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Since we appear to be in another revolution on user interface (UI) design and user experience (UX), I’ve seen a lot of people, companies, sites refer to the designer-developer workflow, including Microsoft.  Heck we’re building tools around it for Silverlight and WPF development!  One thing I see too often though is the conversation being diminished to UI only. 

I’ve heard conversations between developers saying things like yeah, now we just need a designer to make things look pretty or we take what the designer made pretty and put functionality behind it.

I have a plea for my developer brethren: please stop using the word pretty and diminishing the role a designer plays in defining UI/UX.

To me when I hear this I cringe for two reasons.  First, while I’m not a designer, I consider myself to have a strong appreciation for design and know that it isn’t easy to execute on a design for everyone.  Second I know many talented people in the design world who understand much more about how UI affects end user productivity and emotion more than just ‘making it pretty.’  So please stop, it’s insulting to the trade I think.

Imagine if you heard a conversation of designers…

Designer A: Sweet design man, I love how you anticipate the user’s next interaction and use the typography to really identify that action.
Designer B: Yeah, it took a lot of research and usability observations, but I think we got it right. I hope the developers can finish this up so we can get it in the user’s hands.
Designer A: Totally, I’m sure they’ll finish the macros soon, I think it’s all wizard based anyway.
Designer B: Yep, I mean, I’ve created an Access application before, how hard can it be.

Yeah, see what I mean?  If you are insulted by hearing someone talking about the development craft reduced to macros and Access, then you should realize you’re doing the same thing.  Design is a craft just like software development and there are patterns and meaning to things that designers do, both in interactive design and print design.  It isn’t just about picking the right template.  Sure, palettes and animations are a part of the design, but their intent in the final design usually isn’t without thought.  Reducing a designer’s craft down to a simple “pretty” isn’t cool…at all.  And I’ve been guilty of it. 

If you want to work with a designer, then do it, but don’t hand them your finished product and ask them to make it pretty.  Make them a part of the process and have them help identify the right UI/UX for the application.  I realize it isn’t easy and sometimes isn’t possible to always have a designer, but when you have that need, just make sure you respect the trade or don’t be surprised if you get this book in the mail.  Take a moment and learn what makes good design.  For a start, watch Robby’s session from MIX08: Design Fundamentals for Developers.

I’ve got it off my chest…and I leave you with this:


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