Why You Need a UI/UX Designer on Your Team

Why You Need a UI/UX Designer On Your Dev Team

Rus Anderson Design Leave a Comment

Product, User Experience, and User Interface designers are all tasked with creating the look and feel of products. Unfortunately, the importance of these roles is occasionally overlooked.

This post will cover the importance of these roles, what they contribute to product creation, and an overview of my approach to the design process.

The Importance of the Product Designer

Developers are highly skilled in the technical aspects of how the product will function. However, with even the smallest products, developers have a multitude of tasks they must complete.

Without a Product Designer, the developer responsibilities grow past the development process—adding to their to-do list tasks like feature prioritization, user flow planning, user interface, user experience, etc. Coupling this with inevitably tight deadlines, I’ve often seen teams without designers miss deadlines, experience technical issues, and generally have a poorly thought-out product.

The best solution to these issues is to include a designer. Designers work with several groups, including stakeholders, product managers, developers, and marketing, to thoroughly plan out the product. Designers work to understand the product and its users, plan the information architecture, and design the user experience. This requires skills and time that developers typically don’t have.

Designers then deliver comprehensive materials such as user-flow maps, wireframes, design systems, and interactive prototypes that detail the product, the user, and the user interface. These deliverables create a complete understanding of the product, providing a clearer picture for the developers to plan and build the product.

Putting Focus on the User

With a focus on the user, designers use specific skills to create products that look great and are also easy to use.

Users have an agenda when accessing your app or site; for eCommerce, they wish to purchase a product; for social media, they wish to engage with other users; for entertainment, they want to stream their favorite show, and so on. Users expect to be able to do all those tasks quickly and easily. If they have difficulty performing those tasks, their experience diminishes, they become frustrated and leave. Once they leave due to a bad experience, they likely will not return, and this hurts your bottom line.

UX designers work to understand the user, what the user wants to accomplish on your site or app, and then plan how to achieve the best user experience. Unfortunately, developers generally have neither the time nor expertise to undertake this large, complex, and time-consuming process.

The Design Process

It’s important to outline the design process because these roles are often overlooked—perhaps due to a lack of understanding. I aim to enhance knowledge of what is involved in the process by highlighting the steps necessary to create a user-friendly product. Here is a quick overview of my approach to the design process:

Stakeholder interview:
I typically start with the stakeholders to discover the purpose of the applications. My primary discovery intent includes:

  • What is the purpose of the app?
    • Try to get a one or two-sentence response describing the basic purpose of the app.
  • Who will be using your app?
    • This determines if users will be general public, internal employees, etc.
  • How will people use and access your app?
    • I’m looking for information on which platforms will be needed to build and run the app.
    • It is best to have a dev lead in this interview to start thinking about technical limitations, platform, needs, etc.

Data Review:
For new products, this could be any research they’ve done on potential users and/or competing products. For existing products (that may be being updated), this could be current user count, user testing, heatmaps, etc.

User Journey Mapping/Information Architecture:
This step starts by creating a flow chart of all the major steps the user will go through when using the application and ends with a granular look at each step to learn the content and user interaction with each screen and how the user will navigate between them.

Wireframes:
Based on the information gathered from the user journey mapping, I create wireframes for each screen that the user will experience. MockOla.com is a great free tool for creating wireframes, developed by us at Keyhole Software.

Review with Stakeholders:
Once the wireframes are complete, a review with stakeholders is held to ensure all required elements are on the pages. I will make changes if required, and another review can be held.

Hi-fidelity mockups:
I’ll then create a fully-realized look and feel for the application using color palettes, sample images (or actual images if available) so stakeholders and developers can see the product as it will appear to the users. While this is mostly to benefit the stakeholders, it is helpful for developers to have a visual representation for planning purposes.

Review with Stakeholders:
We go through the same process as the wireframe review.

Prototype:
I create a clickable prototype that simulates the user moving through each screen. This allows better visualization of user interaction and helps identify potential problem areas and shows developers how some items should behave when acted upon by the user. Examples of this would be dropdown menus or animations.

Final Stakeholder Review:
We review and get feedback on the prototype from stakeholders and make changes if needed.

Start Development:
I create a design system document that shows developers all the details of the design including colors, spacing of on-screen elements, fonts, etc. This can be provided as a PDF or in the software used for mockups (Adobe XD, Figma, etc.)

Check out this Guide to Stakeholder Interviews from the UX Collective for more information on this process.

Conclusion

​​Even though stakeholders, developers, and others involved may have a vision for how a product should look and feel, there are many points to consider to make the product user-friendly.

In my experience, products created without a designer typically require significant amounts of rework. Without the planning designers complete to draw out the details, developers start building the product while missing undiscovered features necessary to the product’s success.

When a designer plans the information architecture and creates wireframes, mockups, and prototypes, they create a detailed roadmap that reduces development mistakes and improves the user experience. This ensures it will be the best that it can be at launch.

For more content on design, check out this additional blog by Keyhole’s Rus Anderson, “What is User Experience Design?”.

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