The process of becoming a designer and developer can be excruciating and quite exhausting. Each of these fields has such a depth of study with a lot to earn. And becoming proficient in just design or development can be hard enough. Often times it is easier to pair up and work with a designer/developer for your own projects.

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But what are the easiest methods for handling such a relationship? I want to share just a few ideas on how designers and developers can work best together. If each person at least has an understanding of what the other needs to do, it will become a much simpler experience. These two job types should be guiding each other down the path towards creating a wonderful final product.

Key to Collaboration

Having a concise schedule for communication is almost the most important aspect of working together. Designers need to make sure each mockup is easily accessible for exporting a logo, icons, backgrounds, and whatever else is part of the website. And this goes double for mobile app designers because the programmer will need direct access to the app icon and the various UI elements(gradients, buttons, etc).

I would recommend working together both in person or via some type of task management software. Wunderkit and Trello are two great options which are completely free to use. It is possible to invite a number of other people to join the conversations. In this way you will have access to a wide assortment of tools for planning each step of the project.

trello internet todo task management information

But full collaboration is not always necessary beyond a point. Once the team understands what the overall goal will be, then it is just a matter of doing it. Start with the designer and make sure all of the page elements are realistic. Because once the design is completed then it is just a matter of transcribing the page elements into HTML5/CSS3/JS which the designer may not be able to help very much.

Openly Sharing Ideas

You have to be comfortable in the relationship so that both of you can freely share your own ideas. Even if it may sound stupid, it is important that everything gets fleshed out before sitting down to build anything. Ideas are powerful and they can disappear within a second’s time. Write stuff down if you’ll forget and be sure to pitch your concepts with a grain of salt.

I notice that the way designers think is more geared towards the aesthetics and content display. Whereas a developer will typically think about how a page is going to work, like the links and navigation components.These are two very different forms of “ideas” which are both necessary to craft a brilliant website layout.

github octocat doll plush working offices

Learn to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and try to pitch your ideas in a way that they can understand. This isn’t to say that designers and developers are speaking in completely different terminology. But ideas need to be given some physical form, either through drawing or speech or writing. Present your ideas in a meaningful way and it will make the process go by a lot smoother.

Map Out Responsibilities

Depending on your relationship with the other person and the project your are building, it might be worth getting responsibilities down in writing. If this project is going to require months of planning and hard work then you guys need to know who is handling what tasks. It requires a lot of skill and dedication, but I feel it is worthwhile.

If there is money involved then you also want to know how it is being split. If there is a project manager then they may be handling the money, however all of you should be kept within the loop. The best way to clear through projects is to have absolute transparency in the process. From start-to-finish you all want to know what is going on and who is dealing with certain issues. Taking it all down in writing is a great choice because you can always come back and reference the document at a later time, assuming some issues arise.

Resolving Problems

If you plan to work with lots of creative professionals and you all have a solid focal point, then there may never be real issues. However it is certainly possible that you will encounter disagreements during the process. It is important to keep everybody’s opinions respected so that everybody can say what they feel without restraint.

Settling disputes along the project timeline is all about compromise. Everybody on the team whether it’s 2 people or 10 people should be focused on the final product. This means you want to resolve problems with the most reasonable, useful solution which will most benefit the project itself. Sometimes egos can get hurt but everybody should try checking this in at the door. Keep yourself open to new ideas and be willing to change if you think it would better suit the project.

It is also important to convey your feelings without hurting other people’s feelings. A designer or developer may be critical of the other’s work. And it is always good to have feedback, just make sure you can offer this feedback in a courteous manner. Then you can all move along the path towards completing this project together. Ideally the final picture should be enough to convince everyone that the choices made along the way were ultimately the right ones.


It is important to remember that we are all humans and we all desire to be respected and appreciated. Working in a team of designers & developers is not much different than other similar jobs. At the core you need to respect your teammates and help them through any obstacles. All the other intricacies are just details within the relationship of working with digital professionals. If you have any other thoughts or questions on the article feel free to share in the post discussion area below.

Posted by Jake Rocheleau

Jake is a writer & digital designer/illustrator. He writes about all things web and creative. Check out his website for work samples and follow his latest updates on Twitter @jakerocheleau.

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