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TechnologySep 28, 2015

Programming With Design in Mind

Tim Waite

At Credera we have many different kinds of consultants. These consultants are split into one of three categories: management, technology, or user experience. At first glance all of these roles seem to be very different:

  • A management consultant may create a deck in PowerPoint to present a project to a potential client.

  • A technology consultant may write Java code in Eclipse to email feedback through a webpage.

  • A user experience consultant may use Photoshop to create a composition for a new page.

Though these tasks may seem very different, the end goals of each consultant are the same. They are all working to solve their client’s toughest challenges.

Developers Design, Designers Develop

However, we sometimes forget this as consultants. We often get wrapped up in our roles as a programmer or management expert and forget that we are all pursuing the same goal. This is especially true when considering the difference between the user experience consultants and the technology consultants. We often think of the user experience (UX) designers as the creative, “think outside the box” types. And we think of developers as the logical, mathematic types.

But this couldn’t be further from the truth.

As developers, we are constantly challenged to be creative. We must come up with new ways to solve our programming problems, and many of us spend a lot of time striving to create elegant, “pretty” code.

Meanwhile the UX designers are trying to create the most logical and intuitive flow for the user to accomplish their goals. They use their designs to create order and function within an application. This means designers and developers must use both logic and creativity to solve their client’s challenges.

If our goals are the same and our processes are similar, it seems strange that we often think that developers can’t design and designers can’t develop. It seems that if both kinds of consultants work toward similar goals and use both logic and creativity to solve their problems, that the lines could be blurred. To this point, I would argue that if we want to be better technology consultants we ought to think about user experience every day.

Why Developers Need to Think Design

One of the main reasons we should care about UX is because in many cases the developers often play a bigger role in influencing the users’ experience than the designers do. This is because the UX designers are often only a part of the initial phase of the project. They help create the framework and comps that are a launching point for the application, but they often are not able to continue to be a part of the project throughout its entire lifecycle. The lack of constant UX support combined with Agile’s iterative process, where design and requirements constantly change, often force the burden of UX on the developers.

Developers are often asked to make seemingly minor design decisions, like producing a new modal or adding a button on the screen. However small, these decisions can have a large impact on the users’ experience of an application. For example, if a ‘Submit’ button is placed on the bottom-left side of the screen instead of the bottom-right, it could be confusing to a user who is used to it being on the right. So it is important that as technology consultants we remember we are not just developers, but also user experience consultants.

Benefits of Thinking User Experience

Whether we like it or not, our design decisions will influence the way our applications are perceived by users. We have a very real role in creating a fantastic user experience. This should be an incentive to be mindful of a product’s design throughout its lifecycle for a couple of reasons. First, thinking about user experience as we program can prevent costly redesigns and rewrites down the road. Second, time that we save by doing it right the first time can be spent on creating tests and documentation, resulting in an even more robust solution. Thinking about user experience while developing can help us give our clients better solutions, which makes us more valuable as consultants.

Now that you realize the influence you have on user experience, I hope you begin to be mindful about the decisions you make that may affect your user’s experience. Always be aware of the end user and try to put yourself in their shoes. Simply considering the user can go a long way in creating a design they will enjoy and continue to use.

Remember the golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Consider this while you develop and you can create much more user friendly designs. If you’re looking to learn more, my next post will discuss three concepts that you can use to guide your design decisions even further.