One of the great benefits of having worked at the same company for 12 years is that I have developed an outstanding working relationship with the developers. Literally every developer I work with has an appreciation of my role in a project. They understand how my design tasks relate to their development tasks and how the whole process weaves together. They know what questions should be asked of me and which decisions I should be approving, and they actively seek me out of their own volition. More importantly, they recognize that my work makes the output of the team better, thus making us more competitive in the marketplace. Upon attending my talk, Working with Developers for Fun and Profit, a couple of my coworkers expressed dismay that our methods were not commonly practiced throughout the industry.
In a recent discussion, my manager pointed out that once upon a time, if the developers had been instructed to take our customer’s requirements document, develop a solution, and build it, they would have done so. The result would have been similar to any other programmer-designed UI, but they would have done it. If given that charge today, the same developers would likely throw up their hands and say, “Hold on! We can’t do that without Jack (or someone of my talents).” They know that the result would not be on par with our typical work.
I say this not to brag, though I do take pride in it, but to illustrate the value of putting in the time (years, in fact) and effort to learn to communicate, build the relationships, teach the process, and adapt to your development team.
My talk on working with developers was not accepted to Interaction 13, but there will be other opportunities to learn from my experience. Stay tuned.