Join Drew Bridewell for an in-depth discussion in this video Working with engineers, part of Practical UX Weekly.
- One major aspect of being a user experience designer is partnering with engineers. When it comes to seeing your hard work get executed and brought to life, engineers make this happen, which means it's incredibly important to have exceptional communication, cohesion, and respect for these talented folks. In this episode, we'll look at setting expectations, typical handoff deliverables, giving and receiving feedback, and why you should include engineers early and often in your design process. I'll also walk through techniques that have worked best for me when partnering and building relationships with engineers.
Let's get started. When was the last time you had lunch with one or all of your engineers? Do you participate in hack days or other engineering sponsored events? Do you include your engineers in decisions that ultimately affect their projects? These are just a few questions you can ask yourself when it comes to building a bond with your engineer. If you watch my Practical UX Weekly episode on working closely with PMs, you'll notice that some of these techniques can work with different team members across the organization.
The context of your conversations will change slightly but overall, the principals are the same. You can start by having a conversation with your engineer. Grab a lunch and get to know what type of projects they have worked on in the past. By asking questions about their work history, you can help open a dialog that includes more than just typical conversations like how is this feature coming? The new new conversation hallway might be hey John, the work you're doing on X feature is outstanding, what do you think we could do in the second rav to improve it? These conversations can go in many directions but the key is to focus on building empathy for the work they're doing and the challenges they might be facing.
We are all in this together and we are all people. Try not to fall into the having a robotic response, and focus on the connection. The next thing you can do is dig into the types of projects your engineers are passionate about. Learn about what's standing in their way and what potential challenges they have. It's possible that what you're trying to accomplish could align seamlessly with what your engineers goals may be which means you both may want similar outcomes and when you align on similar outcomes, then the path ahead is faster, smarter, and straight up, fun.
Now, let's look at typical deliverables a designer will hand off to an engineer. The quality of your deliverables can make a difference on how the project is executed. It's a designers responsibility to deliver high-quality assets and documentation so engineers don't have to guess about font sizes, interactions, or workflow. For example, at Linkedin, we provide our engineers with redline spec, which is a marked up design that states what typography, spacing, padding, and margin you would like to be implemented in your design.
This can be grouped with an InVisionApp prototype as well as a company Wiki page that includes documented details of the who, what, why, when, and where, and how of the feature. There's also some power tools inside of InVisionApp to help with collaboration between you and your engineers. In InVisionApp, there are two tools we use daily. One is commenting, which you can quickly press C on your keyboard when you're inside of a project and click and comment away. Or you can show your engineer Inspect, which is a vital specting tool where you can click and see the font colors, sizes, spacing, and styles.
These are examples of deliverables but I'd suggest always connecting with your engineers because not all engineers have the same expectations. Make sure you normalize your engineers expectations before starting your next project if you have not done so. Another technique I like to use when working with a team of engineers is I like to engage and empower them to give me feedback on my work. I get a lot of inspiration from engineers because they tend to think in a unique way which, to me, has added value to so many of my past projects.
Asking for feedback is one thing but showing them why you did or didn't go with what they suggested is another thing. In doing this, a designer can build equity with a team as they learn how you approach problems and how you're solving these problems for the users. It's also possible to rub off your design thinking methodologies onto the engineers. You can even invite them to your usability test or market research sessions to help them better understand the problems the team is trying to solve.
There might be times where things are not going so well with you and your engineers and the relationship building is progressing slowly. If this happens to you, try implementing a team retrospective where you both write down how you're feeling and discuss things you think could be better. Simply stating how you're feeling can go a long way to opening up your teams perspective. So, today I've walked through a few techniques on how you can work better with your engineers. As you build more and more products together, you'll start to realize how important it is to build that connection.
The important thing to remember is engineers are incredible assets to have on your team. They see the world in a different light. Use that to your advantage in your next project and empower your team to help you drive the best experience you've ever partnered on. Inclusion is one word I would double click on when it comes to partnering with your engineers. If you have stories you'd like to share about working with engineers, I would love to hear them on our Practical UX Weekly Linkedin group. You can also tweet at me at abridewell, ping me on Facebook at practicaluxweekly, or message me directly on Linkedin.
Thanks for watching, happy collaborating, and I'll see ya next time.
To continue the conversation started in this course, with Drew and other user experience professionals, join Drew's Practical UX: Lessons from the Trenches LinkedIn group.
Skill Level Intermediate
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A. To continue the conversation started in Practical UX Weekly with Drew and other user experience professionals, join the LinkedIn group at https://www.linkedin.com/