Welcome to a Poor Economy
Many companies seeking web design experts seem to believe that they can get a wonderful package deal in one person. As most of us well know this is not as common as companies seem to believe. Yes, there are a small “l33t” handful of people who can do both jobs, however they are in fact a convergence of 2 unique and totally independent jobs.
One is a Web Designer, the creative force and inspiration that makes a site look aesthetically pleasing. The other is the Web Developer, the code engine and brains behind the functionality of a site’s structure. They are not in fact one in the same.
Not all Designers are made the same, as evidenced by recent attempts at job-seeking. Some are Print Designers, then there are the Trade Show Designers, with some Model Designers that create physical object like car models, masks, SFX, and more, mixed into the lot as well. There are also Fashion Designers, Interior Designers, Illustrative Designers/Layout Artists, and Web Designers. Each shares in a pool of skills, many of them are interchangeable between the types of Designers. However, they do not carry the same package of skills, understanding, knowledge of their specific industry nor that industries needs, changes, or history.
Developers are similar. Yes most of them are the penultimate of nerd-geek with machine code running in their veins, however there are also separate specialties. You have folks that still work with DOS, who work on databases, who code PHP, or use Ruby. We as people are not the machine corporate CEOs seem to think we are as a whole.
There is a fine line between a Web Developer who knows how to mock-up a basic design, and a Web Designer who knows how to code some basic functionality into their designs. Some know how to do a little of both. A few know Flash which is a whole other animal.
Yet, companies, seeking better profits and less overhead costs, try to lump these two into one category. Sometimes a company comes out on top and finds someone who has the skills and time to dedicate in the creation of a website, from scratch, that works, is secure, focused, and looks fantastic! Then they get a bit of a sticker shock, unless this individual doesn’t have a high cost of living, due to the reality that they are doing two different jobs!
Speider Schneider wrote for the site One Extra Pixel, an article about why Designers and Developers shouldn’t fight. I agree. A Designer can learn a lot about how to make their designs both look good and be code-friendly. A Developer can learn a lot about the design process and why sometimes a design is forced to be code-un-friendly.
Yet, there are companies out there where the development teams are always complaining about the design teams, and vice versus. It is a regular enough complaint that jokes, and often scathing ones, abound. As close as the two types are, why are there such bad feelings between Developers and Designers?
A part of it has to do with how our brains are wired. You can see this, visually, in the design of some sites. The more tech-savvy a community, the less flashy their web sites. The more artsy a community the more colorful and animated their web sites.
Often a designer doesn’t think in the same way, nor do their thoughts flow in the same fluid motion as a developer. Both are creative people, but one thinks more linearly (sometimes narrowly) and the other thinks more organically (or chaotically) depending on one’s perspective. These two thought patterns, a very right vs left brain way of thinking, often collide.
A Light Ending Tunnel-vision
Not all hope is lost though. It takes a little bit of pulling one’s head out of the crack in one’s rear door, so to speak. Rather then playing the “better than thou” game, get to know a Developer or a Designer. Often while socializing one might find the “quirks” not so quirky.
Doing this can encourage understanding, and further self-education about a topic you might not have the time of day, in a normal day, to learn. When you can grok one another not only do the walls of communication fall, you become a more valuable asset to your company. You can forestall problems, and encourage shorter and more effective wait times between project versions.
Designers who can grok (I love this term) functionality and design for code limitations make the Developer’s life easier in the long run. Not to mention one could learn some more intermediate code in the process thus increasing one’s value as a company asset.
Developers who can grok the demands put on a Designer, or who learn the importance of object-placement when it comes to marketing gimmicks will find they don’t feel as cranky towards the Designers. Sometimes such a Developer might discover a new way to code something that makes both lives easier, and thus the company CEOs happy. Often a Developer that understands the design process might head off a code disaster by asking their compatriots to keep in mind certain specific limitations, prior to the problem arising later. Like the Designer, this makes the Developer more valuable to the company.