How designers and developers can collaborate more effectively

By Jason Lucas | 25 Mar 2019

Effective collaboration between designers and developers is key to the planning, production, and release of successful work. To bridge the gap between the design and development stages of any given brief is to ensure the delivery of a high-quality product; so what steps should we take to achieve this?

To get the best possible end results and ensure the process runs smoothly, designers and developers need to have a harmonious working relationship based on trust and an understanding of the other’s processes and workflow. They should understand how the other one thinks when working in order to form a strong framework of communication for the project to be built upon. To form this framework, we should focus on three key areas: Language, communication, and technology.



The design and development process sits on two sides of the same coin; the designer’s focus is on the visual or structural impact on the user journey (page layout, typography, colour choice, etc.), whereas the developer is focused on the practical or dynamic experience of the user journey (page load time, interaction, framework, etc.). It’s important that a common language between both sides is used to ensure that each one is able to understand the other. Designers should use clear and concise language when communicating their intentions to developers, just as developers should break down the coding language (that may have taken them years to master) when speaking with designers.



It’s no secret that when working within a team, communication is key. For designers and developers, successful communication can be critical, specifically in the implementation of a designer’s thoughts and ideas. Rachel Lum notes a good approach to consider when trying to make good communication happen in practice:

“It is good practice to determine whether a feature is actually doable or a reasonable use of time, and any changes that will be applied should be discussed beforehand. Touch base throughout every step of the sprint, if not in person, then through Slack or via other means of communication.”



One way to ensure that a project has been clearly communicated across the whole team is to construct a Design System for both designers and developers to work from. This article describes a Design System as “the single source of truth which groups all the elements that will allow the teams to design, realise and develop a product”.

There are many applications available to creative teams to create a solid design system, whether that means creating a detailed list of specs, colour palettes, or components for the developer to easily work from – to generating HTML snippets or CSS stylesheets from a design!

By refining these three key areas between designers and developers, brands can ensure quality is achieved from the initial brief through to the final product.