Communicating with Development Teams

Pedro Canhenha
3 min readFeb 26, 2017

Product Design is a discipline comprised of many different variables, including among others, different team members from different capacities, business requirements, brand awareness, all of these converging to identify opportunities, solve problems and hopefully deliver solutions that potentiate the benefits for the company and improve the users’ life. In my experience, it’s been crucial to have a design process in place, since it leverages many different requirements that come into play, while also creating transparency for the overall process by which a solution is achieved. The process in itself can be a lengthy one in terms of steps, incorporating research, inception workshops, ideation sessions, prototypes, user testing and auscultation, mapping and defining the architecture of the application/product, among others, until the process reaches the stages where the product effectively starts being developed internally from the design team to the development team. And that is the main focus of this article. How does the design team effectively communicate with the development team (and vice versa), and how this relationship can be as seamless and productive as possible.

Flexibility — When designing and mapping out solutions for problems, it’s imperative to be flexible. Part of the design process involves being agile, adjustable, since these are qualities that are in tune with the many changes that can make an appearance sometimes unexpectedly. This flexibility can come into play when a platform has certain limitations, when different requirements are surfaced, when new competitive features are brought into the market, and particularly when communicating with any development team. There’s always going to be an exchange of ideas, of understanding the intricacies of what makes a product function — being flexible and being able to adjust scenarios and solutions devised, based on the communication with other team members is crucial for the success of the process and the product itself.

Contemplating Scenarios, Detailing Information — Designing a product, mapping out a solution, requires thinking of a multitude of scenarios — beyond the successful finalization of a journey, there are scenarios the user and consumer encounter, such as failures, incompletions, blank screens, on boarding, among others. Communicating these and being thorough on how these are defined is crucial when communicating with the development team. Detailing information thoroughly is even more relevant when you realize that the geographical location of different teams, can become an obstacle for how solutions are presented and explained. Detailed information plays an integral part in how we successfully communicate our intentions and behaviors in product design.

Staying Ahead and Product Guidelines & Design Systems — With the vast adoption of agile methodologies for software development, it’s been extremely important for the design efforts to always consider artifact deliverables according to sprint cycles. An artifact that has become crucial to aid these efforts has been the successful development of Product Guidelines. A successful Product Guideline document, standardizes and maps out elements of the product design, that are at its core, and that are consistently re-utilized. These guidelines aren’t created to eradicate creativity — they are created in order to provide guidance, consistency, and give a thorough view of how the product is designed, across multiple scenarios, platforms and in some cases, with multiple brands coexisting. Making these product guidelines as robust as possible is crucial, and that includes a detailed GUI, but also examples of micro-interactions and sample animations that should be contemplated in the product. An example of a Product Guideline can be checked below. All of these components are of course an integral and fundamental part of any Design System, which in turn empowers multiple teams to understand what really defines product solutions within an organization.

Every team is going to be a unique case, with different dynamics, different locations, but the common denominator and takeaway is invariably similar: flexibility, transparency and thoroughly thought out and mapped out solutions. The association of thorough with stale and rigid is incorrect — being thorough means that multiple details are accounted for, and allows for more productive discussions. And that’s what successful Product Design is all about — creative, productive and distinctive solutions!