A great design can only go so far.

For a designer, that’s a scary thing.

That generally means once it leaves your laptop, it’s fair game. You have no control over the fate of that Photoshop document even if your life depended on it. That is, unless you remember one crucial thing – to make friends with your developers. They are the ones who can, quite literally, make or break your design.

Sure, they can be a little scary with their graphic tees and cryptic lines of code they stare at for hours on end, but developers should be the designers’ best friends. 

In fact, the Designer-Developer relationship is arguably the most important relationship in an Interactive Agency.

Developers are the end-all of any project that comes through your doors. At the end of the day, clients only see the outcome of whatever magic your developers have typed into their computers.

So let’s take a step back and talk about how things usually work in an agency environment. 

Starting off on the right foot

A project comes in, you get every piece of information you need to produce a stellar site, and you spend countless hours making sure everything is user-friendly, on-brand, and pixel-perfect. Then you hand off your precious Photoshop documents to the development team. Now what?

This is when things can either go flawlessly, if you’re lucky, or completely awry. If this is the case, how can you ensure the integrity of the design you created throughout this entire process? Well, it’s easy, and has probably been said a million times, but it needs to be engrained in stone somewhere.

The first step is communication. There, I said it. 

Having open communication seems like a no-brainer, but holds back a multitude of agencies from becoming tremendously successful. It starts not only at the very beginning of a project, but should be carried out at every milestone and countless times in between. A few key questions you can ask, for every project, that will help facilitate the communication process:

“How will this work?”

“What will happen to it on tablet?”

“Why can’t this work the way I want it to?”

“What was your plan for this?”

Team

Learn to speak the same language

Once communication is established, you can continue to develop this relationship in just a couple more steps. But first, remember, don’t be afraid of your developers. Sure they speak a different language, but they want the outcome to be just as successful as you do. Go up to them while they’re in the midst of translating your design into code and ask questions.

More often than not, your dev guys (or gals) will suggest ways you can elevate your design in an approach that you might not have thought of. They have the knowledge and abilities to take your design a step further; whether it’s through animation, hover states, anything really. 

If you’re lucky, they’ll even help push your ideas and suggest new levels of functionality. We, in the biz, call this collaboration and it goes hand-in-hand with communication. Once you’ve established these two ideals, you’re on the path to a smoother and more successful process.

Combining forces

One more thing, and this should go without saying, but listen to your developers. The possibilities are endless with Photoshop, but there are certain limitations in development. This is your chance to work together, understand why some things won’t work the way you envisioned, and learn from it for the next time. 

Even though both designers and developers have completely different skillsets, we’re all working towards the same goal and are integral parts of the process. It’s essential we work with each other to achieve the goals we set out to accomplish. Both parties have a common ground – we’re constantly setting out to execute amazing work that functions just as well as it looks.

In the end, both teams work best hand-in-hand

So don’t forget to communicate and don’t be afraid to ask questions, because you’ll both learn from each other. And remember, your dev guys aren’t as scary as you think.

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Emily Acanfora

About Emily Acanfora

Emily Acanfora is an Associate Art Director at Liquid, specializing in web design and advertising design with quality experience in both design and development. Emily enjoys being involved in every part of the process from brainstorming a concept to designing the very last element on a page and working closely with development to see how her design comes to life.

Published Apr 28, 2016