Working as a UX-designer among a pack of back-end developers can be a challenge. The best technical solution is not always in line with the best interests of the user. So sometimes, you really have to stand your ground when delivering your work to the team.
The value of a good design and a smooth user experience is indispensable. Creating this awareness and engaging my technical colleagues in my day-to-day activities has been a big part of my job over the last year. As such, I learnt a thing or two.
When I ask someone for their thoughts on my work, no matter who, I expect different points of view to emerge. This is crucial, because working alone on a matter for too long can get you lost in your own point of view.
Primarily, I will ask feedback from my designer colleague. But I will also try to talk to a developer for feedback, because they have a unique and very important view on the matter. It’s them who are going to develop my designs. The faster they get an idea of what is expected from them, the faster they can communicate what is difficult or impossible to do in a given timeframe.
By having these conversations, we have two benefits. Firstly, we find common ground between development and design. Secondly, they explicitly hear my point of view on the matter as well. This makes them think twice about a design that I deliver to them - they won't just make changes to something when they know the reasoning behind it, and that is truly valuable.
As a designer it’s crucial to be approachable, because you never know when you can be a helping hand for a developer.
Sometimes, in less-than-ideal circumstances, development is done without a specific design or wireframe. In these situations, you still want the best outcome possible for the user. When your development team remains conscious of your users - and spends even five minutes thinking about what is best for them - you’re in a good position.
But to get in this position, you must show the development team that you can help with these little decisions on a continual basis. Ask if you can help with something, ask why they chose to do something the way they did, discuss possible solutions to a problem, etc. By doing these things, you’ll create a team where UX is always in the back of everyone's head.
Sharing knowledge leads to greatness. Especially when you manage to increase actual involvement and genuine interest in your topic.
At Foreach, we organise so-called ‘Dev Talks’. A whole range of topics are discussed during these talks. More than once, I have given a talk about a design related topic, such as usability testing and design patterns. All the back-end developers in our company listened attentively. Afterwards, they raised many interesting questions. It was obvious they cared.
What I’m trying to say is: never be afraid to talk about UX or design to those with other fields of expertise. Sure, performance or infrastructure might be more their gig. But that doesn’t mean they won’t prick up their ears when you start talking about something you’re passionate about.
Working as a UX-designer among a pack of back-end developers is indeed a challenge. But is it insurmountable? Absolutely not. Engage them from the get-go, be as approachable as you can be, become feedback sparring partners, grab every opportunity to share your point of view and knowledge with a wider audience. In the end, design and UX will earn its place in your organisation’s DNA.