Written by Nontokozo Dlamini
UXSA 2019 was an opportunity for me to dabble on the other side, play with the other kids. And a privilege it was to see things from a new perspective, their perspective. As a developer we never really get to understand what the designers do. We all have this underlying stereotype of them drawing boxes and making things look pretty. And yes, that is in fact true but there is a science that backs up their art, and we need that science because it is in that science that our solutions are meaningfully applicable to the user. And that was basically what my experience at UXSA was about, understanding this science and clearing a few misconceptions.
UX design is in fact not UI design
Where as UI may be seen as a subset of UX design, UX is not UI, it is rather the high level understanding of the user and user behaviours. So UX can be seen as the underlying architecture built from user research and understanding the user behaviours we want to create. UI is the cosmetic brush that makes that architecture look appealing. Building software or any product with that consciousness as a dev should keep you self editing, asking questions like “is my implementation user centric?”, “does it optimise the user experience?” …etc. I can never emphasize the importance of the entire team understanding the underlying UX design. It might be worth spending time here before any development begins to discuss the solution that the UXers have proposed and have tech leads slash out anything that does not make sense from a development perspective — this could include things like speed or performance trade offs over coolness. After all we are one team and he who does not build for the user does not build at all.
It takes two to tango
It takes both the design and development to get cool stuff out. We are a team and if the UX fails, the product fails. We should all feel the need to minimize the divide between the two. We need to move beyond a single point of view and understand the other side, create a united front where both designers and developers speak some common language regarding the product at hand. To the designers, THE DEVELOPERS CARE TOO, we may not show it in a humanly easy way to understand but we want our work to be functional and pretty, pretty simply sells. Achieving seamless collaboration must therefore be fostered in some way, be it through conventional methods like diverse lean coffee sessions or less conventional methods like forced pet parenting between devs and designers.
Design for the real world
Lastly, as we all set out into the different spaces we’ve been put in to build cool stuff remember not to just design but teach design. Teach the none creatives in your space why it’s better to do what you do the way you do it. Know the old existing solutions and build up from there ensuring that you are in fact improving and not just reinventing the same limited wheel. Artists are a catalyst for change so take it personally and be on a mission to put out good, meaningful products in the hands of users.