It seems obvious when it’s written right in front of you, but this comes up way more than it should. Whether it be from a graduate developer looking for their first job or a team member expecting a little more from a developer than what they can deliver. People always expect developers to perform design tasks.
During our hiring process we’ve encountered many developers who think they need to be designers as well. Perhaps it’s common practice for freelancers to design their own apps or something required from developers in smaller, internal teams. However, when you put them side-by-side, designing and developing are two completely different disciplines and shouldn’t be lumped together. If you’re a developer looking to focus on your development above all else, then you don’t need to worry about designing something yourself. Many designers have shared their work online for developers to use. Dribble is a perfect example that’s brimming with exciting interfaces and styles that can be easily adapted to suit a plethora of situations.
That being said, just because a developer isn’t a designer, it doesn’t mean they can’t uphold a certain level of detail when developing. A developer should never cut corners when developing straight from a design. Designs aren’t a rough guide that should only be followed if you feel like it, designs are a specific blueprint of exactly how the website or app you’re developing should look and behave. Too many developers are quick to cut corners with a design that looks tricky. If a developer decides to compromise on a design and time isn’t a factor then it probably means that they didn’t think about the big picture before starting the development of the project.
If you’re a developer and you get completely stuck and need to compromise, then talk to your designer. I can’t stress this enough, making assumptions or trying to sneak a design change right under a designer’s eyes is just bad practice and is disrespectful to the designer’s hard work and effort.
That all being said, it’s not uncommon for developers to export their own assets and perform minor remedial tasks, so it’s good to have some basic Photoshop skills. Having these basic skills will increase the overall productivity of the project, meaning the developer won’t need to go back to the designer if something small needs to be changed – such as text, or if they need a new asset exported. Developers shouldn’t ever be expected to design complete screens, icons or anything of the sort…those things are best left for a designer.
Provided your developer has an eye for detail they shouldn’t go wrong implementing any design you throw at them, as long as you keep in mind that there are limitations to the design work a developer can complete.
Here at Digital Noir we closely follow Scrum methodology, with all relevant team members being involved in a project from the beginning. As such, most design/development clashes come to light before they reach a critical point. This strong, collaborative focus lends itself to a happier, more productive team.