In this episode, Treehouse Teacher, James Churchill, talks to Alena Holligan about the role of design in software development.
- Art Institute of Phoenix
- Adobe Director (formerly Macromedia Director)
- What is a LOB application?
- Twitter Boostrap
- Developer 2.0 - Michael Loop
- Universal Principles of Design - William Lidwell, Kritina Holden, and Jill Butler
- Design for Non-Designers - Robin Williams
- COLOURlovers Website
- Development Is Design
- Building a Product? This Is The Team You Need To Build Your MVP
- Why You Shouldn't Hire a UI/UX Designer
- Why The Valley Wants Designers That Can Code
- What's the Difference Between a Web Designer and Web Developer?
- The Front End Developer's Dilemma
- Job Titles in the Web Industry
- The difference between a UX Designer and UI Developer
Welcome to the Dev Team Show. 0:00 My name is James. 0:01 In this episode, 0:02 we're gonna talk about the role of design in software development. 0:04 [SOUND] Joining me today, is Alena Holligan. 0:07 Alena is a teacher here at Treehouse and she leads a local PHP user group. 0:12 Welcome to the show, Alena. 0:18 >> Thanks for having me James. 0:19 >> So, recently, we discovered that we had a shared background. 0:21 So if I go back far enough, >> [LAUGH] 0:25 >> From when I started 0:27 doing development work, I worked as a designer in the 90s. 0:28 I started with print design, and then did that for 0:32 a number of years before I realized that, so to speak, the writing was on 0:35 the wall that print design wasn't going to be a thing for too much longer. 0:39 And so I started like doing more digital design and specifically web design. 0:43 I did that for a number of years and then eventually someone gave me the shove and 0:47 said hey you should learn development. 0:50 And so I did that. 0:52 And then I kind of hid the design part of me because I wanted to be taken as this 0:53 serious developer. 0:57 So tell me a little bit about your background. 0:58 >> Well, I always thought development would be the most boring job ever. 1:01 I had an uncle that was a programmer and just the idea of programming 1:04 line after line seemed like the most boring job in the world. 1:09 >> Yeah? 1:12 >> I was very into art. 1:13 I like painting, sculpture, ceramics, all of that stuff. 1:13 So I started in art, I thought I would go in that direction, 1:17 I went to the digital art. 1:22 I went to the Art Institute of Phoenix, and 1:25 Got my degree in multimedia since I couldn't decide on just one thing. 1:28 So I went to the computer way but 1:32 I still didn't really feel like computers are [SOUND]. 1:35 Okay computers, I can do it for design but that whole programing thing, [SOUND]. 1:39 And then I got introduced to Macromedia's director, which was like, Flash. 1:45 But they had, you could do a lot of drag and drop and design, and 1:52 here's what I want it to look like. 1:55 But then if I wanted to do something, I had to get in the back-end and program it. 1:57 And so I started to realize that programming was really designing and 2:02 making something work. 2:06 >> And I was like, it's a puzzle and I can figure it, and 2:08 all of the sudden, this is really fun >> [LAUGH] 2:11 >> So I still like design stuff, but 2:14 I've gotten more and more into programming, 2:16 less and less into the design aspect of it. 2:18 >> Yeah. It's interesting, so 2:21 the reason why I wanna talk about the role of designers software development is, 2:23 I've done a lot of variety of development work as a consultant over the years. 2:28 And some of it is straightforward line of business application development. 2:33 So it's not public facing. 2:40 You're building an application for a group of employees in a company for instance. 2:41 Sometimes design just doesn't enter into the picture for those kinds of projects. 2:48 Now to be clear, I've absolutely have worked on projects that were more 2:53 publically facing websites or mobile apps where design was part of the process. 2:58 Maybe less successfully or more successfully in certain situations, but 3:04 sometimes it just doesn't enter into the picture at all. 3:08 And so I kind of want to talk a little bit about like why that happens or 3:11 the downsides of that. 3:16 Well, first of all, have you had that experience of working on a project 3:18 where there just design isn't like something that money is spent on. 3:22 I've been guilty of doing the same thing myself. 3:27 >> [LAUGH] >> Just like, 3:29 I should know better as coming from design that how important it is. 3:30 I should know this but I was too busy working on how it would function. 3:34 And forgetting what it looked like and the biggest problem with that is that 3:40 People are like it doesn't look good. 3:46 I don't like it or how does this work? 3:51 Or. >> [LAUGH] 3:53 >> This doesn't work, 3:54 they wouldn't accept even if it functions. 3:55 Getting them to accept it as this is nice. 3:59 It was never this is nice, okay that works maybe but 4:02 nobody could ever get to the point where it was like. 4:06 Getting them on board with how it worked. 4:09 >> So that's interesting. 4:11 There is something about the design process itself and to be clear, 4:13 we're talking about like visual design or 4:16 sometimes there's an element of interactive design as well. 4:19 There's something about that process that changes like how you get going. 4:23 People, your in users are more easily able to relate to something that is visual. 4:30 They are sitting down and reading through a bunch of use cases or 4:35 talking about what requirement of the application are. 4:39 >> Yeah. [LAUGH] >> So, if you are able to put something whether that's images. 4:43 Or sometimes even like a non-functional prototype. 4:48 If you're doing web design, maybe it's something that's actually in the browser 4:52 and people are able to get that and 4:57 that starts the conversation earlier with whether or not what you're building. 4:59 It's actually gonna work for them like this does makes sense, 5:04 this is match up with their business process, for instance. 5:06 Yes, I think one of the hardest things is pulling requirements out of people. 5:10 >> Yeah, absolutely. 5:14 >> And that's really where design can help, 5:16 because from the beginning people have a hard time articulating what they want. 5:19 And at least, I as a designer had thing ideas in my head and 5:26 I just expect everybody to be able to see what I'm explaining. 5:31 But a lot of people can't see things visually and 5:34 they had to actually see in some sort of format whether, it's print format or 5:37 something on their computer to see how that idea might function. 5:42 And so that really helps to bring along that conversation is, 5:47 is this what you were looking for? 5:52 How about if we do these things? 5:54 And being able to show them visually where things might go could be helpful. 5:56 >> Yeah, and it's not that infrequent, as well, 6:01 that users just sometimes are afraid to speak up. 6:05 As developers we can sometimes be an intimidating type of person. 6:08 [LAUGH] To interact with and 6:12 no one likes to look like they don't know what they're talking about. 6:14 So in a context of meeting of users, sometimes the person that 6:17 you need to talk won't offer up that information if they feel like. 6:21 Well, I don't know if I wanna say that cuz maybe they already know that, or maybe 6:25 that's just gonna make me look you know like I don't know what I'm talking about. 6:29 And I think that having that visual design process in someone who's 6:32 really experienced at that, and can more easily get inside the mind of the user, 6:37 can create an environment where people are more willing to share, or 6:42 they can kind of know what questions to ask as well. 6:45 >> Yeah, I find it useful. 6:49 You don't even have to create the designs yourself, but even grabbing some visual 6:51 queues from other websites that might be like, you're trying to produce, or 6:55 apps, or something that you want to display so you have something to discuss. 7:00 What about this do you like, and what about this one do you like type of thing, 7:05 so you have some basic foundation where you can start to talk. 7:09 So even if you don't do all the work right up front, even grabbing something to 7:13 talk about, having that visual appeal in front of them to say, 7:18 to be able to talk in a manner that's visually Stimulating and 7:23 they can say, this I like, and this I don't like. 7:28 And it's a little bit easier to kind of 7:32 move the conversation in the right direction. 7:35 >> Yeah, and as developer, you mentioned this a little bit earlier, 7:37 you said, it's really easy to get in that mode of getting something done. 7:42 So, maybe you have some requirements. 7:47 You've been given a description of what needs to be done. 7:49 And you jump in day one, and you start building out your database. 7:52 Or you start making data or something appear on the page, so you feel like, 7:55 yeah, I got something done today. 8:00 And kinda puts the cart in the front of the horse a little bit there. 8:02 Cuz you run the risk of building something to your understanding which may or 8:06 may not actually align with the thing that needs to be built. 8:11 >> For some reason, people just don't get as excited about staff. 8:16 Look what I made work! 8:19 And it seems so easy. 8:22 They just see the end result. 8:24 They don't see what that took to program in the back end. 8:25 >> Yeah, and I think there's probably even more so today. 8:29 Tools like Bootstrap, for instance or foundation make it easy to kind of 8:32 just like do mark up in a certain way and kind of slap some classes on things and 8:38 you end up with something that looks pretty good. 8:43 It doesn't look like it wasn't visually designed at all. 8:46 But you're still kinda of missing some of those important parts of the process of 8:51 this discussion that we were talking about that happened earlier on. 8:55 I think there you know we can become too complacent or 9:00 too comfortable with just using those tools and 9:02 not like actually going through the process as as it probably opt to be done. 9:05 >> Helping to start this step the user through the process and it's not, 9:13 I think it helps as you're talking, 9:17 talking about what should happen in a visual way as well 9:22 as getting into what should happen in the back end, I think it can be easier. 9:27 To help get the business requirements that way, 9:32 as long as you come at it from that kind of requirements. 9:35 What would you like to see, how would you see this? 9:39 What kinds of things would you like to be able to do, and 9:43 where would you look for that and how would you? 9:47 And if you can bring them through that, 9:51 you can actually pull a lot more requirements. 9:53 And get to how things actually need to function a lot faster than building 9:56 something that doesn't work in the first place the way they think it should work. 10:02 But you can't get what they think it should work 10:08 because you can't get into their head unless you pull it out. 10:10 >> Have you had the situation of where the design process is done. 10:14 But it's done by a completely different team or person. 10:19 And you're not involved in that as a developer, and 10:23 you're just kind of handed these, here's a design, and 10:26 it's a collection of images or comps or something. 10:30 And get busy and build this thing. 10:33 So you're not part of the conversation. 10:36 And furthermore, like the designer then sort of just washes their hands and 10:38 says my job is done. 10:41 [LAUGH] That's not really the way to do things. 10:44 >> I've had that where it works or doesn't work, I guess I should say. 10:49 [LAUGH] >> And that the designer might give you 10:56 something that doesn't really work for the functionality, but 10:57 if you can't talk to them about what needs to happen here, Or 11:02 you tend to try to fiddle with the design yourself. 11:06 And then you've lost contacts and then everybody is unhappy. 11:12 Whereas that communication with the design can be really helpful and 11:16 it can help to build a relationship with them. 11:20 So that they know how things need to work And 11:24 you also know how to ask for something. 11:27 So having that communicate those lines of communication open, 11:31 can help make the design a lot better and the process a lot easier. 11:34 >> Recently, I read a blog post where the person made the sort of the argument or 11:40 the case for. 11:45 We think what a developer should be. 11:46 You call the developer 2.0. 11:48 So the idea being that modern apps, whether that be web apps or 11:50 mobile apps or whatever is the situation. 11:55 It's gotten to the point where designers need developers to fully think through, 11:59 how the technology can work, what is available. 12:05 Can we use touch? 12:08 How can we use location services or things like that? 12:11 And then on the flip side, developers need designers in order to be 12:16 fully successful in developing products or applications. 12:21 And there's lingo in both of these areas, which is what you were just alluding to. 12:24 And if developers don't know how to talk to designers, and 12:29 understand the way that they way that they look at the world and 12:32 the words that they're gonna use to describe things. 12:36 In the interest of that, you know, if designers don't understand the lingo 12:40 of developers, then that process isn't gonna work as well as it should. 12:43 And there is something absolutely to be gained for 12:48 both sides to sort of meet in the middle. 12:51 For designers to learn some aspects of developement and the opposite of that. 12:53 Like for developers to invest some time and energy in learning about design. 12:59 >> I'm really excited to see where this is going soon in the future. 13:05 We've had so much discussion about dev ops, 13:09 where the dev needs to know some of the backend and 13:12 how it works, the operations of actually setting up a computer. 13:15 And that can taken get too far where it's okay the developer's going to do all 13:20 of this. 13:24 May not be the best thing. 13:25 >> [LAUGH] >> And 13:26 you can do the same thing with the front end. 13:27 And now there's discussion about developers knowing design and 13:30 learning some of the design. 13:34 But again, you can go too far into that, and expect them to know everything. 13:36 Well, when you aren't able to specialize, you know, this jack-of-all-trades, 13:41 master of none can be very true, and it can be hard to get the best out of it. 13:47 But be able to understand, How to talk to these different areas can be very helpful. 13:53 So being able to discuss with a designer about your development or 14:00 where this project should go can be very helpful in 14:06 bridging that gap and making it most effective, 14:11 the quickest and smoothest process that you can have. 14:15 But also understanding that the developer has tools and 14:21 has experience that the designer might not have. 14:24 Whereas the designer might have these tools and 14:28 experience that the developer doesn't have. 14:32 You don't have time to learn everything, so use people's skills and 14:36 what they do have, and respect each other and what you bring to the table. 14:40 >> Yeah, definitely, it's good advice. 14:46 And the more that you can understand about each other's roles and sort 14:48 of what's involved in that you won't miss the opportunities that come along, righty. 14:54 So, there's been times when I've been encode, working on projects, you know, 14:58 that it had great design support and you're implementing something and 15:05 if you can kind of like shift between that implementation. 15:10 Notice the opportunity or recognize and say, what if we made this change. 15:15 And you can reach out in the moment and 15:21 describe that to the signer in a way that they can quickly understand. 15:23 And so you have that shared that shared lingo in a way of talking about things. 15:28 There's some really cool things that can happen in projects when you kinda get into 15:33 that space. 15:37 >> Very, very true. 15:39 But I think it's important that whether you're a developer or 15:40 a, [SOUND], a front end developer or a back end developer, 15:46 knowing some basic concepts about design can help you even 15:50 put together a wireframe more simply. 15:55 Get your ideas and talk about ideas in a more broad sense. 15:58 So understanding some of the basics about how you would come up with design. 16:06 Just simplify ideas a little bit, you know. 16:11 It can be really helpful for coming up with ideas in the first place. 16:15 >> Yeah, came across a really great book this week. 16:22 It's called Universal Principles of Design by William Lidwell. 16:26 It's a great book, it's alphabetical. 16:30 It's like an encyclopedia or visual dictionary of design principles. 16:33 You can just pick it up, flip to a page, read about something. 16:39 Really interesting in kind of a bite sized way to start to get a foot in that world. 16:43 >> Yes. 16:50 Definitely something that people should all try to strive towards. 16:51 [LAUGH] Learn a little bit more. 16:55 >> So, that was one resource that I recently came across. 16:58 Is there any resources that you have used over the years, or 17:00 recently that you've found helpful? 17:04 >> Well, one that I've recommended for a lot of people who are not designers, 17:05 whether tere are that developers or 17:10 even people trying to put together a newsletter for their business. 17:13 Is design for nine designer by Robbin Williams not that Robbin Williams [LAUGH]. 17:16 And it very simply gives you some 17:24 kinda step by step things that you can do with your design to make it better. 17:28 But you might go, this doesn't look right. 17:34 But I don't know what to do about it. 17:36 Well, this can give you some step by step kind of things that you can think about to 17:38 try this. 17:42 >> That sounds great. 17:43 >> So just to clean it up. 17:44 There's lots of resources on the web getting ideas. 17:45 I like the colory lovers website. 17:48 Just for getting pallet ideas and things how this palette can work 17:49 in different visual ways and just different places where you 17:55 can get ideas on what you liked so you can see things visually. 18:00 What works, what doesn't work. 18:04 There are a lot of different resources out there just doing a search on the web for 18:06 different templates or visual aides. 18:11 >> Yeah, absolutely. 18:15 And we'll get those into the show and out as well, and make those easier to find for 18:16 people too, so. 18:20 Well, thanks for joining me, and talking about the role design. 18:21 >> Well, you are welcome and thanks for having me. 18:25 >> Excellent. 18:27 >> So, be sure to check the notes that accompany this video for 18:29 links to additional resources, and some of the things that we talked about today. 18:31 And also, be sure to rate the video and let us know how we're doing. 18:35 Or, if you have a topic that you'd like to see us discuss in the future, 18:38 let us know about that too. 18:41 Thanks for watching and we'll see you next time. 18:43 [SOUND] 18:45
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