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The Role of Communication Between UX Designers and Developers

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The Role of Communication Between UX Designers and Developers

Published: 2024/05/23

5 min read

No matter what area of software development you’re working in – whether it’s business analysis, design, engineering or quality assurance – you and your team members all share the same goal: to create a great product. However, a common goal might not be enough to get satisfying results if a team suffers from miscommunication. Insufficient flow of information usually leads to misunderstandings and poor collaboration, especially when it comes to designers and developers who approach product development from different perspectives.

This article will focus on a real-life example of a project I worked on to discuss how good team communication can positively impact various processes, from design through problem solving to development.

Establishing project goals

This project involved creating a design system and partially redesigning a web app for a fintech company. This product was available on the market for a long time, and the client wanted to update and standardize the app’s appearance to improve usability and the system’s response speed, as well as to add features that would attract new customers.

The team that was brought on for the redesign was a mix of Software Mind’s experts and the client’s in-house specialists. It consisted of 11 developers, five quality assurance (QA) specialists, two UX & UI designers (I was one of them), a product designer, product manager and technical product owner.

Our goals were clear:

  1. To develop a new design system which would be used across the entire app later on.
  2. To use this design system to redesign one specific part of the app – a reporting tool.

Challenges at the beginning of the project

Even though our team had clearly defined goals, we quickly identified challenges that could affect our work and that needed to be solved. Because this project was new to all team members, we had to establish processes and ways of working that would best accommodate the project and enable a smooth collaboration. The project also required a very short time frame to complete all the necessary work.

At the beginning of the project, our team had a series of discussions about what needed to be done, but it was difficult to decide on priorities, with so many different perspectives in play. Developers needed to start working on a system that wasn’t designed yet and they were waiting for designers to provide them with something to work with. Meanwhile, designers needed to do a lot of prep work before they could start creating final designs. It was time to organize our collaboration so that we could effectively coordinate our different tasks.

The solution: collaboration sessions between designers and developers

Throughout the project, many of the meetings held involved developers and designers, as well as the client’s product designer who usually shared new user feedback. To make the most out of these discussions, we started taking notes (e.g., writing down proposed ideas for solving a specific problem) and creating action items during these meetings to streamline our team’s work.

By refining the structure of our discussions, we created a working process tailored to our team, which we named “the collaboration sessions.” Each week we held two sessions where designers and developers gathered to go through an agenda prepared beforehand.

During these sessions, we:

  • analyzed the pros and cons of various design systems,
  • ideated on early wireframes,
  • discussed how to keep and maintain documentation for the new design system.

After selecting a MUI design kit as a base for the new design system, our team also met regularly to discuss any problems that occurred during the design and development phase. The collaboration sessions gave the developers the opportunity to raise their concerns, while designers could easily consult them about potential tech limitations that could impact the redesign. As part of this process, we also created and maintained business requirement documentation.

The collaboration sessions required us to communicate in a more structured way, which enabled us to effectively plan our work and deliver the following outcomes:

Developing a new design system

First, the design team analyzed design systems available on the market, e.g., Carbon Design System and Material UI (MUI). We also examined the client’s current component library, taking note of the most used components and collecting current design patterns. Next, we redesigned MUI components so that they’d follow 4-pixel grids, and we changed all colors, typography and shadows to correspond with the client’s brand style.

Redesigning the reporting tool

The design team started the redesign by analyzing the problem this feature aimed to solve. This involved interviewing users to understand their journey and pain points better, gathering additional user feedback from product owners on the client’s side and conducting a usability audit of the existing reporting tool. After the analysis, the designers ideated the redesign, based on the collected user feedback, and discussed their concepts with the development team and product owner to create wireframes.

Once the wireframes were completed, our team designed a minimum viable product (MVP), using only MUI components, as the design system was still a work in progress. The prototypes created at this stage were tested by users to identify potential areas for improvement. The insights from user testing enabled us to adjust our designs to be more effective, and we also restyled components to match the new design system requirements.

Good communication results in effective software development

The collaboration sessions enabled the designers and developers in our team to frequently align, which, in turn, helped us consistently reach compromises, even if they were sometimes difficult, with everyone presenting solid points in the discussion. By standardizing our discussions, we left each meeting with a clear understanding of what to do next, which boosted our productivity and made product design and development more efficient.

This way of working also made the cooperation in our team more effective as we regularly exchanged key information, swiftly addressed any occurring issues and created new processes, when required. By documenting our discussions and turning ideas into practical action items, we could quickly plan our work to accommodate the short timeframe required to complete this project.

A tailored approach to product design and development

Even though the challenges in this redesign project seemed difficult at first, our team found a way to organize our work and deliver satisfying results by clearly communicating with each other. It can be hard to create a custom process when you’re under time pressure, but communication is key in this kind of situation. When your team is facing any challenges, it’s important to talk to your colleagues, put everything on the table and remember that it’s you against the problem, not against your team members.

If you’re looking to partner with a cross-functional software development team that knows how to turn your business vision into a high-quality product, get in touch with us via this form.

About the authorAlina Minich

UX Designer

A UX & UI designer with over 8 years’ experience in the software development industry, Alina has led project development, from conceptualization to advanced, detailed prototypes, and designed intuitive user experiences for clients from such industries as fintech, ecommerce, OTT services, learning management and sports forecasting. Having worked as a frontend developer and a business analyst before she became a UX & UI designer, Alina brings a holistic approach to product design that centers user needs, business requirements and smooth UX.

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