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.