4 ways for a better designer-developer collaboration

Working and creating together are the two main principles of success. Henry Ford, as the founder of the Ford company and a pioneer who launched the mass production system with a huge team, defined this cooperation as multi-layered and summarized it with his words:

“Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is a success.”

Henry Ford

So, who spends the most time when the lifecycle of a digital product begins? Who should work shoulder to shoulder? Which teams assemble logic, technique, and aesthetic aspects together in a production cycle? All the answers point out designers and developers. The main goal of this article is to identify the best possible areas and most efficient solutions within this collaboration.

Evaluation of “Design Operations” practice as an agile investment method

For a long time, design and software parties have been trying to express themselves better and make their work more efficient. The clearest output of this effort can be seen in the Agile Manifesto, which appeared in 2001. Stakeholders who came together around this manifesto realized that each discipline needed its own improvement process and dedicated operational system. According to this enlightenment, modernized new approaches have emerged and a new world has begun to be built in the light of “value creation” regardless of which discipline it belongs to.

Within this movement, investments have started to be made not only in products but also in people. Inspired by this approach, DevOps emerged at an agile conference held in Toronto in 2008, blinking at the technical system improvements in the software world. A few years after that, today’s rising value DesignOps appeared and focused on answering the optimization questions of the design world. While both approaches aimed to invest in process improvements, DesignOps brought an extra proposal about how to work together with a multidisciplinary approach and used collaboration, standardization, harmonization, and measurability as the 4 core values of this suggestion.

From this point of view, common improvement areas can be collected under the titles of Design Program Modelling, Design Process Architecture, Sustainability, and Quality Management. Now, let’s take a look at what kinds of collaborations we can find under these 4 playgrounds and figure out how to add value to digital product development processes.

1- Make the stakeholders part of the team with a multidisciplinary kick-off

“Have a good start” is a common phrase most of us have used at some point in our business lives because keeping the initial point strong is so important. The solid steps taken here are reflected in the whole business. For this reason, it is very important to take the first step together and create spaces where stakeholders are a part of the decision mechanism from the very beginning of the process. The approach of “the development team will not start the production anyway, so let’s get them onboard later.” will both delay the ownership of the production by the stakeholders and prevent the pre-detection of the problems that may arise. This attitude will also lead to an increase in the revision processes, too. In other words, starting from the kick-off meeting, being able to touch every moment of a product together will help the process run more smoothly and efficiently.

2- Speed up the process by using universal tools for collaboration

Universal design methodology aims to appeal to a wide range of users, but it also has a connection with the work’s creators. Choosing the right tools is one of the powerful facts that make considerable refinements in the collaboration process. Selecting tools that are well-known in the community and have robust help services will inspire more sustainable and smoother operations. As a result, all stakeholders can contribute more to the production process overall, and this leads to significantly longer-lasting results. According to this viewpoint, forming the right job, person, and tool triad will be the backbone of the agile system that both parties will co-create.

JobSketch-based StackFigma-based Stack
Vector UI DesignSketchFigma
Prototype TestingInvisionFigma
Developer HandoffZeplinFigma
Design File SyncZeplinFigma
Project TrackingTeamworkTeamwork
Design & Delivery Toolset at SHERPA – Based on Job to Tool Chart by “designsystems.io” 

3- Achieve sustainability by creating design systems

The more holistic we look at a job, the more systematically we will have a structure. In the same way, design systems consist of nested structures and help identify the basic components such as color, font, and icon. Thus, whoever calls for the missing part, it will come in the right way and scalably fit where it belongs. Design systems, which are powerful weapons against constantly changing and updated team structures, will lay the foundations of a sustainable structure when the designer’s efforts find a response on the software side.

4- Raise quality standards using release notes

How do you call someone who doesn’t have a name? Let’s assume you called this person with “Excuse me, Sir!” as a generally accepted method. How many people would look at you in an above-average crowded venue? More than one, probably. To avoid these types of errors in the digital production process, a version name must be given to each output. The release notes that will be written under the version with a predefined manifest and standards will help to avoid any possible misunderstandings and will improve communication between developers and designers. At the same time, the retrospective of the work will be easier thanks to this archiving organization, which will also assist in improving the quality of the production.

As a successful example, Invision’s release notes page can be examined.

Final notes: The peak is near

Investing in the future is the key to success, and this investment will pay off if it provides real value. It is possible to add much more meaning to operational procedures, generate loyalty, and contribute by bringing together the expectations of the design and engineering teams with successful product management on common ground. Every cooperation step with a solid infrastructure will certainly contribute greatly to this betterment process. Remember that while any member of the orchestra can be a virtuoso, instruments that do not play in harmony will not be listened to. Success is very close when the design and development teams aspire to produce value not only for themselves but also for each other.