Designer & Developer Cohesion

Written by Georgina Katz

UXSA 2019 marked my first UX conference. I arrived in the wee early hours of the morning for day 1 of the event with an open mind and a keen-to-learn attitude. Upon arrival other like-minded attendees were friendly and all shared similar passions for UX, which was really refreshing.

The conference kicked-off with a workshop that focused on unlocking creativity in the workplace. It was mostly centered around finding your creative confidence and using it to help solve problems- be it big or small.

“Developing creative confidence is about fostering a trust within yourself that you too are creative and that you can use creativity to solve your and others’ problems.”
UXSA 2019 Creativity workshop — Georgina Katz

Our second (and last) workshop was with one of the co-founders and CEO of UX pin — Marcin Treder. I was aware of UX Pin before the workshop, but I’ll admit I hadn’t really done much research on it. For those who don’t know, it’s a code-based design and prototyping tool.

Marcin Treder UX Pin workshop — Georgina Katz

What makes this tool different is that other design tools only allow you to fake interactions by linking whatever you draw. UX pin takes design to the next level with interactive states, logic and code components. I was really glad to be part of this workshop because Marcin was really inspirational with his design ethos and is a big believer in recognizing the importance of UX and developer synchronicity to make a cohesive well-rounded final product. The workshop mainly centered on a practical approach to using UX Pin, and true to designer form, Marcin was eager to help solve as many problems in the room as possible.

Day 2 of the conference:

Day 2 started off with a talk from Marcin. This time he really honed in on the concept of designer and engineer cohesiveness. He began by explaining the recipe for new-age design at a fundamental level;

  1. Research and psychology,
  2. A ton of real-life experience and
  3. A tablespoon of secret tools.

This was elaborated by unpacking the concept of what makes teams work more efficiently.

From a research perspective, the obvious google analytics tool stands out. From a psychological perspective, the notion of being vulnerable with your team is what ultimately attributes to more productivity and greater innovation. Simply put, being vulnerable allows teams to take risks. Getting to know your team allows you to be comfortable enough to ask provoking questions on your designs. Some of the top companies in the world’s preferred working environments such as Google and Cisco, implement a great deal of ‘psychological safety’ for their employees- being able to show and employ one’s self without fear of negative consequences of self-image, status or career. In psychologically safe teams, team members feel accepted and respected, they’re encouraged to take risks and be more creative by being vulnerable with each other.

Dependability is an important attribute amongst developer and designer teams. Knowing that your team members get things done and meet a high bar for excellence is what propels projects to move forward, and helps teams stay confident with the work that is being delivered.

Structure and clarity allows teams to have clear roles, plans and goals.

Meaning: humans are constantly seeking meaning. They want to understand, and true to the natural state of problem solvers, the will to find meaning and understand things on a deeper level is what makes work personally important.

Impact: Knowing that the work you’re doing has impact, creates a sense of importance. Team members thus think their work matters, and creates change.

The theory of the positive spill-over effect also lends itself well to designer and engineer effectiveness. For example, the positive spill-over effect recognizes that sitting next to someone cleverer than you subconsciously pushes you to work harder. So with this in mind, it makes sense for designers and engineers sit next to each other side-by-side when collaborating on a project.

Emotional proximity: Being in touch and checking in with your teammates is important. Observing other people’s work ultimately helps you perform better.

Ethics vs. data: Having a diverse team makes teams better. Allowing different perspectives helps teams realize the potential for inclusivity.

In summary, there are two aspects of a team that help improve its psychological safety:

  1. A clear team structure where members understand their role on the team
  2. Strong relationships between cohesive team members

It is also beneficial to learn about your team’s and project expectations before getting started on any given task, even if it’s as simple as asking upfront at the start of a project what they all expect from the project and from each other. Communicate early and often, this can be achieved by sitting together and having emotional proximity.

Engage engineers in the early phases of the design process. Spot the edge cases — asking which part of this project is vulnerable. Having these types of conversations will ultimately push your work forward, and will unearth any vulnerabilities that the project might face.

Here is a check-list for Designer — Engineer collaboration.

Representing team Retro Rabbit at UXSA 2019

About the author

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Phlippie Bosman

Phlippie Bosman

Retro Rabbit's resident iOS hipster with a passion for clean and scalable coding. For fun, I like to taste fine whisky, win pub quizzes, and make noisy garage punk with my friends. Read more from Phlippie Bosman...