You know how sometimes, we try to do it all? We’re choosing colors, slinging code, and designing incredible websites–and then building them. It gets to be a lot, and let’s be honest: most of us are not wired to do both design and development (if you are, you’re a unicorn!).
That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with us, or that we can’t learn and improve our skills–we can! In fact, I highly recommend designers learn coding basics (like HTML and CSS) and that developers learn design basics (like color theory, basic typography, etc.). It makes us well-rounded freelancers and gives us the ability to understand both sides of the project.
But if you hate coding, or you’re busy enough that you need to grow your team, it’s time to look into partnering with a website developer.
Partnering or outsourcing can be daunting, especially since handing off design files to someone else takes a bit more prep and consideration than when you’re the one doing everything. That’s why I’ve asked three expert developers who partner with designers for their best tips.
Check out how these brilliant devs answered the question,
“What advice would you give to a web designer looking to partner with a developer?”
If you wanna partner with a developer, you’ll want to learn to communicate in a way that jives with us so we can be on the same page as much as possible.
This will help make sure wires don’t get crossed, which will lead us both to be happier and more efficient, which will, in turn, lead to better work and thus happier clients! Triple win!
Specifically, practice being more descriptive and accurate with your language and documentation — don’t talk to us about feelings or in other similarly vague terms (as much as we may value feelings, we’re typically more left-brained, so try to adapt for best results!). In other words, be as specific and concrete as possible — talk to us in pixels, kb, specific file formats, etc. — including as many details as possible in your style guide, such as hover effects and h1-h6 styles, which may not be anywhere in the mockups. In that same vein, you’ll also wanna hand over everything neatly — label files clearly, keep them organized and single (as opposed to merged), and keep things like web vs print in mind when preparing deliverables for us.
And if there’s any way we can chat at the beginning stages of the process (during the strategy phase would be perfect), eeeven better! We’ll let you know if a design looks/sounds awesome but isn’t practical to code or somehow would increase the client’s expense exponentially.
Basically, communication is Queen here. Developing your great design makes us look stellar, so we want to respect it and your vision, and for you to be proud of our work too. It’s absolutely possible for all parties to come out elated about the results. The more we talk openly with each other, the more likely we’ll reach that end result.
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The biggest cause for pain and frustration between designers, developers their clients is bringing the developer into the loop way too late.
Bringing in the person responsible for making the site work (and likely making sure old content is still functional) when design is done means they aren’t a part of the conversation around features and site functionality. Your developer can help bring up possible problems with required plugins and new ones being suggested to make the site better.
They’ll also be able to communicate what features and functions are going to cost a lot more or what’s no problem to accomplish based on how the design is shaping up.
Looping your developer into the project at the start means you can chat with them about items you aren’t sure about, have them point out more design work that might need to be done before it’s a scramble to complete and help your client feel like they are being taken care of by a cohesive and collaborative team.
Almost every project I’ve been a part of has had at least 1 website page that wasn’t considered during design, a plugin conflict OR plugin choice that is bad news for site speed and security, or has featured a lot of questions and confusion around how the mobile site works in general. All of these pain points would be resolved by having conversations at the start of the project and not when the design is complete.
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My biggest advice is to make sure you’re prepared for someone new to see your mockup (that in itself can be a scary thought!).
When I both designed and developed my own websites, only I ever saw the Photoshop documents with the mockups. Sometimes they were messy and I rarely mocked up every single thing. I often skipped hover effects, h1-h6 styles, or pages that were mostly the same. I added those during the development phase only.
But when you work with a developer, they can’t read your mind. They don’t know what your intentions are for hover effects, h1-h6 heading styles, or they don’t know if two pages are meant to look the same or slightly different. You have to account for all those things. If you don’t provide the developer with the information, then they either have to make assumptions or spend more time going back and forth with you.
On top of that, your Photoshop document should be neatly organized, layers well named, and grouped logically. (And if in doubt, it’s always better to leave layers un-merged than to merge them!)
It may take a bit more work to polish off your mockups and get them development-ready, but in the end it’s totally worth it if it means you get to focus on the part you truly love — design!
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Notice some recurring themes? Communication, looping the developer in as soon as possible, and organizing files as neatly as you can (with lots of info). I’m in total agreement with these brilliant developers that these items are key in a great partnership between designer and developer.
Designers and developers chime in–leave a comment with YOUR best tips for a great partnership!