March 1, 2017
March 1, 2017
However, if designers should be coding, then shouldn’t engineers be designing too?
Last year, we started to notice a problem at work. Design usually started on new features before engineers started to get specs and build them, so we could be sure it was designed and tested properly. I was working very closely with product managers to research, define, design, test, iterate and deliver well defined features, ready to be worked on by engineering teams. It’s a well-documented, successful way of building products, but our teams were still frustrated with us.
An (engineering) workmate of mine captured it perfectly:
That really stuck with me. We were in the business of delivering great products out that our customers love, the same goal that everyone at work shared. However, because I had my head down, designing a bunch of stuff that may not even be realistic, it came at a cost – not just to us, but our customers too.
We weren’t involving the engineering team until it was way too late, which would have caught many of the decisions we were making along the way. That “standard” UI element? 4 more weeks of development and testing time, with no REAL impact to our customers.
So, I went and sat with our engineering team. Then, we brought more engineers to interviews with our customers to get a better understanding of their needs.
Engineers joined us for ideation and sketching sessions, where we brought our new found research to sketch solutions together. I’d turn the sketches into prototypes, get feedback, and prototype some more before testing solutions together with customers. As the team were already experts with both iOS and Android development, they could help guide the designs to be something that not only solved problems, but was native and easy to build too.
Not pictured: my workmates telling me to stop taking photos of them working.
Instead of being design dictators, we were becoming design facilitators. The experience was something we all shared, and when we got it wrong, it was up to the whole team to fix it.
In a design delivery role? Get off Dribbble, and sit WITH your engineering team. Sketch and ideate ideas together, and pair with them when you’re working on solutions. You’ll create better work, and your team will be better off for it.
James Taylor - Product Manager and Designer in San Francisco, previously Sydney.