Imagine a software product that looks and behaves exactly as you imagined it.  This is possible with a little effort on your side.

In my experience, this is possible if you are in perfect sync with your whole product team.  In my case, it started by learning to code and learning to speak the language of development.

Learning to code opened the door wide for me.  Here is what it taught me.

Prejudice against designers is as old as the free AOL and ICQ gifts inside cereal boxes. As a designer, you’ve probably heard, “but you don’t know code.” And they might be right. Many designs that are presented are not yet ready for development and this causes problems for more than one developer (and more than one designer, too).

As UX designers our challenge is to create a software product where every detail that we’ve poured our hearts into is well understood and it can be developed.  Ultimately, our challenge is to avoid hearing, “your ideas aren’t viable,” or “this will take too much time.” One way to avoid these speed bumps is by learning about coding ourselves.

Learning to Code

Learning to code is something that many designers aren’t interested in. But I think it’s a mistake to think that know the basics of coding is unnecessary. I also think that the lack of interest in coding among designers may be fear based.

I began to lose my fear of coding when I started working at a digital agency. I took a few classes on how to write HTML and CSS. I even learned a bit of JavaScript. As a result, I got a much better feel for what was going to happen to my design once I handed it over to the developers. I could now design a product that kept the same feeling as I had imagined it from the start.

I feel more confident asking developers about everything I could imagine happening in my design. As I learned to speak their language, new projects started to be more fluid and our communication improved.

It was very exciting to see our designs came alive when we worked together.

My perception of the behavior in my designs totally changed. I now knew if my ideas were possible and what limitations there might be due to technology.

As a designer, I was responsible for making decisions about the users’ needs. I no longer had to meekly allow developers to make these decisions for me. I was learned to defend elements of the design that I considered to be a very important part of the user experience.

Building Designs

As UX designers, we design products through a process of understanding users’ needs. We create prototypes and cool interfaces, but we also need to understand how these things are going to be implemented.

We designers think of interfaces in terms of user experience. However, this is only the beginning of the journey, not the end.

For example, in an Android application, you should know which direction your content will take. You should know how to re-distribute your design since different devices support different experiences. Designers can decide if an action depends on us or if it depends on a developer.

Ensuring a Good Experience

While it might not always feel this way, it’s important to remember that designers and developers are in fact on the same team. I know that a lot of developers would be happier knowing that we are being responsible and created our designs with the correct measurements, for example. They no longer need to spend time figuring out what to do for this or that device.

But our role isn’t finished yet. We need to be available to our team and ask and resolve questions. I learned to take my breaks in the developers’ area and watching how they worked on my designs. In particular, I paid special attention to the details that I most loved. This made the difference between a good digital product and an excellent one.

I also learned that it was important to do my own testing before the product went to production. Spend time on the details.

You’re not left thinking that you did a good job, you’re left knowing that you did.

Closing the Gap Between Design and Development

Here is what I recommend to create products that users love,

  1. Get closer to developers and ask every single question you have. They are your friends.
  2. The code doesn’t bite. Lose the fear of “div” labels, “padding” styles, or index.html files.
  3. Always be learning.  Check out css-tricks.com and tympanus.net. Pay special attention to the bible of HTML, w3schools.com.

Simply put, learning to code will make you a better UX designer.

 

If you have any comments, please write to muribe@nearsoft.com

Special thanks to Kim Lantis, Anita Reynoso, Matt Perez, and my team, the UX Team.