Any modern web development team consists of designers and developers working together. A successful collaboration between them is necessary to see a project through efficiently.
The process for creating websites and apps cannot be divided into black-and-white lines separating where a designer’s role ends and where a developer comes in to code it. Neither is the process like a one-dimensional waterfall system where one task clearly precedes the next. Creative collaboration is an iterative process that has constant back-and-forth exchange.
Designing good products is a team sport where both developers and designers have to work together, executing their roles collaboratively while seeing the project through to completion.
In most teams, of course, people don’t just work in isolation as designers or developers. Communication of material and feedback on the material are still areas of concern for most teams. As teams get larger, scheduling face-to-face meetings and review sessions is not always ideal. Hence, bridging the collaboration gap is an important point to address.
Every team has their own practices and channels for getting things across. Some prefer having small cross-functional teams to maximize the chances for collaboration and keep everything focused on the end goal. Others prefer to have quick over the shoulder meetings and only get the entire team together for important meetings such as understanding user feedback. But at the end of the day it is important that designers and developers have processes and tools that enable them to work together swiftly so that the entire process can move along faster.
There are many tools for ensuring that designers and developers work together faster, but certain characteristics stand out:
Collaborating In Sync
It is key that designers and developers work with enough background about their roles and tasks. Bottlenecks are formed often if designers share designs with developers but they aren’t in sync. Such bottlenecks can choke the entire system of web development collaboration. Developers need to time to start coding. They then come across issues which need to be shared with designers. Designers in the meanwhile could be left idle without feedback from developers.
Small cross-functional team are generally, a good solution to this problem because there is no room for miscommunication about progress. Basecamp is a good example of this. They put together teams of at max three people. That can be one developer plus one designer or two developers plus one designer. This way both are stakeholders on the project and work together from start to finish without any hassle. Tools such Zeplin, Avocode and UXPin are also helpful in ensuring smooth collaboration across designer developer teams.
Better Review And Communication Process
Any project is bound to have issues and how quickly they can be reviewed and closed is fundamental to the pace at which the project moves forward. Conventional tools for tracking issues and bugs in projects are tedious. Redmine, Bugzilla, Mantis and such tools need a complicated back end setup. A separate server, a database, and even an administrator. All these make the review and communication process slow.
For simple asynchronous communication there is, of course, Slack, which has eliminated the need for loads of emails. But reviewing and discussing issues just in Slack can become tiresome as well. After all, you can only achieve so much with words. There is a need for screenshots and images to provide visual aid in tracking issues. There are tools for help with this process as well. zipBoard, DebugMe, TrackDuck and Notable are some tools that make it easy to exchange visual feedback, track bugs and collaborate, without having to type out long messages or emails.
Having visual tools to handle feedback collaboration eliminates the need for exchanging feedback in spreadsheets also. Having a live example is much better than having to recreate issues and thus leads to actionable feedback.
In case that isn’t enough as well then there are also tools like Loom and Appear.in, which allows exchanging short videos. These videos can record the screen or even the user. This takes the static process one step further.
What has been established time and again is that clarity in the collaboration process, thoroughness and a coherent product vision are good starting points towards making the process of working together a successful one.
No matter what the tools, teams need to have clear & efficient processes and philosophies to communicate and work with each other. The value of contextual and actionable feedback translates to a quicker workflow and better products that satisfy all stakeholders.