I've been working as a Digital Designer for three years now. I recently had a moment of realisation about my design process that allowed me to grow as a designer. I thought I'd share some of my thoughts and experiences on that realisation. It al...
Nice article Alice! It's made me think a little about how I've adopt coding as a User Experience designer. I'm often coding, building small proptypes or rough version of full scale apps.
In my experience, designers get exposed to code too late, once their work has been implemented in the development process. Tweaking some padding or font sizes once the code is in production can be a lot of fun and very valuable – but to deeply learn the associated skills does take a lot of time and perhaps an engineering approach (as you identified). The whole point of a design process is that you don’t have to be able to build it yourself, so I can relate your decision to pull away.
The nuance I appreciate is that you can write code that is focused on design outcomes. In this sense, I believe that designers should lead with the code. Rapidly building the first iterations with feedback from real users, that then become references for engineers to scale. Too many projects fail because designers get feedback too late!
It may sound a lot like you’re just learning production skills, as opposed to design skills – but I think there’s some key differences:
When I'm coding I'm building systems to test out the team's ideas and deliver them to real users for feedback.
When I'm coding I'm not committed to solving engineering problems around areas like performance, security and maintainability. These are problems best understood and solved by our engineering team mates.
When I'm coding, I'm mindful that I'm not an experienced engineer. I treat all my production facing code with a risk management approach, often only running it in closed betas with trusted users.
When I'm coding, I can build designs that can be quantitatively evaluated by many users .
When I'm coding, I can start testing my designs for accessibility issues.
When I'm coding, I'm very often using other people's code, that I didn't write and don't need to fully understand to use. This is made possible by using Open Source code.
I think designers only need to learn a subset of web development skills to start doing these things. I also don't think all designers need to learn this – but I think having someone on your design team with this approach creates a great dynamic. It could certainly be you, if you like!
I definitely agree that in some cases learning to come at a design from an engineering/development point of view is really crucial. I personally feel that I'd prefer to design without limitation and then cut back in the hand over to development (which might sound insane).
It could just be due to how my brain works – but I found I was getting caught up so much in the detail of the coding at the early design stages and it was hindering where I would take the design.
I get where you're coming from in reference to gaining feedback from real users. In my situation, we use prototyping tools like InVision to gain as much insight from the target market before moving onto the build. This process also involves our developers so we address any potential problems after the first iteration of the design. I know this isn't how everyone approaches the process – but we find it works for us.
Thanks for letting me know your thoughts, I really appreciate it! It makes me take a look at my own thoughts from another angle, which is always good to do!