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A Developer's Perspective on Collaboration

Published on January 15, 2010 at springbox.com

Everyone knows that developers aren’t as creative as designers. Not even close. Which is why developers find it hard to work with designers … we’re afraid of having our ideas shot down. Instead of volunteering our ideas, we wait until the designer asks for a suggestion. (Actually, from what I‘ve learned, designers like to have our input. Who knew?) How do we break this cycle of fear? How do we get to a point where we can give designers suggestions that we feel are useful? If designers don’t know what developers are capable of, many potential features could be left out of a project.

The hard part about giving designers suggestions or ideas is trying to give a technical suggestion without making it a design suggestion. This can be hard to do because we don’t always know what the designer is looking for. As developers, we should strive to make suggestions that enhance the way a site functions, without directly impacting the site’s aesthetics.

I recently collaborated with a designer on a microsite, where I recognized an opportunity to streamline the user experience. I wasn’t trying to change the user flow or the way the site looked, I was trying to make the user experience faster. While working with Springbox Art Director Phil Coffman on the AMD Collateral Generator project, I offered suggestions on different technologies that would streamline performance. My idea was to make the site AJAX-based. This would keep the whole page from constantly refreshing, making the user experience a little faster. Much faster, actually. Without taking a chance and sharing my idea, I doubt Phil would have known that we could successfully use that technology.

So, as developers, we have to make sure we don’t cross the line into a designer’s territory. We want to give technical suggestions that aren’t design suggestions but rather complement the overall experience.