10 Ways Designers Can Improve Collaboration With Software Developers

Relationships between designers and developers can sometimes be fraught. Here’s how to work with, and not against, your devs.

Written by Billy Frazier
Published on Jun. 29, 2022
10 Ways Designers Can Improve Collaboration With Software Developers
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When I started my position as a corporate consultant, it was my first foray into working full-time for someone else. Over the past three years, it’s been a whirlwind of emails, video calls, client meetings and of course, the occasional happy hour. I’ve also had the chance to join several cross-functional Agile teams and work with some of the smartest developers in St. Louis. In a very short amount of time, I’ve learned that part of my job as a design consultant is to make the lives of my fellow development consultants as easy as possible.

When it comes to being a team player, here are 10 things I’ve learned that can help bridge the gap between design and development.

10 Ways Designers Can Improve Collaboration With Developers

  1. Do your due diligence.
  2. Learn what's realistic for your devs.
  3. Find productive shortcuts.
  4. Organize your assets.
  5. Field the clients’ questions.
  6. Treat your devs like human beings.
  7. Become a designer who codes.
  8. Respect your devs’ time.
  9. Learn the requirements for developing at different resolutions.
  10. Treat yo’ devs.


1. Do Your Due Diligence

Do your due diligence when it comes to the discovery phase of a project. If you do your job right and talk to relevant stakeholders, product owners and people who will use the product, you’ll save your development team hours on emails and meetings that don’t need to happen.

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2. Learn What’s Realistic for Your Devs

Don’t make promises to the client that your developers can’t keep. Get used to asking questions like, “Is this technically feasible within this time frame?” and “What is the technical difficulty of this?” Learn the difference between moving pixels around on a screen and turning those little rascals into functional code.


3. Find Productive Shortcuts

When designing a web or mobile application for a client, look for existing libraries that your developers can use. You’ll have some sweet creative constraints to use as guardrails and they’ll have reusable code that has already been widely accepted. It’s a win-win for everyone!

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4. Organize Your Assets

Export and compile all icons, logos or any other UI elements you’re using into one easy-to-find place so your developers don’t have to ask every single time. Believe me, no one likes being a pest. Bonus: If you’re using software like Figma, anyone on your team can export elements with the click of a button.


5. Field the Clients’ Questions

When possible, field questions from the client or product owner so they don’t waste the precious time of your developers. After all, devs’ billing rate is undoubtedly higher and let’s be honest, you probably have a few minutes to spare between choosing the perfect font and figuring out where the hell to find culturally diverse stock photos online.

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6. Treat Your Devs Like Human Beings

Just because developers spend most of their day deep in code land doesn’t mean they’re made of zeroes and ones…unless they’re a robot. In that case, DM your HR rep and ask when they’re going to upgrade their software. Otherwise, schedule your emails and Slack DMs for working hours, give your devs plenty of lead time and don’t forget the magic word (it’s still “please”). 


7. Become a Designer Who Codes

Learn enough front-end development (HTML, CSS and JavaScript) to at least be able to have productive conversations around implementing your design. Bonus: You might even be qualified to call yourself a “designer who codes” on Twitter. (Okay, but don’t actually do that. Just know you’re qualified to do it.)

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8. Respect Your Devs’ Time

Never, ever, EVER claim something is a “five-minute fix” to a developer. They already hear it enough from the client and you know it isn’t true. Imagine a developer saying, “Hey, can you change the color of this primary button in the mockup? It’s only a five-minute fix, right?” (OK, so maybe this was a bad example…)

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9. Learn the Requirements for Developing at Different Resolutions

Remember that due diligence? It should include asking about screen resolutions and sizes needed for the final product. Once you agree upon screen resolutions and sizes, make sure to deliver assets that keep these resolutions in mind (1x, 2x, etc.).


10. Treat Yo’ Devs

Buy them a drink, coffee or tea. What? You don’t think they just magically pump out lines of code simply by chugging Red Bull and Soylent, do you? Even devs need a break and a little human interaction from time to time. They won’t bite…much.

And there you have it. This list isn’t exhaustive but it should be enough to get you started when working with programmers. Do even a few of these things and you might just find your new best friend at work. Okay, maybe not but at the very least, you can take a little initiative when bridging the gap between design and development and make everyone’s life a little easier.

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