The "designer-developer workflow" has become almost a buzzword among the people following rich internet applications but it's something that I continue to think about and I want to make sure it doesn't lose meaning. Designers have always been able to create beautiful experiences. Whether that's a painting, a sculpture, a web page or some form of artwork, they know how to evoke emotion and reach out to the people viewing the piece. They appeal to our right brain. Developers on the other hand are task oriented and are obsessed with making things work and adding function. I think every developer also wants whatever they're creating to look good, but ultimately the left brain can't appeal to our eyes as well as something a designer would cook up.
Just like human beings, it's when the left brain and the right brain come together that we really excel. Anyone who has been in the industrial design world knows how powerful the combination of form and function can be. Apple has created a $115 billion company based almost on that premise alone. In the software world we've never had anything like that. It's easier to manipulate physical objects than it is to manipulate bits. The processes for creating beautiful things has been perfected and refined over hundreds of years. But not in the software world.
If we're going to start seeing beautiful software we need to make it easy for the right brain and the left brain to work together. It's a sophisticated problem. How do you combine a designer's vision with the requirements of productive software? How do you help designers take their ideas and turn those into interfaces that developers can code around? That's why the designer-developer workflow is so important. Once you make it easy for them you give both designers and developers the freedom to push what's possible with software. You'll end up with experiments in usability, design, and interfaces that will help make software better. There will be growing pains, but ultimately end users will win.
The key now is to figure out what that workflow should be. I'm looking forward to a lot of spirited debate around that. Once we convince more people of the value we can start to have conversations about best practices. That will be a lot of fun.