This is UX: 'design developers' add new dimension to software design

New tools and the drive to create superior user experience is creating a new breed of professional: 'design developers.'

"Design developers" may be the hot new job category companies are looking for these days.

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Photo: HubSpot

That's the word from Andree Huk, who posted a very insightful analysis of the increasing emphasis on compelling software design for the front end of applications.

Design developers represent a needed convergence between the visual-oriented work of designers with the technical chops of developers. "Visual design is not just 'aesthetics' nor is front-end development typing 'some descriptive code,'" Huk says. The emerging class of more technically savvy designers with more UX-savvy developers is creating this new breed. This may include developers with a "good eye" for UX and design, as well as designers with the right tools to take on more of the front-end work of applications.

This convergence, he relates, is occurring as a result of the emergence of design systems thinking and an evolving design development mindset, he points out:

Design systems thinking: "The movement away from designing static visuals to architecting and designing (visual) components has been going on for long, under the hood," Huk writes. However, he adds, "design tools did not make it very easy to design in such a way, on a day-to-day basis. It was possible, but included a lot of manual and repetitive design work." The latest versions of design tools on the market -- such as those from Sketch and Adobe -- take away much of this pain.

Design development mindsets: Design developers take on more of the work of developers -- such as implementation issues -- without throwing it back to the development team, Huk states. As a result, there will be "fewer rounds of iterations and feedback loops between design and engineering." In the process, he adds, software engineers will have "more time for engineering to focus on great code and less on UI behavior. They can hand issues back to the design team when they occur." Today's generation of more robust design tools make this more feasible, along with training or experience, he adds.

With great thinking comes greater responsibility. As a result of this new way of approaching software design, designers "now can and should take full ownership of the actual interface behavior," Huk writes. "That implies control but also that interface bugs are the sole responsibility of the design team -- blame cannot be pushed back to the dev team."

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