Bridging The Gap Between Designers And Developers

Michelle Abdow is the president and founder of Market Mentors, a full-service marketing and advertising agency.

Web design and web development may seem like two entirely different disciplines, but they are really two sides of the same coin—capable of creating a beautiful and functional website when operating in tandem. It’s not always easy, especially without the proper processes, to encourage clear and proactive communication.

In this article, I’ll explore the differences between these two areas while explaining how integrating them from the beginning can improve the overall product for both the client and the agency.

Differences Between Website Design And Website Development

A web designer has a vision and a web developer brings it to life. More specifically, designers work to create elements like color palettes and typography that look great, while the developers code and prepare the material for web publishing. Let’s take a closer look at these two roles and how they fit together.

What is web design?

When you think design, think visual. Web design encompasses the look and feel of a website, such as the layout, navigation, color, images and graphics. Designers utilize all these tools to create a visual hierarchy, balance the conceptual weight of the site’s elements and direct users on a preferred and satisfying path.

What is web development?

Web development can be summed up as the overall functionality of the website, encapsulating not what the user sees but what they experience. This incorporates the speed, accessibility, coding and overall functionality of the pages to make the designer’s vision a reality.

Encouraging Collaboration Between Designers And Developers

While these are clearly two distinct roles, they are working toward the same goal, and the project can only benefit from increased collaboration. That may be easier said than done, as it can be difficult for two parties to work together and communicate their vision in a way that everyone understands. But breaking down the physical and philosophical barriers between development and design is worth the effort for several reasons.

When designers and developers work side by side, that means there is always a second set of eyes on each individual element, decreasing the likelihood of errors. On a larger scale, the two sides can brainstorm through the creative process, merging the ideas of both individuals to create a unified vision for the project, as opposed to the potentially disjointed look and feel of two separate, conflicting concepts. Frequently, this focus on an early partnership results in a more cohesive website with beautiful aesthetics and a clean, intuitive user interface.

The benefits also extend from the client back to the agency: When a developer and a designer become familiar with each other, they begin to understand each other’s capabilities and styles. With this knowledge, they will become more efficient, both improving efficiencies and decreasing the amount of time needed to rework elements to create a cohesive look and feel.

How To Work Through Common Challenges

While the need for both parties to work together is clear, there are always some challenges to overcome. The most important element is clear and upfront communication. Here are a few specific ways to work past the initial hurdles of this partnership:

Understand the other party’s constraints.

If a designer is working with elements that will not translate well for the developer’s capabilities (or vice versa), then it’s better to speak up quickly instead of having to go back to the drawing board. Communication is always better when both parties understand the others’ skills and strengths.

Try to meet in the middle.

Neither party should work in a silo but should instead branch out and learn some elements of the project that lie outside of their comfort zone. For example, designers should be comfortable with layout fundamentals, like HTML and CSS, while developers should be familiar with the processes of sketching, wireframing and prototyping.

Establish a workflow.

The process should be laid out from the beginning, with pre-scheduled times to check in and determine whether any aspect of the project needs to be altered to stay on schedule or improve the look or feel.

Develop a style guide.

It’s a good idea for a designer to establish a style guide for the project. This creates upfront documentation for what is expected and required—direction that many process-oriented developers appreciate from the outset.

Consistent Communication, Successful Site

As I have stated from the beginning, communication is the most important aspect of a successful website project. Both design and development are critical to its success, and a lack of cooperation and transparency can affect both the client and the agency. With proper communication, developers and designers understand what is expected and can work together to create a visually appealing and pleasing user experience. For clients, engaging an agency partner with both disciplines under one roof will yield the most impressive results for any website project.


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