Designers & Developers: An Office Divided No Longer

We’ve all been there. Your designer creates a beautiful design only for it to be hacked apart by a developer, or your developer builds something with incredible functionality and the designer wants to dumb it down for aesthetics’ sake. But we also all know that a good final project takes both designers and developers brains to be successful. So, how do we overcome these barriers to having a seamless team who are all on the same page and ready to accomplish the best solution for the user?

Efficient teamwork requires tools, open communication, and continuous collaboration to create the ideal designer/developer relationship. The very first step -and probably most important- in creating a good designer/developer relationship are having these two people (or teams) sit down together to set expectations and realistic goals for each project. After that, you need to make sure these teams are continuously connected and collaborating throughout the project. Many tools have been created to help ease office collaboration and assist your designer/developer teams to work in the most efficient way.

Tool #1 Slack

Even if you have not used it, there is a significant chance you’ve heard of Slack by now. It’s quickly becoming the most commonly used communication tool among teams, exponentially growing across the globe. Slack splits communication up into three separate buckets: channels, private channels, and direct messages. These channels are helpful because think, how tired are you of getting about 30 emails on one project in a day, or having to dig back through your email to find the right information. These channels help eliminate this stress and confusion. They help streamline messages and keeps all information in one centralized location per project. Slack also allows you to upload files, comment on them, and tag other people to get notifications about updates/comments. Slack is fantastic because it also integrates all of the other collaboration, communication, and design tools you will be using. You can create channels to notify you of updates on things such as Google Drive, Twitter, and Dropbox. Slack is an essential tool for communication and collaboration with designer and developers (you can even keep up to date on your iPhone or Android!)

Tool #2: Zeplin

Zeplin’s tagline is “Design hand-off has never been easier. Generate style guides and resources, automatically.” This company mostly claims to make your designer/developer relationships easier, so why not take them up on this? This tool allows your designers to take their Sketch or Photoshop designs and export them for developers to optimize the assets for the web. Developers are then able to take these assets a step further and also export them for the web. When exported, Zeplin automatically exports all of the sizes needed based on whichever platform you are using for development.

Zeplin also allows designers to create style guides to hand off to the team’s developer that include both color guides with hex codes and typography to use in the site/application. Many large corporations are using Zeplin and live by the rule that “if it’s not in Zeplin, it’s not official.” This forces all members of the team to be on the same page and ensures all communication is visible to the entire team. The best part of Zeplin is that is that it integrates with Tool #1, Slack. If connected to Slack, your team will be notified any time a resource or element is updated. And if you’re still not sold, they have an excellent little blimp as their logo. Who doesn’t love bright orange blimps?

Tool #3: InVision

InVision is a tool our team has recently added into our workflow. It has streamlined our process and helped everyone be on the same page during projects. InVision not only allows you to communicate effectively between designers and developers but allows your clients and other team members to chime in as well. InVision gives designers the ability to add static mockups of your web pages and create hotlinks to other static pages. This fantastic feature allows clients and developers to be able to interact with the website to see exactly how pages work together to create the user experience of a website without needing to build everything out. Another reason that InVision has changed the way we collaborate is the comments functionality. This tool allows designers to add comments on top of sections to explain the functionality. Developers and Clients can then respond to the comments directly in InVision where the tool keeps a log of changes.

InVision has great version control for your design mockups. Each revision to a screen is stored in InVision. Having version control in design and development is critical. Users, Clients, and other teammates are always changing their mind and wanting to go back to previous versions of sections. This tool allows designers and developers to look back on progress to make certain everything is pixel perfect for the client once the project is moved into development. One last feature of InVision is the ability to move screens to different ‘status levels.’ You can categorize pages as In Progress, On Hold, or Completed.

All these of these tools were created help your developers and designers communicate and work together as effectively as possible. While these tools will assist your team, it’s also vital that they learn to continuously work together on improving their communications and techniques. Be sure to start each project by setting realistic goals, expectations, and discussing areas of improvement from the last project.

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