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Five tips: How to work better with developers

If projects are to achieve their full potential, user experience (UX) teams must work better with development teams.

One of the most important lessons I have learnt since I became a UX designer is how important developers are. It sounds obvious; these are the people that build our work and make it real, however, I think as an industry UX needs to have greater respect for them.

It’s too easy for UX’ers to point the finger at developers if a project isn’t 100% how they envisioned. It’s time we take responsibility for how well we work as part of a team.

After experiencing how much better projects can be when a team works to each person’s strengths, It got me thinking about how the general relationships between UX’ers and developers could be made better. These are five tips I’ve found to be helpful:

Tip 1: Talk early and often

Talk to your developers as much as possible. The more you talk and share ideas, the easier the working relationship will be. The developers will also be better able to understand your priorities as well as the user insight you’ll communicate to them just by discussing the project.

If you are working in a distributed environment this is harder than if you are in the same building, but it can still be done. Make the effort to pick up the phone and talk to them, you’ll probably find it a lot easier to initiate the call than they will.

Tip 2: Appreciate their work; they do a difficult job

Developers really are awesome. It’s as simple as that. Take a moment every now and then to think about how tricky their job is and give them the respect they deserve.

Tip 3: Understand platform limitations

You don’t need to know all the limits a CMS/mobile platform/OS system has, but making an effort to understand at least some of the basic ones will really help to save time. As UX’ers, we aim to create the best possible experiences online for users, however, we must not loose sight that sometimes you have to take several steps to get to the final destination.

It’s rarely possible to create an entirely bespoke CMS that will both unite UX, design and be technically amazing to program (please tell me if this even exists…). Rather than complaining about the problems some platforms have, we need to understand them better to make sure they are not going to effect the end users.

Tip 4: Use definite language

If there is one thing that developers don’t like, it’s getting specification documentation that lacks definite requirements, or describes desired behaviour in a wooly way. You really must be specific, and give as much detail as you can. I have found it can help if you also reference specific examples of the behaviour you want so that your developers can have a point of reference for what you are aiming for.

Tip 5: Get to know them

Developers can be a lot of fun to work with. Getting to know your developer team will help you to understand the way they work, as well as making your working relationship more enjoyable.