is cost-efficient and fulfills actual user needs.


Have a break. Have a…

Have whatever you want but go out of the office! Designers and developers spending time together outside of work is great for both projects and relationships — sometimes, a project can be saved around a good beer.

Developers are often seen as unsociable. Designers are often seen as drama queens. Reality is that none of them stick to the usual stereotype. And they have a shared issue: clients’ expectation VS reality.

Here’s a good ice breaker if you need one: begin to speak about the so-called “wow factor” that clients are waiting for!

Photo by Lance Anderson on Unsplash

Thanks for reading!

I hope this was insightful. Are you a developer or a UX designer? Have you tried to implement some of these advice in your developer/UX relationship?

If you liked them, don’t hesitate to clap 👏👏 and share. And if you think we are missing out on something important, let me know in the comments.

Visit our Design website to learn more about what we do at Societe Generale.

Societe Generale Design

Meet the design practitioners and enthusiasts of Societe Generale. We craft meaningful products and experiences for start-ups, corporates and financial institutions.

Thanks to Morgane Peng

Marine Aubert

Written by

UX Designer at Societe Generale. #UXDesign enthousiast and #ecommerce expert. Mother of two fantastic boys.

Societe Generale Design

Meet the design practitioners and enthusiasts of Societe Generale. We craft meaningful products and experiences for start-ups, corporates and financial institutions.

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