How to Ensure Design and Development Work in Tandem

Launching a website or application is no small feat. Looming deadlines and tight budget constraints can make the job difficult—even if everything goes right the first time. Behind the scenes, if designers and developers are not working together you may end up missing your deadline, forcing you to either overspend or, even worse, launch a product that isn’t ready for use.

You may not be able to control your budget or time constraints, but you can have a legitimate impact on the inner workings of the process, ensuring that your design and development teams are firing on all cylinders. When these two groups work together seamlessly, you can increase productivity and create a better product in a shorter time frame. Here are several ways to ensure that your design and development teams are working in tandem:

Plan around the “waterfall effect”

Before you begin work on your upcoming project, scrutinize your development process. Does the project begin with the designers, who complete their work and subsequently pass it on to the developers? If your organization is passing projects from one group to another, leaving each to do their job in its entirety before the next group begins work, you’re using the “waterfall effect”—as in, once the water goes over the edge, it doesn’t work its way back up. If you’re doing this, you’re already putting yourself at a disadvantage.

If your projects are structured in such a way that makes sending them back for revision more difficult, they can become overly time consuming, and communications have a tendency to break down. Instead, consider creating a more fluid strategy that enables continuous communication between departments. Frequent discussions keep everyone on the same page, meaning that your project’s design won’t need to be sent back and forth multiple times before it’s done to ideal specification.

Break down communication barriers

One of the best ways to open up communication between your design and development teams is to remove the physical barriers separating the two. Literally working side by side ensures that both groups are dealing with the same pertinent issues at the same time. Of course this isn’t always a feasible option, particularly if your staff includes remote employees, who typically value strong communication even more than on-site staff.

The key factor here is communication itself; whether or not your team is (literally) touching elbows is not nearly as important as keeping all team members informed and in the loop, at all times. Consider regular conference calls, or an inclusive messaging system like Slack to keep everyone on the same page.

Take time for teachable moments

Generally speaking, designers and developers look at projects differently. While both teams advocate for the best customer experience, their focus lies in different components of the overall picture. Although different in nature, they are both equally crucial assets of your team on the whole. Encourage your developers to engage with designers about the more technical aspects of a project, which will allow the designers to strategize more effectively knowing the limitations that their counterparts face.

Conversely, make sure your developers understand designers’ stylistic decisions. While developers may be faced with certain limitations, the end product still needs to look good and be easy to use. Given the time to understand the reasoning behind design choices, developers may be able to better solve challenges. This strategy saves time in the long run.

Be inclusive with additional iterations

As the project continues to evolve past the initial phases, don’t silo your efforts by taking specific tasks to one team or the other. Involving both parties simultaneously throughout the process can nip problems in the bud before work gets too far along.

Both development and design teams are fundamental to the release of any product. Although you may not have control over limited budgets or constricting deadlines, you can guarantee that you’re getting the most out of the team you do have by proactively ensuring that all parts are moving together in sync.