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What Make Designers and Developers Excel as A Team

Image credit: Unsplash

It takes both the creative and technical part to successfully build and ship digital projects like websites or apps.
Having worked on the design and development side in the past years, I’d like to share a few simple principles that will hopefully make you more productive as a team and prevent failure and frustration.
1. Define a common goal
At the very beginning identify, phrase and agree on a tangible goal. This can be something like "we need to sell more products" or "users need to be able to easily find information about a certain thing." When in doubt or discussion at any moment further on, ask yourself as a team "does this action bring us further toward the goal that we defined and agreed upon at the beginning?"
2. Be as soon as possible, as specific as possible
This means: Placeholder content like the infamous Lorem Ipsum is forbidden. Use real content instead of dummy or placeholder content at every stage of your project. If no copy is available, come up with a best guess. Entering real content at the very last minute can cause situations like "Oh, actually there’s not enough space for that text" or "This page looks pretty lame with real content."
“By adding Lorem Ipsum to the design you are essentially dressing your king before you know his size.”
3. Talk early, regularly and about all the details
Don’t let unanswered questions trick you into making assumptions. By sitting next to each other you make communication a lot easier and can make decisions on the spot. If this is not an option, make sure you check in at least once a day for a few minutes to talk about your progress via Slack. Sitting next to each other may also increase the risk of learning from each other. Which brings me to my next point.
4. Sit next to each other
Discuss designs and features early-on in terms of feasibility so that everyone knows what is going to be built. This way, you avoid estimations and misunderstandings that can cost you and your team valuable time. Of course, be open to changes throughout the project as you might iterate and refine, but always keep your end goal in mind.
5. Learn from each other
Try to put yourself in the situation of your counterpart to understand what challenges they are facing. As a developer, try to "see" things more like a designer to get type sizes, spacings and layouts right. Pro tip: Hand-off tools like Zeplin make it easy for developers to scan exact measurements from designs.

On the other hand, as a designer try to have at least some sort of system behind the essential elements of your designs like type sizes, paddings and spacings, so that developers can leverage these rules in their code.
6. Give honest feedback
The sooner the better. Being critical and calling out things that are not ideal is not always comfortable but may help you avoid frustration afterward. In every discussion, opinions are equally valuable. Be respectful and don’t dictate, because you need both strengths to reach your goal. Also, never take work-related critique personally. See it as a way to advance in your profession.
7. Get out of your comfort zone
Try to avoid the early use of phrases like "Nah, we can’t do this, because it doesn’t work." When in doubt, find an example where that one specific feature you wanted works in reality, and investigate until you find out how it was done. Don’t be afraid to ask for outside help. Nobody is perfect. Every one of us learns something new every day.
8. Find out what workflow works for you
This might sound obvious, but it’s important that you as a team find out how you work together in the best and most efficient way. Clarify how you hand-off designs, how you annotate functionality, what time(s) during the day you regularly check-in, etc. Keep in mind that working together for the first time might come with some overhead as you still have to get to know each other‘s way of working. However, your following projects together will be way faster since you already know how you play as a team.
9. Recap and celebrate
At the end of a project or big milestone, take some time as a team to recap everything from start to end and with all honesty. For example, have a nice team lunch or dinner out and cheers over some good drinks. If things went well, awesome! If something sucked, well even better, so you can improve next time.
10. Always make time for some fun
I really mean this one. Have a good time and enjoy what you do. At the end of the day, we all spend a fair amount of our day at work, so why not make it a good time? Leave some time for fun activities like a hard-fought duel at Mario Kart 64, a game of ping pong or spamming your teammates with funny GIFs.
I really hope you can use these tips to save yourself some time and improve your workflow and team spirit. Personally, these tips help me a lot to stay focused and ahead of things during critical phases of projects. I’d be glad to receive your feedback by shooting me a tweet at @skaltenegger.
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