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The New Link Between Designer and Developer 70

Scott Kinder writes "Ryan Stewart of ZDNet discusses the importance of the workflow between designers and developers. Both Adobe and Microsoft have a lot at stake in their respective software projects. Given how important experience is in making software, ensuring that it is easy for designers and developers to work together is more important than ever." From the article: "The key here is going to be the workflow between designers and developers and making sure that the tools support both types of content creators. Creating world class RIAs simply will not be possible without an efficient workflow between the two areas. Adobe has focused a lot on incorporating Adobe and Macromedia products, making sure that designers can easily move between both companies software. But they haven't quite perfected the designer/developer workflow, and I think Microsoft has a bit of a head start here. The Expression Suite seems built from the ground up to work well with their developer tools. The question will be whether or not designers will use these new tools."
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The New Link Between Designer and Developer

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  • Ryan Stewart (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Let me guess, this guy is a developer and that's why he prefers the MS approach?
  • "The New Link between Intelligent Design and Developers Developers Developers." Who would have ever thought that 71% of the earth's surface was a blue screen of death?
  • by Morgaine ( 4316 ) on Saturday September 16, 2006 @07:06AM (#16119615)
    "The customer is always right" we hear, and indeed when the silly crud and newbie chaff is separated out, there is often good substance and insight coming from the more knowledgeable users, sometimes even terrific suggestions.

    Yet, how many companies actually have a strong official link between users and developers, taking user suggestions and pinning them up visibly as official input to the works process, duly accredited? Almost none, in my experience. The trend seems to be to have a Customer Relations officer whose job is to answer obvious questions from users and to keep fanboys happy, and little else. If a requested feature is implemented, it appears by a form of magic as a fait acomplit; the process of design, development and testing is certainly is not made visible, in general.

    This area could be improved a lot in the corporate world!

    On the FOSS side of things of course, we have merging of designer/developers and users, so the issue is somewhat irrelevant. We can still improve our communications and documentation *a lot* though.
    • by Timesprout ( 579035 ) on Saturday September 16, 2006 @09:15AM (#16119865)
      On the FOSS side of things of course, we have merging of designer/developers and users, so the issue is somewhat irrelevant. We can still improve our communications and documentation *a lot* though.


      You must be joking. Most companies _have_ to pander to their customers. They dont make money otherwise. Even MS have gone to astonishing lengths to support their customers. OSS tends to utterly ignore the mainstream user which is why many mainstream users would rather steal a copy of windows than use OSS. Report a bug and be told to fuck off thats intended behaviour/user error, request a feature and be told to fuck off its a stupid request, ask for help and be told to fuck off and read the documentation, point out there is no documentation and be told to just fuck off. Think about that for a few mins and tell me if you can see a problem.
      • Redhat has never told me to 'fuck off'. And for all the OS people that have, I've never been paying them for support.
        • Redhat has never told me to 'fuck off'. And for all the OS people that have, I've never been paying them for support.

          Bad example. Redhat makes money selling proprietary software and services, and only uses OSS as a leveraging tool to gain technology and mindshare. When you look at pure OSS projects, that aren't trying to sell people something, the user focus just isn't the same.
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          I've never seen somebody told to fuck off unless they say stupid and illogical things in the development(NOT user support) channel multiple times, and even after having everything carefully explained to them they just come back and do the same thing. Everywhere else I've seen people be way too nice to people who should be sterilized to prevent the propagation of their sterility.
      • by Tei ( 520358 )
        Is hard for programmers to help users. Is also a bad idea to be the developper AND the tester. And this why we have teams. One guy can be a programmer, other guy tester, and another do the marketing/media stuff. And thats Ok. The problem here are tiny teams with tons of programmers, but not tester or not marketers. You really need people that think like clients, and is not a programmer.
    • On the FOSS side of things of course, we have merging of designer/developers and users, so the issue is somewhat irrelevant. We can still improve our communications and documentation *a lot* though.

      If this merging would be true, we all and not just a few percents would use a FOSS desktop system these days. Just think why does the OSDL survey (http://www.osdl.org/dtl/DTL_Survey_Report_Nov2005 .pdf [osdl.org]) mentions "Application support" as its first "Top inhibitors of Linux desktop adoption"? And why still use 60% o
  • by Anonymous Brave Guy ( 457657 ) on Saturday September 16, 2006 @07:19AM (#16119632)

    ...I still have no idea what its point is.

    Are they working on the basis that companies have graphics designers who work out the visual appearance, and programmmers who write the scripts to update the content in whatever way, and these two roles are independent?

    In my experience, that rarely happens, just as it rarely happens for desktop apps that there's someone who designs the user interface, and then there are guys who write the code behind it. Perhaps for very large projects in very large companies this is more common, but certainly not in smaller outfits IME.

    Even if the larger companies want to put more effort into the presentation/usability aspects of their web sites, how is this any different to the problems of UI design for desktop apps that we've been working on for years? Just get the guys who are experts in graphic design, accessibility, and so on to put together the concepts and work out the HTML, CSS and graphics they want to use. Then give the specs and prototypes to the programming team to insert their code into them. This idea is not difficult to implement for even the largest desktop applications, and I don't see why the fact that the presentation medium is a web page makes any difference.

    Then again, I still code up my pages using text editors and scripted tools rather than all these funky "web design" applications, and I only maintain a few hundred pages with thousands of hits per day single-handed and in my spare time, so I have no idea what I'm talking about. :-)

    • by CaymanIslandCarpedie ( 868408 ) on Saturday September 16, 2006 @09:13AM (#16119859) Journal
      Then give the specs and prototypes to the programming team to insert their code into them.

      I've just seen to many cases of everybody wants a slightly different look/feel that I don't believe in any "prototype" being what will eventually be wanted. Thus developers should never "code" what the GUI will look like. Devleopers should implement a framework which seperates function from presentation and give designers the tools to allow them to completely change the design without having to recompile or touch a single line of code.

      There are so many amazing tools and code examples about this type of application "skinning" that its really VERY easy to at least offer some basic functionality in this respect. In fact there are a number for 3-rd party controls which support this type of application "styling" without the developers even having to think about it or add a single line of code depending how far they want to go with it.

      Obviously, this flexibility isn't important in all applications but for any application that gets distributed (not just an in-house application) I think there should at least be a serious look into offering this.
      • There are so many amazing tools and code examples about this type of application "skinning" that its really VERY easy to at least offer some basic functionality in this respect. In fact there are a number for 3-rd party controls which support this type of application "styling" without the developers even having to think about it or add a single line of code depending how far they want to go with it.

        If you're talking about how programmers shouldn't restrict the designers in what interfaces they can build usi
        • Yeah, I wasn't really meaning end-user skinnable. If fact I'd agree that being end user skinnable just adds confusion in many cases. What I really mean is it should be designer skinnable (and then of course it depends on your products audiance). What I really am trying to say is the seperated your applications function from its presentation the better. If you have code specifically saying this control should use this font and this color, etc when the next version comes out and the PHBs decide they want
  • by also-rr ( 980579 ) on Saturday September 16, 2006 @07:21AM (#16119636) Homepage
    Why don't they let the developers do the design? What's *not* intuitative about

    >_

    ?!
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      >Why don't they let the developers do the design? What's *not* intuitative about

      For the same reason you don't let your painter & decorator anywhere near the electrics.
    • Why don't they let the developers do the design? What's *not* intuitative about

      Because, in general, most developers design really shit products as far as usage is concerned. Not because they can't create great things, but because a) they are expert users and go though workflow differently to novice users b) when they are designing interfaces and interactions they are mostly thinking about how those decisions work with the code set and not really how people will use it.

  • Dreamweaver is nothing but a fancy text editor with some snippets, using Flash for authoring actionscript is horrible. The have Flex Builder which is baed on Eclipse, but there's not much integration between that and the creative suite software.

    Microsoft otoh has Visual Studio which is a fine IDE, and in the new Orcas version it will share designer surfaces with the Expression tools. So the visual interface is exactly the same for developers and design. The designers will also keep 99% of your underlying co
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      So the visual interface is exactly the same for developers and design.

      The problem is that designers and developers have very different needs, so giving them the exact same interface/tools doesn't particularly make a lot of sense. You don't give the guy who's painting your house a hammer and say "go to it." I'm amazed that you guys can't figure this out.
  • by RobotRunAmok ( 595286 ) on Saturday September 16, 2006 @07:50AM (#16119688)
    It remains the only effective means of convincing some developers that they are *NOT* designers in the first place.

    "Art? Design? C'mon, I've mastered AJAX, XHTML, JAVA, JavaScript, ColdFusion, PHP, Ruby, PERL, and I own the only remaining data glove on the East Coast, what do I need art for? See, it's got a template... I'll just change the colors... try and find out the client's favorite color... hell, I've been building websites since '93, and I'm no artist... and I used vi... still use vi, heh... look here, I've got a CD full of clipart, we can use one of these... pic of an Asian chick on the phone, yeah, this'll work fine... designers? gimme a break... look, here's a website with cool fonts we can download, I'll download a bunch, client'll love 'em, never seen anything like 'em... talk to legal, see if we can get the rights to "Dark Side of the Moon," it'll be cool, see, when you first come to the client's site, Floyd's "Money" will start playing. Get it? Damn! I'm good! friggin' designers, who needs a designer, just make everything more complex, take all the credit, man..."
    • by gEvil (beta) ( 945888 ) on Saturday September 16, 2006 @08:07AM (#16119723)
      I think I've been to that website.
    • by Chelloveck ( 14643 ) on Saturday September 16, 2006 @08:44AM (#16119797) Homepage
      It remains the only effective means of convincing some developers that they are *NOT* designers in the first place.

      There have been many a time when I've wanted to bludgeon the designer with that same bat. Like, would it kill them to use a consistent naming convention? Or keep an indexed table in the same order from version to version? Or, the most difficult concept I've ever had to get across -- "I don't care if those two curves look coincident on your monitor. They're on different layers [in Illustrator] and they're slightly different. The gap between them will be visible in the product!"

      I won't call the designers lazy or stupid. They're not. But they do have a tendency to be overly creative in areas where discipline is called for. (Just like developers have a tendency to be unimaginative in the realm of graphic design.)

    • This was hilarious. The other day I was in a team meeting for a client and we quoted our prices and the designer's hourly was twice what mine is for my scripting/dB stuff. I was all "geez, I should do design..."

      Then I saw some of his designs; I was all "nvm. gg me".

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Thrip ( 994947 )
      It remains the only effective means of convincing some developers that they are *NOT* designers in the first place.


      And, I might add, the same applies to graphic and layout artists. Just because you can draw pretty doesn't mean you know a thing about human/computer interaction.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by stubear ( 130454 )
        It is far moire likely that designers have studied and understand interface design than for a programmer to have done so given that it is the very thing we do, we do not just "draw pretty pictures". Design is a commercial art for which I make no apologies. We utilize type and image to interact with people in a myriad of ways. If it's print, then the use of paper, folds, and design all come into play to guide the audience through the piece. If it's broadcast design then understanding how to fit a huge am
        • by Thrip ( 994947 )

          It is far moire likely that designers have studied and understand interface design than for a programmer to have done so given that it is the very thing we do.

          Note that, I didn't say "designers" -- I think that term's too imprecise to work with -- I said "graphic and layout artists." Both interface programming and digital art overlap with interface design. It's quite likely that an experienced interface programmer understands many aspects of interface design. But I think we usually learn it mostly through

    • I only have this problem with the clients... and wish I could use an ASB on 'em but unfortunately I'm not italian or russian so they'd just laugh at me.

  • Is it really a good expectation, to have designers do only the design?
    In my view the designers absolutely need to know at least a little about the underlying technology.
    On a little scale I tried having an artist draw a picture of a webpage, which took him like 10 minutes and then I had to encode it into CSS, gifs etc., shouldn't this be a designers role to know that a wepage is not a picture, but it's constructed of the elements like headings and that it's pulled from DB and it has to be formatted?
    That's wh
    • I basically agree. Being a pro at Photoshop does not a application designer make. Undertanding of html, CSS, etc (at least for web designers) is essential. Luckily there is no shortage of great graphic designers with these skills. So yes they need to know those basics and that its constructed of elements, etc.

      Thats however where I'd draw the line. I don't think they should care if this stuff is pulled from a DB, from flat files, or know the difference. If they have to know that I'd argue there isn't
    • No. When I first design an interface, I make a sketch. There is no need to know where your info comes from to organize an attractive and easily assimilated presentation.

      To address your example, a web page IS a picture. My browser cares not how you find and go about creating said page. It just paints it. The construction can be done in any number of ways for the same presentation.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mooingyak ( 720677 )
      Agree completely. I do mostly design work now, though primarily coded in the past. I have insisted (and my CTO agrees, so I don't exactly have to fight about it) that on at least some of the projects I design I take a break from the design work and do some coding along side the developers. Sometimes you pick up some things from developers that you hadn't known were possible. Sometimes your design is bad and it becomes painfully clear when you start trying to implement. All in all I think participating i
  • Hire a developer who's also a designer. There's a boat load of them around. And don't say that they sacrificed one to be better at the other, you can be a master at both.
    • by Tim C ( 15259 )
      Well, I've been in the business for 7.5 years and I've never met any. The closest I've got is a small handful of excellent interface developers who are willing and able to do some simple JSP work, set up new tiles definitions, etc, as well as use Photoshop, do HTML, CSS, Javascript, etc. I've yet to meet any who have any interest at all in doing "real" programming (ie Java, C, etc).

      I'd be very tempted to say that the two things are almost diametrically opposed, or at least so different that there aren't mor
    • The problem is that you can really on wear one hat at a time. So, when you are developing products it biases your designs.
  • Define design (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Judge_Fire ( 411911 ) on Saturday September 16, 2006 @08:59AM (#16119826) Homepage
    Discussing design and development always suffers from the various definitions people attribute to those roles. At the extreme end, designers are seen as graphic designers responsible for surface styling, 'skins', while the developers are expected to be socially incompetent eccentrics who value only code elegance.

    That's just stupid, there's a huge gap there where no-one is looking at interaction design.

    Any product still ends up with a design - a form - whether there is a dedicated designer or not. How well that product then fares from its users' point of view should be used to assess the quality of the design.

    In my opinion, it's fair to assume a designer being the person in charge of the end user's experience, the individual using the product. Can they do what they set out to do? Are they happy using the product? A designer must absolutely be able to justify the rationale of user-beneficial design decisions to others, who may not be on speaking terms with the actual end user, like developer and marketing types.

    And hopefully they do that way before a single line of code is written.

    That's my definition of a designer.
  • Additional reading (Score:3, Informative)

    by Randolpho ( 628485 ) on Saturday September 16, 2006 @11:46AM (#16120340) Homepage Journal
    Those a little confused about the separation of concerns between designers and developers should read the following blog entry from one of the MS Expression developers. Designers. Whatever. Just read it:

    http://lostgarden.com/2006/02/software-development s-evolution.html [lostgarden.com]
  • This is funny (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Spiked_Three ( 626260 ) on Saturday September 16, 2006 @12:30PM (#16120514)
    I get a real kick out of reading some of the comments. Some people, programmers for the most part I assume just don't get it.

    What would TV commercials be like if they all were written and produced by software programmers? It would be incredibly ugly and boring.

    Do the people that make commercials think them out, write out a script and then turn it over to a programmer to produce? NO. They have tools like Adobe After Effects and Final Cut (and other high end stuff most people here never heard of).

    I have not looked in depth at the flash approach, but I am investing a lot of time becoming as smart as I can at the Microsoft approach (XAML). This is a huge change in the way applications can be written; allowing designers to declaratively specify the User Interface. It might not apply to every single application out there, but in the ones where it makes sense, your application can become as creative and appealing as a super bowl commercial. Microsoft is giving the designers After Affect like tools to create their designs and they are not dependent on the developer to make it happen. And, it can happen in parallel. It does not need to be a back and forth effort as it currently is.

    Programmers need to remember that it is not just programmers who use computers anymore. I know this is less true with the Slashdot crowd, but the computer illiterate user population has overtaken us quite a few years ago. Applications need to be visually appealing to people who are not computer professionals - changing the terminal font family and size is no longer enough. For years a lot of this crowd has talked about how much better the OS X interface is - well this is an effort to get rid of the OS UI limits and leave it up to the designers. Yes, we could have always done that with code, but now we are putting high end tools, like After Effects, in the hands of the UI designer and saying, "Let's see what you can come up with." Some will fail, and some will be great.

    The biggest problem I see in this is I'm still stuck with clients who think every app should be web based. Microsoft's approach to web apps is the same as the previously failed Java web app approach - the browser simply hosts a local application. (I'm not saying the Java approach was bad or wrong, just that it has ZERO adoption and momentum). I don't have a lot of faith that web based XAML will do any better than web based Java applets (not script) did.

    • Heh. Myself and many programmers I know don't even watch TV. What's a commercial?

      I agree with most of what you say though. I don't want the designers on my staff to turn things over to me.
  • I design and code web GUIs - mostly in Perl/CGI, until last year, when our beloved tech lead decided to go with the bleeding edge in technology - JSF.

    The problem is that none of use knew JSF. A few of knew JSP and had experience writing beans and whatever, but JSF turned out to be a nightmare. Had I known the technology and how it worked, I would have designed the GUI differently. Having a working knowledge of the implementation tools helps you to design a more appropriate application from the beginning.

  • no way (Score:2, Funny)

    no way.

Almost anything derogatory you could say about today's software design would be accurate. -- K.E. Iverson

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