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….
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…