Collaborative Development for a Responsively Designed Web

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  1. Matt Hobbs

    Excellent article Paul. Some of the most enjoyable projects I’ve produced have been where I’ve worked very closely with a designer and UX. It’s amazing how much you can get done in a little team of three people.

    I must admit I’ve never had a designer with access to version control, but it sounds like an excellent idea if they are willing to give it a try.

  2. Barnaby

    “The responsive projects I’ve worked on have had a lot of success combining design and development into one hybrid phase, bringing the two teams into one highly collaborative group.”

    It had actually never occurred to me (as a 16 year old generalist who’s never worked with any other designer/developer) that design and development wouldn’t be done at the same time, especially for a responsive website.

    The idea of a “designer” who comes up with a purely visual design then hands it to a ‘developer’ who makes it is repulsive to me. How does that make sense? Surely a ‘designer’ should not only be putting together the visual aspect, but also helping to build and oversee the overall look and feel of the site?

    Great article — I didn’t realise people didn’t do what you’re suggesting!

  3. Matt Wilcox

    Nice article :) We’ve been using this approach at work quite a bit recently and found it a massive help. It’s not limited to responsive designs either, although it clearly helps a lot more there.

    I think in any endeavour it makes for a better end result if the whole group are on-board and aware of what others are doing as early as possible. You never know what considerations others in the project might have with some of the things you do, or the insights they can offer. It’s beneficial to at least get mock-ups discussed with the group before settling on anything final if there isn’t the time or budget to do more than that.

  4. Matt Wilcox

    @Barnaby

    I agree with you, but the reason it’s not done like that everywhere are twofold. One is that most established design studios have “designers” already, and they have a tendency to want to use their established print team to do “visual design”, then hand over to their specialist “web team” to code them. That’s not a great way of doing things, but it’s perfectly understandable. It’s taken a little while where I work but we have come a long way and migrated away from that flawed way of doing web designs.

    The other reason such a compartmentalised way holds on is economy of resources. If you already have “designers” you use them, and then you use “coders” to implement it. Each does their specialist role faster individually. But the end result isn’t as good. That’s why I’m a big fan of “talent bleed” and this type of approach. In the end, everyone can do their jobs better.

  5. Rachel Andrew

    @Barnaby it probably does sound really crazy to you as a 16 year old as the web has changed so much in the last few years, however this separation of roles was pretty common for years. It still is out there in agency-land. I wrote on our company site about how we, as a 10 year old company, have had to change how we work on things – You need a web designer

    It’s also good to have new people coming through and pointing out where we are doing crazy things because that’s how we’ve always done it :)

  6. Nicolas Chevallier

    “While knowing HTML won’t necessarily make you a better designer, it will help you understand the issues being faced by a front-end developer and, more importantly, allow you to offer solutions or alternative approaches.”

    Exactly! There are a number of constraints to integrate and sometimes designers are not aware, and are disappointed, thinking that dev “sabotage” their work.

    Now the constraints are even more important with the need to always produce faster interfaces, which means fewer files, reusing some background images, …

  7. Theo

    Excellent article, understanding each others work/part in a project is the most important thing that leads to successful results as, dare i say that web design/development is beautiful information architecture.

  8. Kurt

    I agree with the importance of a good relation between designers and developpers. But I would not stop there. In my experience it is very important to meet up with the whole team. A meeting in person where everyone sit together and let multiple ideas come together. That will give better results.

  9. Christof

    Best article yet! I’ve seen a lot of the stuff you wish for failing. For various reasons. Collaboration also is a personal thing and it seems (from my limited experience) maybe only 20-30% of people are even capable of doing it. Sad really. But you wrote a lot of points that warm my heart (it’s xmas after all ;) and gave a little hope back

  10. Barnaby

    @Matt Hmmm… One thing that always strikes me whenever I learn something new in any field of the web is how it affects my thinking in other areas. So I agree that talent bleed is an asset, not a dilution.

    @Rachel

    Your article sums up my thoughts well — the web is indeed its own medium, and demands the skills and expertise of someone who has a wide breadth of knowledge and experience. It’s a pity we have to call ourselves “Web Designers”, I’m not sure that term really expresses what we do. Unless you take ‘design’ to mean design of everything from code to content strategy.

  11. Thom Gibson

    Wow. This is a pretty great article. I’ve been hunting around for a while for something similar, since there’s been tons of talk about responsive design but not much about the process of making it happen. So far, the only other good one I’ve found is this:

    http://curatedcommented.com/2011/in-search-of-a-responsive-workflow/

    There’s so much to be said for integrating the teams working on a modern site, and responsive design pretty much requires it. Kudos to you for the great article.

  12. James Young

    @Thom,

    Like you I’ve also seen quite of articles telling folks their photoshop mockup process is wrong (it is) but little in the way of writing up of the processes people now use to develop more responsive sites and layouts/interactions etc.

    I tried to write up some key steps for our process at Offroadcode if you’re interested, it’s by no means the same steps for every project but hopefully gives a bit of an overview of how we work with our projects.

    http://offroadcode.com/blog/2011/7/18/turning-our-design-process-upside-down/

    J.

  13. Raluca Comanescu

    This article is just the right support at the right moment. I always thought that great talents can do amazing things by themselves, but if 2 amazing talents find a comfortable way to work together, amazing things can happen, in such an amazingly short time. As you very well said the best compromises are reached when both sides understand the issues of the other. And in order to understand your colleague reality you need to be in permanent contact.
    I love this reading. thank you!

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