How to Bridge the Gap Between Your UX Design and Development Teams

November 18, 2019

Developers and UX designers are creating great software in an ecosystem that’s more competitive than ever before, so it’s important to find ways to support the software-development process. In today’s hypercompetitive world, it’s critical that members of product teams share their discipline’s skills to ensure that they build the best products for their clients and users.

Facilitating collaboration between Development and UX Design is one of the best things companies can do to get optimal results. By understanding the goals and limitations of the other disciplines that are part of the product-development process, Development and UX Design can build bridges of understanding and work together far more efficiently and effectively.

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There is a pressing need for this cultural bridge. Many developers and UX designers don’t understand the nuances of how their counterparts in other disciplines work—and that can hinder both collaboration and progress. Bridging this gap can smooth over operational inefficiencies for both. It can also help teams overcome issues that arise because of the individual differences between team members working in the same discipline. For example, some designers might produce a pixel-perfect design after a methodical development process, while others prefer to fail forward through iteration. Plus, there are differences in people’s experience levels and communication styles. However, through collaboration, individuals in both the same and different disciplines can learn new approaches and skills.

Bridging this cultural gap works even in the most complex development scenarios. For example, my company has worked in situations where UX designers were providing design solutions to a team of more than 50 remote developers in another country. That experience has honed our ability to create and document a product-development process, get buy-in from all stakeholders, maintain communication across departments, and ensure that all teams are getting what they need from one another. Doing this was challenging, but in the end, we were able to build a bridge and achieve success.

4 Best Practices for Bridging the Gap

For companies that are struggling to bridge the gap between their UX Design and Development teams, it’s helpful to have a few standard approaches to fall back on. In the remainder of this article, I’ll discuss four great ways of beginning to build a bridge between these two teams.

1. Have developers attend design critiques.

Inviting developers to design critiques can foster cross-disciplinary collaboration. With developers in the room, UX designers can get another perspective on implementation, learn about alternative design solutions and edge cases that are pertinent to these solutions, and get help in determining whether a design is fully fleshed out and ready for coding. If your Development team is too large to accommodate this practice easily, try rotating which developers participate in critiques.

On a recent project, we held a design-critique session during which a developer on my team was able to bring up some valuable points regarding a proposed design solution, communicating that it would not be possible to implement a certain feature because of limitations in a third-party API (Application Programming Interface). Learning about those limitations from the developer early on saved the UX designer time.

2. Invite developers and UX designers to the same sprint meetings.

Including both developers and designers in the same sprint meetings is invaluable for collaboration. Designers should be aware of developers’ schedules for tackling certain features so they can plan their design work accordingly—and vice versa. For example, if a developer hears a designer is working on designs for a certain feature, that developer might have a few thoughts about how to most easily implement it or might know of a code library to try out that would support it. This could prevent the UX designer and the entire product team having to spend time working on a second design iteration later.

Someone from a different discipline can offer fresh eyes and help teammates find a different approach when they get stuck trying to solve a problem. For example, when we held our daily Slack scrum and a remote Development-team member who participated was stuck on resolving a certain ticket, a UX designer, who was also participating in that Slack discussion, was immediately able to offer solutions to get the developer moving again.

3. Include developers in design charrettes.

A design charrette is a brief, collaborative design session during which the key members of a product team sketch possible design solutions, exploring a broad diversity of design ideas. Developers can add great value to this creative activity.

For example, one of our developers contributed a particularly unique UX design idea for a feature during a design charrette. The developer sketched out this idea because we could take advantage of a certain code library to implement it easily. The UX designers, project manager, and client would have been unlikely to think of this solution—or, if they did, might have assumed that implementing it would have required too much effort. It was a win for everyone.

4. Hold lunch-and-learn meetings.

A great way to cross-pollinate your UX Design and Development teams is through lunch-and-learn meetings. These provide chances to eat together and listen to talks on technical and design topics. Designers can learn about new technologies, features, and development best practices, all of which can spark insights they can apply to their design process. Developers get to understand more about topics such as how design tools work, what a design system is, or how usability testing helps improve the end product. Shared knowledge helps developers to work more effectively with UX designers, ensuring that they implement designs to spec and with higher quality.

Building up shared skillsets among all product-team members helps remedy a skills-gap problem that a vast majority of talent-development specialists see in their organizations. Plus, 83% of business leaders feel that their product-development investments don’t produce the greatest possible return. By bringing all team members together to solve problems, you can get the best possible results and make the most of your talent pool.

I recently gave a lunch-and-learn talk on scoping best practices. Afterward, one of our UX designers mentioned that it provided the Design team with new, useful insights into how design decisions could cause a significant scope increase for developers. While this might seem like a small realization, this is just the kind of transformative moment you should continually foster across your company by sharing knowledge.


The practice of having developers and UX designers work in silos must come to an end. Cross-talk between the Development and UX Design teams is not only good for the teams themselves but is also vital to delivering good outcomes for clients and the users of their products.

By implementing the four best practices I’ve presented in this article for working together and sharing ideas, you can create a culture of informed collaboration and take your mission to new heights. 

EVP of Technology and Founding Partner at Yeti LLC

San Francisco, California, USA

Rudy MutterRudy leads technology development at Yeti, a product-focused development and design studio in San Francisco. A veteran software engineer, Rudy led development of the “Chelsea Handler: Gotta Go!” app, which was featured on the hit Netflix show “Chelsea Does.”  Read More

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