4 Reasons to Include Developers Early in a Website Redesign

07 Sep 2016

I'm a developer. I bring ideas to life on the Web. 

We developers have a reputation of being a little insular and closed-off—uninterested in what everyone else is doing. Traditional project planning reflects that reputation: Often, developers are not involved in a website redesign until halfway through the project, picking up the work from the design and UX teams, then developing and launching the site.

But this is a mistake. Developers should be involved in website redesigns from the beginning.

Handing designs to a developer and saying, "Here, go build this," is a linear, assembly-line approach that often gums up the works and slows things down. It might work for cars, but not for websites. 

Here’s why it's important to include Web developers early and often in a digital project:

Feasibility Checks

Developers are, at heart, problem solvers. They know what's possible online, what isn't, and the technical playground in between. Without a developer's input, two unpleasant things can—and often do—happen:

Web designers, in their parallel pursuit of solving a clients' online challenges, design something that is technically impossible. A more elegant solution to meeting a client's goals is missed because you don't know what you don't know. 

Savvy Web developers serve as feasability checks—able to spot and address questionable functionality quickly. 

Collaboration & Professional Growth

This is related to #2 above: You don't know what you don't know. I'm a developer. Down the hall is a room full of visual designers, content strategists, and digital marketing experts. They know things I don't; and vice versa, of course. 

But we're tasked, as a team, with crafting our clients' digital identities. That mission is—and should be—a true collaborative effort. We need to yank from each team member's brain their finest ideas and most prescient insights, then piece them all together. Each discipline that goes into a website redesign—user research, brand identity, information architecture, coding and development, content strategy, ALL OF IT—must strike a harmonious balance.

That's the goal, anyway. 

In the assembly line approach, collaboration withers—i.e., developers develop, designers design. Seems kind of rigid, doesn’t it? What does anyone learn in that situation? How do you pick up something from another discipline and carry it with you to the next project?

Hint: You don't. Which is why, in a perfect professional world, we'd create websites by spending a week in a cabin in the woods. All of us together, talking and debating and iterating. All of us lending our voices and unique perspectives to the endeavor. 

(Besides, I love camping on an expense account.) 

Efficiency

This one's pretty simple: When a developer is brought into the project halfway through, they have no context. They have to be brought up to speed, bit by bit. They have to ask a ton of questions—questions that were already answered earlier in the project, back when the developer wasn't in the room. 

Then there the greatest time offenders: Revisions. When a design arrives on a developer's desk, and she's been asked to build it (i.e., make it into an actual thing on the Internet), that developer sometimes has to send an email:

Hey, gang. Really cool design for the homepage! Beautiful artwork, btw. One problem: The way you've constructed the menus is impossible to display correctly on mobile.

In other words, time has been wasted. And it wouldn't have been if our imaginary developer were in the room at the outset. 

Warm Fuzzies

Bear with me on this one. 

If an entire team—researchers, designers, copywriters, information architects, and developers—is on board from beginning to end, it seems (to them) like more of an investment of their sweat and intellectual equity. Humans are, naturally, more attached to things that we see grow. We have more skin in the game. 

That investment—and the anticipation of the feeling of a job well done—seems to serve as incentive to many developers, myself included. I know that if I lean in, put my head down, and build something awesome, it's going to feel great for quite awhile. I'll be able to point to a website and say, "That. Part of that awesome thing is all mine. I made that." 

How We Do It

Here at TradeMark Media, our projects are collaborative. All team members are at the table from Day 1. This baked-in collaboration has helped much of staff blossom professionally. We're more engaged, more willing to lend our voices to the conversation that is a website redesign project. 

Everyone benefits from this approach—most especially our clients, who end up getting a great website or app from a curious, mentally hungry, open-minded group of pros. 

How cool is that?