Why is web devel­op­ment just as impor­tant as design? This is one of those ques­tions that has made its way around most dig­i­tal agen­cies in some shape or form. Quite often this debate has result­ed in a bit of ani­mos­i­ty between devel­op­ment and design teams. This is espe­cial­ly true when it comes to loom­ing dead­lines and fast van­ish­ing bud­gets. But what’s the answer?

Well, the answer isn’t sim­ple, not from a developer’s point of view at least. Any one of us devel­op­ers will always tell you that devel­op­ment isn’t as impor­tant as design. Yet, our role is more impor­tant. After all, all design­ers do is draw pic­tures and we do all the hard work. But, lest I have a 3mil design­er attack me with a vicious car­i­ca­ture; I should prob­a­bly take an objec­tive look at this ques­tion….

Agen­cies usu­al­ly focus on the client’s iden­ti­ty thus the devel­op­ment is often an after­thought. This is under­stand­able. When was the last time you heard a client com­ment: “I love how you’ve used JavaScript to shave off a frac­tion of load time”? Or “your use of the Boot­strap frame­work pro­duces such clean HTML – it gives me goose bumps”? Nev­er. Most clients want to see the visu­als and in some cas­es a pro­to­type that has the “wow” fac­tor, not sheets of code. How­ev­er, the code is what makes it work togeth­er.

What seems triv­ial from a visu­al per­spec­tive, may take a devel­op­er longer to code to get the desired fin­ish. This prob­lem can result in one of two out­comes. One: the design depart­ment or account man­ag­er has to back­track and tell a client the design won’t work. Or two: the agency sucks up the cost of the added hours for a devel­op­er to put the code in place.

Too often I’ve seen dig­i­tal projects that are quot­ed as “a straight­for­ward design”. Yet they turn into these huge over bud­get fail­ures. This is all because devel­op­ment time and cost wasn’t tak­en into con­sid­er­a­tion ear­li­er on in the process. Like­wise, I’ve seen sce­nar­ios where devel­op­ers have sup­pressed design cre­ativ­i­ty. Again, all because they feel some­thing is impos­si­ble to achieve with­in the con­straints of the brief. This is frus­trat­ing for the design­er and client who have already imag­ined the end result.

This is a quin­tes­sen­tial chick­en-or-the-egg para­dox. In a dig­i­tal agency, design can­not exist with­out devel­op­ment and vice ver­sa. Nobody wants a beau­ti­ful site with no func­tion­al­i­ty- a dig­i­tal fly­er with no inter­ac­tion. Like­wise, nobody wants a site that could drop the kids off at school, walk the dog and do the dish­es at a click of a but­ton (my wife reck­ons this is a bad exam­ple because she wouldn’t care what this site looked like if it could do all that…)

Any­way back to the ques­tion; devel­op­ment is just as impor­tant as design. I will tell you how I know this; through expe­ri­ence. The most suc­cess­ful projects I have worked on have been when there was less dis­tinc­tion between the teams. Yes, there was a devel­op­ment team and there was a design team but the two worked togeth­er in har­mo­ny. Three things hap­pened often in these projects. One: at least one mem­ber of each team was present dur­ing client talks. Two: ideas from both sides were dis­cussed in a way that wouldn’t curb cre­ativ­i­ty. Three: cre­ative ideas wouldn’t force devel­op­ers into try­ing to achieve the impos­si­ble. This three rule com­bi­na­tion made projects huge­ly suc­cess­ful for both the agen­cies and the clients.

These projects also devel­oped people’s skills. The devel­op­ers gained respect for the design process­es. They also obtained a slight under­stand­ing of what a Pho­to­shop lay­er is. The design­ers… Well, they walked away feel­ing good because their design was imple­ment­ed. Also, they still had time to go to the pub for a few cel­e­bra­tion drinks after­wards; which they Insta­grammed back to the devel­op­ers who were quite immersed, in the office on a net­work role play­ing game…