It’s around this time of year that we see the usual trend forecasts for the year ahead. Will flat design give way to material design? Will the burger menu gain widespread acceptance? Will preloaders be popular again?
Trends are great, but it’s important to look at the bigger picture and to consider how designers and developers actually work together to best approach the challenges of our industry.
In the past, this has often been something of a siloed affair.
Web agencies have a habit of structuring their teams in quite a boxed-off manner – the UX team sits over here, the visual design team sits over there, when the designs are done we hand them over to the front end team etc. It’s all a bit ‘over the wall’ and can lead to a breakdown in communication and loss of the overall vision, which never results in a brilliant end result.
The main issue at hand is that, if you want to empower creative thinking, it’s hard to effectively share ideas, at least in large teams.
So why not let the ones with the ideas also be the ones who execute them?
A couple of years ago I was inspired by the way the in-house team at Government Digital Service approached the new Gov.uk website – which won the Design Museum’s Design of the Year award. I remember reading a blog article at the time which explained that, instead of working to the usual departmental conveyor belt, the Gov.uk designers and developers often worked in close pairs, designing and developing together in real time, side by side. They blurred the lines between design and development, often designing in the browser as much as Photoshop and truly working collaboratively to create the best solutions.
As a hands-on designer who has always had a love of coding, this really resonated with me. This kind of deep understanding of the connection between design and development is the only way to truly achieve great results digitally, and it echoes a wider shift in society’s acceptance of coding and technology. Whereas once coding was a specialist skill that only a few possessed, it’s now becoming much more mainstream. They’re even teaching it in schools.
We can no longer afford to think of design and development as two separate things – they’re one and the same. Coding is just another way of executing the design, and designers and developers who can forge close relationships and learn each other’s skills will lead the way in a much more open and collaborative digital landscape.
See also: Why investment in design is crucial to businesses