Artificial Conversations: Should Designers Code

This week’s Monday morning conversation revolved around Alan Cooper’s four-part article: Should Designers Code?

This conversation got off to a slower start than others. There was a general agreement with his article, along with a bit of surprise at just how opinionated Cooper’s stance was.

Empathy for each other starts by getting to know each other.

Kamila pondered how odd it is that we seem to expect designers to code, but somehow that we would never expect a developer to do design. Perhaps if we are to have a mutual respect for each other, we should start with a more inclusive process.

Everyone agreed that having everyone involved from the beginning of a project is a good idea. Ariane believes it’s a good idea to start collaborative processes by understanding the team. What is everyone responsible for? Natalia mentioned that it’s also important to know what people care about. After all, sometimes responsibility and passion aren’t aligned.

If we start every project by getting to know each other, then we’re sure to be more inclusive in our decision making processes and we’ll likely be less defensive when someone disagrees with a decision we’ve made.

Communicate the why along with the what.

Natalia mentioned how frustrating it is to give a developer a design only to get back something completely different a week later. But perhaps that was the problem – there was no conversation in between.

Kamila put forth that designers should help developers understand design decisions. This way when the design needs to change based on development constraints, it can be done understanding the priorities of the design. To which Ariane brought up The Artificial’s design guidelines, which often capture such decisions.

By capturing our reasoning, we can ensure that nobody makes or remakes decisions in a vacuum. This might be done in a PDF or it might be done in a wiki – the most important thing is that it’s in a place where everyone from developers to business partners can access it.

Good conversation beats good documentation.

Ariane made a second point about our design guidelines – they’re overwhelming. There are so many small decisions make up even the simplest of screens, and in many situations, this leads developers to ignore the documentation entirely.

Hans pointed out the exception: when we take the time to walk through the guidelines together. To this, Manjari brought up a previous experience where it wasn’t until everyone was in a room together that everyone finally began to share the same understanding of the thing they were trying to build.

Conference calls and Slack conversations can help keep a team aligned, and, especially for teams working across timezones, keeping these channels open is essential to a project’s success. But even more helpful is getting everyone together in a room together.

Did this conversation change anything for The Artificial? While we’re still enthusiastic about learning to code, our individual motivations may have changed. And now we’re motivated by something else – collaborating in ways that help us all have more empathy for each other.