Marrying Development and Design

Ben Fowler

Mar 15 .

You guys are so cute together!


The relationship between developers and designers can sometimes be compared to that of a stereotypical old married couple, bickering about the little things, but together forever. The key to a happy/successful marriage is good communication, acceptance, understanding, and most importantly, keeping the intimacy alive (just kidding!). Thanks Marriage.com. In all seriousness, I believe these principles are exactly the same for developers and designers, just don’t get intimate with your colleague counterpart – or do? You do you.


How did you two meet?

A Brief History

Since the early 1990s, people have been designing and developing web pages, and with the addition of HTML, CSS, and Flash (RIP sweet child), the rest is history. Now in the early 2020s, developers and designers are a very sought after commodity. The people employed to work on web projects has increased exponentially, and the industry not only survived two global financial crises and a pandemic, but thrived.

In 2020, there were an estimated 26.2 million web developers worldwide, and that number is expected to grow to 27.7 million by 2023. In the United States alone, there are approximately 100,000 UX / Web Designers, and this number does not include the variety of other roles that are involved in designing web pages. This relatively new population of workers has quickly become a very large community, and like any community, there exists culture, repeating patterns, and of course, stereotypes.


So who wears the pants?

Stigmas & Stereotypes

Being in the industry for 5 years, I’ve seen a bit of a stigma around this relationship, with both sides having some negative stereotypes of the other. For the most part, these stereotypes are jestful and over-exaggerated, with the relationship often being full of banter. However, with stereotypes, sometimes there exists grains of truth. I believe being aware of these truths and having a greater understanding of the other side can not only reduce conflict but also greatly improve working efficiency and quality of life for both.

In my time I’ve worked professionally in both disciplines, and it has given me a unique perspective on each, as well as clear ideas on how to improve the workflow the two have. The reality is, the two disciplines have never been closer, and the modern digital landscape has created opportunities for either side to become more connected.

How to honeymoon forever

Ben’s 3 Commandments for a Successful Marriage

Disclaimer: Not for actual marriage.

Collaborate early, and continuously

Communication is absolutely essential. When both parties are involved in a project from start to finish, the team gets a better understanding of where limitations exist, or opportunities for improvement can be found. This may initially feel like time spent poorly, but in my experience it saves time and reduces mistakes that happen later down the track.


Flag any constraints the dev environment has that the designer(s) should be wary of before they start designing. Offer any suggestions that you know will speed up your development time or optimise the project. Reach out to your designer if you are getting stuck mid-development, or don’t know how an interaction works.


Talk about your plan for the project with your counterpart and question the difficulty of tasks. Run through any planned interactions that might not be in a design file. Check-in with the progress of the development to see if they’re on track visually and interactively, making any adjustments if necessary.

Be Flexible

Work in collaboration will always have its conflicts – be flexible to different options to accommodate the limitations of the project or of your counterpart. Throughout a project, change is inevitable, just being aware that you will potentially have to adapt in some way will make you more prepared for change.


Be open to taking on the challenge of a difficult design, this means problem solving for tasks you maybe haven’t done before. For example, building an interaction that you haven’t worked on previously.


Be ready to change the design to overcome any problems met throughout the project. Maybe the developer has realised a certain functionality is no longer possible, or the client has changed the chosen payment process at the last minute.

Empathy through knowledge

Take time to understand what the other person or team is actually doing, what tools they are using. Gain a general understanding of how their process works and how much time their work takes. This knowledge will give you insight into the challenges the other will face.


Be aware of the task assigned to the designers from the client and understand the goal they’re trying to achieve. Know that the designer has their own limitations too, maybe they have to keep in that calculator you don’t want to build because for the client it’s a must. Does the client want the design done with a certain tool? Do you know the basics of that tool?


Understand the processes the developer needs to use – do they have a specific developer process they need to follow? What is involved in building the designs you made? What frameworks will the developers use for the project? Will adding this feature be easy or hard?

‘Til death do us part

Both developers and designers are central parts of many digital projects, and both should share the same goal of a satisfying finished product. They are roles that require a lot of creativity, skill, and hard work, but the work can be made less hard by collaborating, getting to know one another, and above all, communicating.

You may now kiss the _____.
(Not really though)

Ben Fowler

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