Today I was speaking at MEX 2013. It turned out to be the most controversial session of the day.
My session was on the relationship between designers and developers. I spoke of how the ‘designer’ tends to be a combination of one or more of the product owner, graphics designer, web designer, another developer or in some cases a design agency. I expressed the opinion that none of these people are able to accurately assess full feasibility, platform specific idioms, underlying functionality (not just wireframes), variation of UX by form factor, knowledge of graphics families and formats and graphics creation. There’s no ‘perfect designer’ and instead we need to look at the process of design and development and make it more iterative. We need to involve the developer earlier and re-involve the designer throughout the product development.
During questions, the validity of my experience was questioned by one delegate and there ensued some very active discussions in the following breakout sessions. Although it wasn’t my intention, I seemed to open a wound between designers and developers that I wasn’t even aware existed. More than one designer subsequently told be they were tired of developers telling them things weren’t possible. However, several people approached me afterwards and said they had personally experienced what I was saying and I was brave to broach the subject. Aside from all of this, there was a thought provoking question from one delegate on whether designers should remain naive so as to not restrict creativity.
With hindsight, my presentation was probably a bit too black and white and not sympathetic to the expected audience. There are bound to be some designers who are able to consider the majority of the issues. However, I haven’t come across any and if the people objecting are anything to go by, they are in the domain of extremely well funded large companies. The people I tend to work for don’t have the budget for a full time UX expert. I often get given designs over which I have had no input. One designer I spoke to suggested I choose my clients better.
During the networking session a delegate gave me a thought-provoking observation that it’s interesting that developers seek to engage with designers but this often isn’t reciprocated. Another delegate reflected that it’s the same in the architecture design/build industries. I wonder why this might be?