Hey front end designer you are doing it wrong! Ok not wrong (before I offend anyone), but there may be another way.

This is honestly just my opinion, just an idea that I had and wanted to note it down. And this is just something I find works for me. Although this is probably because I started out as a designer and moved into development.

My idea…development led design.

I am a developer at a technology agency. We produce a lot of landing pages, and as part of that process we have front end designers creating full designs. Every page of the site in mobile, tablet and desktop views. We hand those designs to the client and we wait. Meanwhile I sit and twiddle my thumbs until they say, “Yes, I like it, but can you change this, and that. Oh and they needs to be flipped 180 so it stands out” and so on.

My idea, let the developer lead the design, through natural progression in the site build. Start by adding content and images to the HTML file the way a web document works without any styling. A front end developer should have some sort of design ability. They will have worked on enough sites to know what will and won’t work, best practices, the client and so on.

It is likely that they will know the branding of the client, and project managers should have a rough idea what the client definitely won’t like. If having the developer do the design is out of the question, make sure developer oversees the design anyway to make sure the site could be built within time and budget.

So rather than sitting twiddling their thumbs, let them build the site so it functionally works. There are always things a developer can do on a site, even without a design. So it has everything in it that the client wants and that it covers the requirements of what the client wanted the site to do. Once it has been built to this stage, you’ll often notice that a lot of the site has some design to it, because the developer will have added it to make it look usable.

Take a form for example. Most forms follow the same pattern, fields, labels etc. A dev is going to add some accessibility to it, and likely make it do something interesting like label animation, this just helps it feel more finished. So by the time design is signed off and with the developer, assuming the code is well written, implementing the final design should not be a huge leap.

Development led design

In reality this is unlikely to take off within your agency or company. Why, because it’s a little backwards. The developer builds the site and then changes the styling to match a design given to them later. Feels a little bit 1 step forward, 2 steps back.

But it could be worth a try. It will help encourage your developer to write strong, flexible code, easy to change global styling and well structured grid layouts. By doing this, most designs that come through should be quick to implement.

So when a project comes in, the developer should be able to begin setting up the project, linking up some hosting for dev testing and so on. Take the developer through the ins-and-outs of the project and then they should be able to start building alongside the designer. Hot desk-ing and having the designer and developer work together could easily have a huge impact on the way they currently work and improve the process.

Try it, or try something different/new. Everyone one of you will have preferences and opinions on how you should work, share your way in the comments and perhaps it can help others. My way above works in some circumstances, with history of the client and flexibility in the project. You may have a much more radical, or tested method so share.