Why developers need to understand design

Once upon a time, I studied graphic design. While good design is close to my heart, it came clear during my studies that being a full-time designer wasn’t for me. I wanted to do something else. And so I found my new passion: web development.

After graduating, I didn’t appreciate my degree on graphic design that much. After all, I had decided to do something “different” and started studying IT engineering. My focus was on web and mobile programming and eventually I ended up working here at Exove as a front-end developer. Naturally, software needs to be designed, however I was a bit surprised how useful the combination of degrees on design and development have proved to be.

So why is it that developers need to understand design as well?

1. Decision making

So you finally have the designs in your hands, and you are supposed to make something out of those. But what do you do if when the design of some part is missing? Designs are often incomplete – there might not be designs for error pages or certain edge cases. This is true especially when making responsive services. Pretty much everything in the web is expected to work in various devices and sizes nowadays, but there might be only desktop layout made, maybe even mobile layouts. But what about tablets, and everything else in between? Not to speak of interactive elements!

When you have some understanding of how to design, you can then either work together with the designer to overcome all these possible issues – or if the designer is not available, you have to make the calls on how to make the best implementation based on what you have.

2. Appreciation

Design is something that is often overlooked: “That looks so simple, I could have done that too!” But you didn’t, did you?

Some people feel that it’s unnecessary to pay a ton of money for something your niece can practically do for free. However, good design really pays off – and it’s really not as easy as it looks. Knowing what it takes and understanding all the processes and principles behind it makes you appreciate your designer even more.

3. Involving yourself

Projects are more rewarding when one feels involved. Working together as a team from the beginning makes it so much more gratifying. Understanding the bigger picture instead of focusing just in your own area of expertise, maybe even stepping a little outside your own comfort zone, might take you to places that you couldn’t even imagine and it creates a new kind of feeling of accomplishment. This really applies to other parts of life too – the more you see beyond your own point of view and understand things from different perspectives, the better.

And guess what? It’s not only developers who should understand design but the web designers might benefit from understanding some technical principles as well. Maybe even have some experience in coding / programming. When you design for any device, it’s good to understand how it works and what the possibilities are. Of course, you should not limit your imagination on designing things you know for sure to be feasible – you never know what kind of clever solutions you and the programmer might come up with together.

Sometimes it feels that designers and developers come from different universes, but understanding each other and knowing that everyone is working towards the same goal helps.

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