December 17, 2015

7 Secrets to Collaborating with Developers

Communicating With a Developer

Developers: They sometimes dress funny and often use words like "algorithm," "cascading style sheets" and "meta tags." If your company is about to launch an app or revamp your website, you may worry about communicating with people who speak a different language. But with these seven tips, your team and your developers can avoid frustration, keep your project on track and even enjoy the development process.

1. State expectations in the beginning.

Starting off with clear communication gets the relationship off to the right start.Successful collaboration begins with open and honest communication. Start by sharing your team's development know-how. With that information, your developer can tailor your project — and his communication  to your team's expertise. For example, if you'll be managing website updates internally once the project is complete, your developer can choose the best content management system (CMS) for your team's level of tech savviness. 

This will also set up a conversation in the beginning where you can discuss what future changes the developer will be expected to handle and which your team can handle themselves. After all, it's not just important to keep your website fresh, but to know who will be doing it, too!

2. Respect their experience.

Respect the professional.You and your team bring an intimate knowledge of your customers and industry to the design and development process. Your developer will complement that knowledge with a wealth of experience in, well, development. While you may know which inbound marketing offers resonate with your customers, your developer will have much more experience with user interface and user experience (UI and UX). 

If your designer or developer makes suggestions, express appreciation even if you disagree. Presenting you with more options and ideas than you initially envisioned shows that they want your project to succeed. Feel free to ask questions about their rationale so you can make an informed decision. 

And as tempting as it may be to let your computer whiz grandchild try to make a "small" tweak to the developer's work, resist that urge. If something goes wrong, your developer will wonder why you didn't just come to her in the first place. 

3. Don't be afraid to ask questions.

Developers are generally happy to share their expertise with you!Want to know your best options for an idea you have, or if it's even doable? Or unsure if your website ideas make sense for your industry? Ask your web development team for their input! Even if you know your industry really well, they can bring a new perspective from their background and the projects they have worked on before. They can let you know what worked for their past clients and might also work for you. A good developer will also be able to tell you what's trending and help you create a website that can adapt with changing trends.

4. Set (and follow) timelines.

Set dates for each step of the way in a calendar, and be sure both parties agree to those deadlines.Realistic deadlines keep your project on track. Define those deadlines together, and pledge to communicate immediately if a deadline becomes unreasonable. It's obvious that your developer should strive to meet the milestones you've established together, but make sure that you also provide feedback and materials promptly. That way you won't hold up the process. 

You may also want to discuss how everyone will handle deadline reminders. In general, it's acceptable to send a polite reminder, especially if a critical deadline is looming. But too many reminders create a distraction and can make your developer feel like you don't trust her to get the job done. 

5. Be specific.

Make sure your feedback easily identifies the issue.The more information you provide, the more efficiently your developer can complete your project. From the start, be specific about the goals and scope of your work. As you move forward with the design process, share examples of what you love (and what you don't) with your developer. That will give her a terrific starting point for building the right features and creating the aesthetic that you're looking for. 

Bring that same mindset of specificity to the quality assurance (QA) process. For example, you may find a button that doesn't work on your new website. Your developer will need to know to find the button and exactly what happens when you click on it. Does it go nowhere, or go to the wrong page? Identify what you expected to happen, as well. 

6. Use visuals.

Flowcharts are great for clearly conveying how user interactions should go.To avoid terminology confusion completely, use visuals whenever possible. Before development begins, you can even use a flowchart explain your ideas and goals. This makes it easier for them to follow your train of thought and see the connections you're making. Keep it simple and to the point to ensure clarity, but don't neglect anything they need to know.

During the development process, screen captures (screencaps for short) are incredibly useful to show your developer exactly what you see. And it's much faster to take a picture than to write a long description of what's happening! 

7. Don't forget your browser and device details.

What device were using? Browser? Version?While it might seem unimportant, or easy to forget, giving particular details will help your developer find and fix any glitches. Not every web browser behaves the same or provides the same support of newer features, so to help your developer fix any bugs more quickly, always provide these three details:

  • Which internet browser you are using (Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer, Opera, etc.)
  • The browser version
  • Your operating system (Mac, Windows, Android) 
  • The device you are using (phone, tablet, desktop, laptop, etc.).

With this information, your developer won't have to spend time on multiple devices trying to replicate the problem you've found. 

Happy Successful Collaboration!Working with developers can be a lot of fun! (Designers, too, and we have tips for communicating with them here.) If you consider your developer's needs along with those of your own team's, you'll be off to a great start towards successful collaboration. The more successful the teamwork, the more successful the project!New Call-to-action

Laura Kajpust

Laura is a designer, developer, and illustrator because learning one thing seemed way too boring. While technology is easy, she still can't cook anything requiring more than three ingredients. Fortunately, her husband and dog are not very picky (except on weekends).