Don’t Burn the Pizza: How to Work Effectively with Creatives and Developers

Don’t Burn the Pizza: How to Work Effectively with Creatives and Developers

A developer and a designer walk into a bar.  The developer complains about the layout of the bar while the designer complains about the style of bar stools and the color scheme.  The bar quickly empties out because no one wants to be around either one of them.

With the joke introduction to this post out of the way, let’s get to the point.  Developers and designers are different breeds that spend the holidays together.  They rely on one another at times but can’t wait for time away from each other.  There are those that claim to be both a developer and a designer, but the greats in either field will only claim to be one or the other.  A great chef will never tell you how to run a restaurant because his priority, his passion is the food.  Just as the best maître d’ would never tell the chef that the gazpacho needs more smoked paprika.

Despite the different roles that developers and designers have, you will always need them if you want to take your website to the next level.  You can’t do their work just like they can’t do yours, so don’t waste time and resources trying to do it yourself.

Before deciding to utilize a developer and/ or a designer, never forget the single most important rule: DO NOT GIVE THEM FREE REIGN.  Giving either one of these professionals the ropes while you take a seat in the back of the wagon will result in a nose dive off a cliff.  Your business, your website belongs to you and you have too much to lose by taking a hands-off approach when hiring developers and designers.  There’s no scientific process that should be used, but there are some fundamentals to follow when the decision has been made to hire out.

Consider the following 4 points:

# 1 Take the time to determine exactly what you need and why you need it.

It’s a basic rule to always follow. Understand the problem so you can define it.  If you don’t know what your problem/need is, how will you know when there is a solution or the correct result is achieved? “Trial and error” is a great method when you’re in school, but this is business.  There’s no time or resources to waste in business.  It, whatever “it” may be, needs to be done correctly the first time.  Whether it’s streamlining your website checkout process, adding additional product pages, or creating a new page layout, you have to be able to explain it in as much detail as possible. Don’t be afraid to load them up with as many examples as you can find.  This will narrow the scope for the developers and designers and will keep them on track and focused on what you ultimately need.

#2 Maintain oversight.

The sacred ritual of cooking pizza requires constant peeps into the oven to ensure even and thorough baking to prevent the dreaded of all nightmares, burnt pizza.  If you use a microwave, I hope you find forgiveness in your life because I have none for you.  Even though you have given your developers and designers a detailed scope of work, you need to request constant updates and schedule reviews to ensure they are on the correct track and haven’t strayed.  Failing to schedule periodic updates and reviews can potentially delay your project and increase the costs of the project.  Of course, it may be challenging to review developers’ and designers’ work given the nature of what they do, so consider outlining ways in the initial work-plan that are to be used to achieve this.  Request sketches, wireframes, and any other work with the necessary explanations to ensure that your project is on track.  By staying in the loop, you can catch mistakes early and avoid getting “burned.”

#3 Keep up clear communication.

Yes, everyone knows the importance of communication, but there are endless reasons why we sometimes fail at it.  Two of the more common reasons are egos and failure to see perspective.  In the first case, there are no simple rules to handling others’ egos.  Some people are able to put their own aside when dealing with a challenging one, but others cannot.  The only advice I can offer is to try to stay focused on the desired goal.  If a man wants to be called a sandwich artist, I’ll do it for an extra slice of cheese even if the only artist I recognize is the one formerly known as Prince.  In my heart I know what an artist is, but I can’t let my ego get in the way of an extra slice of cheese.  Let people have their pedestals and boost them up at times, you’ll get more from them and might be surprised by what they do in return.  As far as understanding perspectives, remind yourself that you don’t know it all.  If you think you do, well, that’s an ego I’m not touching.  Ask questions and try to understand where the developer and/ or designer is coming from if there is a problem.  You’ll be in a better position if you understand both sides of the issue, and your project stands to benefit.

#4 Make harmony between ebony and ivory

If you have brought on a designer and a developer on the same project, you need to follow the above steps three times over.  Make yourself a quasi-project manager, and keep yourself informed with their progression.  The designer-developer relationship is like a hot air balloon.  You have fire, a wicker basket, and you’re dangerously high off the ground.  If you can define the scope of the project, maintain an active review of the project’s progression, and ensure open and clear communication is being utilized on all fronts, then you can avoid a fiery crash back down to the hard, unforgiving ground.

Developers and designers offer value and can be used to bring your website to the next level.  But never forget that it’s your business they are working for and so always remain actively involved in the projects that they’ve been brought on to handle.

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