5 Pet Peeves Designers Have With Developers (and How to Avoid Them)

Cats and dogs. Cain and Abel. Designers and developers. These are just a few of the great historical face-offs.

Designers and developers often seem to come from different planets and have completely different brains.

Developers want a website to work right, designers want it to look right.

While these goals have a lot of overlap (and, of course, I’m stereotyping here a bit), the differences often come down to the designer and developer’s expectations of success.

Managing expectations is a matter of communication: making points clearly to the other side, finding common ground, and agreeing on goals.

Okay, so maybe it’s not that easy, but it is important for both sides to at least try to understand each other.

In an effort to promote goodwill between designers and developers, I will share some pet peeves I have encountered and explore the issues that lead to them and their solutions.

Peeve #1: “Why can’t the developer just make it look like the comp?”

You create a great-looking design and hand off the comp to your developer, but when you get the site back, it looks like a patchwork quilt of what you designed.

Comps are not Web pages; they are not a mixture of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript code. Photoshop, Fireworks, and Illustrator can do a lot of things that are impossible (or at least wildly impractical) on the Web, which often means that developers will have to scale down the design.

Talk to your developer while you are designing, not just afterward. Ask them whether an effect you are using will be easy to accomplish or whether a better alternative exists. Also, as you learn more about Web development, you’ll be able to better tell the difference between when your design is impractical and when the developer is just slacking off.

Peeve #2: “The colors are all wrong!”

You don’t choose colors arbitrarily, but developers seem to think that “close is close enough.”

I don’t know whether this is true of all developers, but I once worked with a developer who was red-green color-blind (he was a huge fan of our content manager, who sent all of her emails in pink text on a lime-green background). However, being color-blind didn’t stop him from being a kick-ass developer.

If you want the colors to be right, then spell out all of the color values on the page. Don’t rely on your developer to eyeball the color values or to sample the colors in Photoshop.

You also need to consider that the problem may not be with the developer but with you. Colors look different on a Mac and in CMYK (if you happen to accidentally enable that color space). Make sure that your document color mode and proofs are set to generic RGB by default.

Peeve #3: “Do developers even know what ‘white space’ means?”

You’ve left plenty of breathing room around elements to create a fluid eye path and improve readability, but the developer crams everything together, telling you, “It’s the only way it will all fit.”

I once complained to a developer that he left no space between the border of a module and its content, making it really difficult for most people to read. He replied, “I don’t care about other people. I can read it.” While most developers are not quite so callous, they have not been trained in the fine art of mixing positive and negative spaces to guide the visitor’s eye around the design.

If you really want your designs to be as precise as possible, don’t just give the designer a comp and expect them to figure out the spacing. Specify the exact widths, heights, and lengths in a design specifications document. This serves as a blueprint that you and the developer agree on for how things should be spaced.

At the very least, define general rules for margins and padding. For example, “All modules must have a minimum of 10 pixels of padding between the content and the border.”

Peeve #4: “The developer can never get my designs to look the same in different browsers.”

You look at the site in Firefox and it looks fine, but when you switch to Internet Explorer it falls to pieces.

You have to be sympathetic to the plight of developers when it comes to making designs look consistent across browsers. Each browser has its own quirks with spacing. Things are getting better (especially with the slow death of Internet Explorer 6), but getting them all to completely play nice with each other is still hard.

I generally allow a few pixels of wiggle room in my designs to accommodate cross-browser issues, but it helps to know what these issues are while you’re designing, so that you can help the developer avoid them.

Don’t be afraid to point out cross-browser problems to the developer and expect them to be fixed. But resolving some of them may require that you tweak your design.

Peeve #5: “This will take how long?”

Nothing is more depressing than burning the midnight oil on double-time to get your part of a project done on schedule, only to get back a development LOE (Level of Effort) that puts the project release date back a month from the end of eternity.

In a classic episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Scotty explains the facts of engineering life to Geordi La Forge: “You didn’t tell him [Captain Picard] how long it would really take, did you? Oh, laddie. You’ve got a lot to learn if you want people to think of you as a miracle worker.” Some developers think of designers in the same way that Scotty thinks of Starfleet Captains.

Developers know they will encounter unforeseen problems and so tend to grossly pad their estimates. This also makes them look really good if they get their end done a lot earlier than estimated. Haggle with the developer down to a reasonable timeline and then hold them to it. As you get to know a developer, you will hopefully find your own way to be a “miracle worker”.

Special Bonus Peeve: “Developers just don’t understand designers.”

Or worse:
“The developer thinks they’re a designer!”
It’s bad enough when developers seem to simply refuse to see the designer’s point of view, but that difference of opinion can usually be mediated (usually by a good project manager). However, when the developer thinks they know more about design than the designer, tempers can flare.

I’ve had to deal with more than one developer who read an article by Jakob Nielsen and then wanted to lecture me about good design practice in the middle of a meeting. This not only shows disrespect for the designer but slows down the project as debate ensues.

Working with know-it-all developers is tricky, and the way to handle these situations depends on the size of the ego you are dealing with. Generally, I find it best to simply listen to what they have to say and then, if they have a point, acknowledge it and move on. Avoid arguing with them if possible.

Often their complaint is about a design “rule” that’s been broken. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge that you broke a rule—that’s what innovative designers do—but make sure you can justify why you broke it.

Whenever I find myself in this situation, I think back to my review days in design school, when I had to defend my work against some pretty brutal criticism. These sessions were often ego-bruising, but they taught me how to quickly defend my decisions while keeping my cool.

It may seem humiliating to have to constantly justify your decisions, but the more you show the “method in your madness,” the more you will find that your colleagues value and trust your judgment.

Written exclusively for WDD by Jason Cranford Teague.

Which pet peeves do you have with developers? We’d love to know more about this, please share your comments below.

  • RoaldA


    I’ve yet to peve with any developers yet, but as you mentioned in your last point, bumping into a developer who thinks she/he is the designer must be a pain.

  • http://www.devexp.eu Kenneth van Rumste

    Nice job, from a developers point of view completely correct. It’s all just a communicating thing….

  • http://james.padolsey.com James

    I assume you’ll be posting the sequel soon?

    “5 Pet Peeves DEVELOPERS Have With DESIGNERS (and How to Avoid Them)”…

    • http://www.webdesignerdepot.com Walter

      Yes, working on that one :)

    • http://www.speaking-in-styles.com Jason

      I’m working on the follow up to this one now, and don’t worry, Flash is at the top of the list.

      • Ian Muir

        Make sure to include something about Typography. Every single project we do for a particular ad agency results in several hours of explaining what fonts they can use and how much control they have over kerning.

    • http://www.chaseadamsphotography.com Chase Adams

      Amendment: 50 Pet Peeves. Five-Zero.

  • Jon

    Nice article, a couple of notes from a developer:

    Peeve#1: Spot on, and just to give an example, sometimes the designer and the developer are given different briefs for the same page.
    i.e. Designer gets told page must use a certain font for elements.
    Developer gets told all text must be indexable by google/site’s own search engine and that the client can change ‘every piece of text’ in the site’s backend. If there is more communication early on the client can be presented with various options at various costs.

    Peeve#3: Sometimes this is the problem of designing for a CMS. In the design stages I’ve had a few designers who make very grid like layouts where the right and left sidebars are exactly the same length. In one of the sidebars there is usually links to the top news stories. Problem is, in the approved design, there were 3 news stories that all were ‘Lorem Ipsum, dolor….’ i.e. identical filler text where all headlines were the same length and white-space was worked out from that. Of course once in development, actual content comes in and these headlines were longer than the designed ones, wrapped to more lines etc… If an element is going to be editable by the client you have to take into account the edge cases in the design.

    Peeve#5: Please delete this immediately, project managers could be reading this :P.

    • http://www.webdesignerdepot.com Walter

      That last paragraph made me laugh…

      • http://www.speaking-in-styles.com Jason

        Maybe that should be the third article in the series “5 Pet Peeves Project Managers have with EVERYBODY”.

    • http://www.vu-tran.com/ Vu Tran

      Your note on the first one is great. To add to that, if a designer were to design a UI with custom fonts that are not common for web browsers, it can be an issue for the developer. Although it is possible to have custom font as text on web browsers, not all browsers support this so this also brings up the issue of lack of communication since most of the time, designers will just design a page without any thought of asking the developer if an idea will work during the development process.

  • RoaldA

    Remember, designers are the ones who hire developers, usually.

    • http://www.affiliatedating.net/ Simon Clements-Hawes

      I can’t figure out where you’re going with this comment? Are you saying that dev’s need to bow down to the (often) technical inexperience of the designers?

    • http://deviantstudio.ca Richard

      I don’t necessarily agree. I run a business where there are both designers and developers, sometimes a developer comes in after a designer so that theory is correct but the opposite happens too.

      I myself have been hired by a developer to create a visual UI for their nifty developed back end system. It can honestly go both.

      I know with my business, I typically bring both in at the floor level at the same time, so both know the intentions of our client. Sometimes I am even fortunate enough to have my employees cross trained enough so they are at least stronger in one of the fields, but have enough concept and creativity to do the other if need be. I pride myself and my busiess on that. It prevents that slow down on the process, and it initiates an incentive in the employee to go that step ahead and ask the questions that need to be asked in the begining. Rather than getting to the implementation stage and going, oh shit I forgot about that…

      So to sum it up, your statement was only partially accurate, at least in the experience I have been in with not only my own business but other organizations I have been employed under.

    • http://www.corymathews.com CoryMathews

      Uhh.. not really. I would lean more the other way and regardless it should not matter.

  • http://www.curious.be Niki

    On Number 3:

    As a developer I once got a design from our designer with nice spacing and everything. When I was developing the site, we suddenly saw that some import modules were under the fold. The accountant on the project told me to fit everything on the screen… In the end I got the blame for cutting some margin (my only option left considering the death line).

    Conclusion: A designer needs to be aware of the fold, in the case when issues should arise during development: go back to the designer first.

    • http://www.wevegotideas.com jhoysi

      Well, yes and no. The fold has become less and less important as users are more comfortable with the web. If a client comes back demanding it, well you gotta do what you gotta do =D

    • http://www.speaking-in-styles.com Jason

      An interesting point, but there is a lot of research saying that the fold (like Web Safe Colors) is becoming irrelevant, or at least not as critical as designers used to think. Check out this excellent article by Millisa Tarquini for the scoop: http://www.boxesandarrows.com/view/blasting-the-myth-of

      • http://www.curious.be Niki

        Very true, the example was taken from the days that the fold still was important ;) (and so from the days that the fold was more or less also defined because of 90% of the screens used 1024*768)

    • http://www.cobaltcow.com Nathan Sarlow

      Although I agree that the fold is ‘less’ important than it used to be (especially now with the prevalence of wheel mouses), the hardest thing to consider is not really the screen resolution, but the number of toolbars (yahoo, google, msn, etc.) a user will have.

      I find that a target demographic of 12-25yo females have significantly more (around 2 or 3 more) toolbars than the regular user, which cuts down the vertical height and in turn the fold depth.

      My guess is that this is due to installing software and not looking out for sneaky side-installs.

  • http://sydney.indymedia.org.au fungi

    > Haggle with the developer down to a reasonable timeline and then hold them to it.

    Then watch me avoid you like the plague and refuse to give you any meaningful estimate in the future.

    P.S. the list should include something about the designers ridiculous 800k flash files… ohh wow your flash skills are… “amazing” and did i mention the umpteen thousand friken unnamed photoshop layers…. those 50 are for the rollover states.

    /angry troll

    • http://www.corymathews.com CoryMathews

      so true, I received a .psd a while back with a couple hundred layers and not a single one named.. no folder, nothing.

    • Aaron

      Haha the psd i’m working off of at the moment is just like that! a pain in the arse to say the least!

  • http://www.illusioneyes.com bixma

    great stuff…most of the developers feels that they are also designers but they don’t understand by profession designer how he thinks and how he wants to implement design efficiently. what do u say friends..?

  • kes

    Jon: haha.. like you #5 :D

    nice article…. I just recommended this article to my Designer. – :D

  • kolin

    I fall into the rare category of being a great designer, and a great developer. so I can design with my clients already knowing limitations of what they want….

    • mierst

      I’m sorry, but your ego is too large for this page.

    • codesparkle

      kolin wins.

  • http://www.bombedout.com Steve Jackson

    As a designer AND a developer I have these arguments with myself all the time.

    • Russ

      You don’t want to let other people catch you having these arguments with yourself Steve ;)

    • Aaron

      I’m in the exact same boat dude!

  • kolin

    it’s also just reminded me of a classic designer/developer clash i had several years back without realising. In my original developer days, our web design agency were on our way to our christmas party. going past a beautifully lit tree, our designer commented on it’s prettiness, i snapped back, “what a waste of electricity”.

    designer : “but it looks nice”
    me : “its very inefficient”

    • Russ

      I see where you going with this (I’m a developer too), I find I say the same things to my clients too. About how their websites should be efficient and accessible.

      But also, I believe you need to be careful where you draw that line…I’d apply it only to few things….like the designer said – it looks nice. Something you’d never see if no one went out of their way to supply electricity to it in the first place ;). I guess it comes down to knowing when a designer is a designer and when he’s just sharing a life experience with you.

  • Liam

    If you are a designer, and you can’t build your pages in HTML & CSS yourself then you need to learn. A web developer does backend (php, asp, cf etc) and a designer does all the frontend (design, html, css and maybe JS).

    This is how it should be, you can’t call yourself a web designer if you can’t build your own designs.

    Designers need to learn how development works more then the other way around, if you build your own html, all the developer needs to do is get it working with the backend.

    • http://www.cobaltcow.com Nathan Sarlow

      Although I do know how to code HTML & CSS, I really have to disagree with you that somehow you’re not a legitimate web designer if you can’t code. Really, coding is a completely different skill to designing, and one that takes a lot of practice.

      If you work in a team you can be really efficient if 1 person designs, 1 person does cutup & SEO and another does development.

      In fact, I think the ability to code generally detracts from the focus on design as such.

      I DO AGREE that it’s a very useful skill for a designer to understand how elements will link together and how to design for an effective build, but I don’t need to learn CSS to learn how that works.

      A good slicer will be able to work out how to cut up almost any design.

      • Tripod

        I’m a designer first. For me I think you need to be able to write basic HTML and understand it in order to properly and efficiently design for the web, and i’m not talking using Dreamweaver, you need to understand the code. So I agree to a certain extent that you can’t consider yourself a true web designer if you can’t even do that.

        However as far as CSS and other technologies, yes you need to understand it but just because you can’t do that kind of development, it doesn’t mean you’re not a web designer.

  • http://www.acquiweb.com/blog Darren Taylor

    I think you could easily rename this article 5 pet peeves good developers have with bad developers! Nothing annoys me more than seeing a great design badly badly translated to a web page. It doesn’t happen in my team, I enforce a very strict QA process in my team of designers and developers so I think there’s only one reason for peeves and that is laziness. I recall a couple of years ago I took issue with the head of another team (I work in Gov) and pointed out this very issue to him, gave him a snag list taken from a sample of sites they were responsible for and they still didn’t fix them. It’s a lazy, carefree attitude that now means we don’t design for anybody else.

  • http://othercreative.com Nathski

    Being a “web” designer, I personally make it my business to know what’s possible from a developers point of view. As designers we have the creative eye and developers have the technical ablitlty. By knowing the limitations of whats achievable we can work together to produce better, more usable work.

    Recently we have been building a lot of CMS powered websites. Gone are the days of getting a designer to change your homepage or upload a new product. Now the client is in control of their web presence.

    So… you work hard to make it look perfect, you think about the colours, the type, the tone of voice, the users, the navigation.. Its a great bit of work, you’re proud of it.. its got your name on the credits.

    But the client is now in control of their content, that’s the way they wanted it. If they want to use comic sans as the font on their homepage they can. If they want to have their name in italic text with an underline then that’s up to them. If they want to have their badly scanned newspaper advert on the site as a new article then they should.. shouldn’t they.. they can do what they like.. they have the controls.

    Oh and its still got your name on the credits.

    • Jonas

      If the CMS gives the client full control over fonts etc you probably use the wrong CMS ;) Content needs to and can usually easily be controlled.

  • http://www.holls.co.uk holls

    @fungi “and did i mention the umpteen thousand friken unnamed photoshop layers…. those 50 are for the rollover states.”

    hahaha, oh man, yeah. I hate that so much.

    I’ve been kinda lucky and I’ve only worked with designers who understand the limitations of the medium. I have only once had a designer go princess on me over something (we disagreed on the width of a narrow, three-column, fixed-width layout that was leaving something like 100px for the main text body :/ ) and it was resolved pretty quickly. Aside from that I’ve always worked great alongside designers, including designers that don’t have any real understanding of code. Communication is the main thing – there’s no shame in saying “dude, I’m having a problem working this into the code, can we go over a couple of options until we’ve got something we’re both happy with?”

  • Gabriel Agu

    IMHO, these problems are only typical for junior designers and junior developers. Experienced designers and developers don’t have this kind of problems, because they share the common goal of getting the project done right, and their experience has taught them how to resolve the issues. For example, a good designer would know what can and cannot be implemented correctly cross-browser, and a good developer would know how to implement properly most designs, making them look good on all major browsers. Expertise tends to solve most such problems. :)

    About the “Developers want a website to work right, designers want it to look right” part, I tend to differ. Designers build the visual component having in mind the experience as a whole (or at least they should), and that implies the way it works too. So designers too want the website to work right too, besides looking right.

  • http://www.affiliatedating.net/ Simon Clements-Hawes

    Sounds like a past experience of mine, many designers know nothing about the actual building of web pages (same can be said for some devs!).

    In my case, the designer ended up learning how to do everything himself as he was annoyed at the colour, margin and alignment issues – leaving me redundant lol.

  • http://perfectflow.org Aleksandar Tasevski

    It is easyer when the developer and the designer is the same person, or in my case the designer is my brother :) Anyways, good post.

    • Russ

      Thats great if you get on with your own brother. In my experience, working with brothers or best friends has been even worse!! I find they tell you what you want to hear instead of giving you an honest opinion of the work at hand.

  • http://athenaemily.com Athena Emily

    Great article! Thanks!!
    Very interesting facts

  • Pau lJ

    reference to Pet Peeve #2:

    “…he was a huge fan of our content manager, who sent all of her emails in pink text on a lime-green background). ”

    you say “he” but then say “her emails”. sounds like an interesting friend to me ;) may want to fix that.

    • http://www.speaking-in-styles.com Jason CranfordTeague

      “Her” refers to the content manager, not the developer.

      • Pau lJ

        thanks for the clarification. i was reading with the wrong mindset

  • http://www.mydatbroker.com JP

    I trip over these on a daily basis with my developer. Great stuff going to forward to him for enlightenment.

  • http://www.sunshine-design.co.uk Jon

    Great article but I can’t help but think it paints developers in a rather negative light.

    Some of us actually enjoy trying to do a fantastic design justice. Unfortunatly we’re always the ones telling you what can’t be done so we can come across as the bad guys. It’s nice working with designers who recognise that unforseen circumstances that come up during development are best resolved through collaberation. It’s all about communication.

    Most of our issues with designs come through designers using Lorum Ipsum. I think you need to be able to think about how you can break your design, in the same way a developer thinks of ways users might break his code – the end result is more robust.

  • http://www.wevegotideas.com jhoysi

    This is why it’s more and more important for designer’s to have an understanding – if only basic – of HTML and CSS and the limitations therein. I’m both a designer and a developer, and have fulfilled both roles independently and as part of an entire team.

    Communicating during the design process is a must. I did several projects as the team’s developer for a company where the lead designer did not have a grasp of HTML and CSS. Once the design is approved by the client, it gets much harder to talk about restrictions and leveraging functionality and usability for aesthetic, because it becomes “The design is approved. You HAVE to make this!” instead of really weighing the pros and cons of going with a certain look, but giving up some scalability.

    That, and pixel-perfect design across all browsers is just unpractical. Again, it goes back to the designer needing an understanding of the limitations during the design process – or having open communication with their developer before the client gives their seal of approval on a design.

  • http://beingastarvingartistsucks.com Jeremy Tuber

    Hey this is a great post Jason, nice work!
    In all honesty, I’ve been working with a developer for years but I’ve never run into these problems with him (maybe I got lucky). It’s still a funny list to look at though…

    In handling the “special bonus peeve” here’s a Verbal Kung Fu example of what the designer might try, “I can see why you might want to go that way (talking to the developer), it’s actually not a bad way to go but the reason why the design was set up this specific way was to ensure that we had plenty of white space on page. From doing this for years, I’ve found that one of the biggest complaints clients have with the web site is that it looks cluttered – I’ve designed this in such a way that it avoids that issue. Does that make sense?”

    You’re right, the designer should tactfully explain why the design works – petty arguing will just make the situation worse. Nice list here.


  • r_jake

    As stated, web designer and developer roles overlap; if they are viewed as opposing forces, then problems will surely occur.

    If you are a WEB designer (rather than a PRINT designer) then surely success within that role will require you to have a reasonable understanding of the world of the developer – just as an architect isn’t expected to draw buildings without knowing a bit about engineering…

    Equally a developer should have an appreciation of the importance of visual communication for the end result to meet its aims. No good having a functioning web site if the flow and presentation of content is incomprehensible and it’s so ugly users run a mile!

    Interesting that most of the comments here so far are from developers.

    • http://www.speaking-in-styles.com Jason CranfordTeague

      Generally, I agree, there is a lot of overlap, or should be. But I’ve worked with a lot of teams where this was just not the case and both teams saw a huge gap between them. Part of my previous job, though, was working to bridge that gap, and this article grew out of those observations.

  • http://human3rror.com John (Human3rror)

    puaha. excellent. funniest thing i’ve read today.

  • http://www.thecreativeoutfit.com KoSfB

    Two points:

    1. If (as a designer) you find a good developer – give us some wiggle room. I guess this falls in line with you’re #1 point. The biggest pet peeve of developers is a designer who can’t design for the web, where the finished product is almost always at least a bit different than the concept. A lot of designers get so locked into their design that they get angry with even the slightest change. If you give a developer some room to tweak a design for compatibility/size/etc. you can often reach a much better end-product and avoid the bitterness. Tell us which parts are really important, and which parts we can mold a bit and to what extent, and don’t get all pissy when I come to you with something that simply won’t work on the web.

    2. Some developers can design, your “bonus peeve” really kinda pissed me off. I understand it in the case of “I’ve read some articles and played with Photoshop”-developer, but others of us actually have a background in design. I’m not thinking that we should be designing full concepts, but if you have an area that’s going to be a little tricky to convert to the web why not let us take a stab at it, or at least put together some initial ideas.

  • http://www.roundrobinstudios.com Kyle

    I personally think this article is horrible. I read this blog daily and have loved everything but this post.

    The web is changing, there are entirely too many languages and too much competition to just be a Front-End developer or designer (which this article seems to be targeting). For a web designer to not understand these problems before hand just means they arent good designers. Its the designers job to understand the difficulties of developing and to plan their concepts accordingly.

    My point is every designers should know how to do xhtml/css, and every developer should know elements of design. A architect can’t layout the blue print of a house if they don’t know how its going to be built. If the house needs to be made out of brick, they can’t design in vinyl siding.

    This of course excludes backend, and action scripting.

    • http://www.speaking-in-styles.com Jason CranfordTeague

      Sorry you didn’t like the article, but I completely agree that designers need to know CSS and XHTML. In fact (WARNING: SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION TO FOLLOW) my book _Speaking In Styles_ which will be out next week, was written specifically for designers who want to learn CSS and I regularly teach designers about CSS.

    • Russ

      I agree with what you are saying, it would be good if you could be a ‘jack-of-all-trades’. However, you have pretty much contradicted yourself here –

      “The web is changing, there are entirely too many languages and too much competition to just be a Front-End developer or designer”

      I’m a web developer and I can tell you I certainly don’t have time to learn ALL the languages used for web pages out there. XHTML and CSS yeah, but what about the others that go into these pages?

      • Russ

        My apologies – I read what you said incorrectly! Feel free to slap me.

        I completely AGREE with you.

  • http://www.kevinchoppin.com Kevin Choppin

    I’d have to disagree, i’m a developer and just think that the developers you’re referring to in this article are just plain lazy. It may be because i’m a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to front-end also, but I completely see where the designers are coming from. Design is just as important to them as function is to us. At the same time the aforementioned designers, knew what they were doing as they were also front-end coders. So they would design with the development in mind.

    • http://www.acquiweb.com/blog Darren Taylor

      Here here Kevin!

  • http://www.csswithcolour.com Liv

    That actually happens because a web developer didn’t do anything that’s related to web design.

    Myself, for example, I also web design and develop XHTML&CSS webpages; I know how important is to respect the dimensions, borders, etc.

    I’ve seen a lot of programmers that just breaks the design because they think it’s good enough at it is and pay absolutely no attention to details.

  • Lisa

    Woah, Roalda. The “F1rst” fad is pretty old. Especially if you are hear to learn more about webdesign.

  • http://missskywalker.deviantart.com Grace

    Wow this is really helpful, something to watch out for when I get to college. But I can relate to a lot of the peeves when I’m in class and its like why won’t anybody see it my way hehe. Awesome article.

  • http://www.crearedesign.co.uk Adam

    I’ve had several of those issues you’ve described with developers, but you just have to work alongside them and do the things that they don’t understand. It’s the same as them expecting you to program ASP perfectly – ain’t gonna happen!

  • Capa

    I must be the weird cross breed here: I learnt coding languages from about the age of 13 then from 16 I trained for 5 years as a photographer and graphic designer and then decided to return to code in the form of web development. Gives me an interesting insight in to the two mind sets at work; designers often think outside the box to create flowing and interesting designs whereas development requires you to work within a set of standards (W3C for example) that must not be broken. This, I think, is the fundamental difference in approach between the devs and designers that causes most of the friction.

  • http://www.sunfalldesigns.com Casey Hald

    This is a very balanced and mature article. Great advice for both designer and developer alike.


    -Casey Hald

  • http://graphicleftovers.com/recent/page/15 Daniel Errante

    I am a developer who used to not pay attention to a few of the things you are mentioning, but after working with a designer full time for a year now, I have come to pay attention to white space and colors especially. Our process is very streamlined now and we can turn around sites very quickly since we can communicate well together.

    Very good points in your article!

  • http://matt-radel.com Matt Radel

    Best scenario – become a designer / frontend developer. If you really want to control every pixel, you NEED to be fluent in html & css. I resisted it at first, but the payoff is huge – and most likely you’ll find yourself looking forward to coding. You’ll be more independent (especially if you’re charged with building a static site) and have fewer nasty surprises throughout the development process. You’ll even wind up speaking a little of the developer’s language. :)

  • http://blog.jakerocheleau.com/ Jake

    I will say that I feel as though I am more of a coder than a designer, but I do agree that if you only have the power to create a mockup in Photoshop but can’t fully control how the design is displayed in a web browser, you aren’t really a web designer. You’re just a graphic artist, or Photoshop designer at best.

  • http://www.vu-tran.com/ Vu Tran

    First, I’d like to say this is a very interesting article.

    I’m a developer, not much a designer. I agree as some of the other readers that your special bonus peeve is just declaring that developers are a lazy bunch. Each sides follow their own practice and knows the rules for the process.

  • http://eveltdesign.com joel k.

    good post –
    I’m still a rookie in both areas design and “web design” trying to get inspirational design and browser compatibility is tough.

    most of the time I’m both the designer and developer, and i can have all this Peeves with my self, :)
    scaling down my design or switching to tables (yuck) is not an option for me
    so this takes me to Peeve #5: “how long?”
    how can i tell…(to my self)

  • http://www.fjdesingstudio.com Jason

    Great article! not just focusing on one side but both, designers and developers. Very well written! Congrats!

  • http://thefrosty.com The Frosty

    Oh, the peeves of my pets…

  • http://www.hollsk.co.uk HollsK

    Man, a lot of you guys are really hard on graphic designers. I agree that it’s goot to have a broad skillset, but there’s nothing wrong with specialising in a niche area. I don’t expect my designers to know anything about MySQL, and they don’t expect me to know anything about Illustrator. We’ve got each other for that.

  • http://www.mediacontour.com Media Contour

    It is important to hire designers that are sympathetic with developers and developers that are sympathetic with designers. A bad designer or a bad developer can slow down a companies work flow, get them off track, and lose customers, yet this can be avoided if you hire friendly, non-confrontational employees who are willing to work diligently towards a shared goal. Specifically defining the ultimate goal of the employees in the company is essential for cooperation among designers, developers, and any other employees of a company.

  • http://inspectelement.com Tom Kenny

    I strongly believe that designers should know how to code CSS to a good level, giving them a good enough understanding of how designs are transformed into actual built sites. Knowing CSS to a high level can help designers help them push the boundaries their work. I believe this can go some way to help minimize any problems between designers.

    Communication is probably the most important aspect for designers and developers. Not just any communication though, good communication. Learning HTML and CSS as a designer can go a long way to improve the communication between all parties.

    Thats all I can add to your excellent points without thinking about it too much. Great post.

  • http://www.myintervals.com John

    Looking forward to a post on the inverse problem developers have with designers. Some ideas…

    “The text isn’t wrapping right, could you get rid of those orphans and widows?”
    “It’s HTML text! We can’t control wrap like you can in print”
    “OK, let’s just make it so the wrap looks good on the CEOs browser. Can you add a line break after the world ‘the?'”

    “We created this design using the same guidelines as (insert big company name here), that’s why it’s 1280×1024.”
    “But your analytics show that 60% of your audience is using 1024×768”
    “Yes, but we really are trying to preserve the ‘brand’ here”

    Hey, now I have an idea for a blog post!

  • http://www.truenorthe.com Courtney

    Okay, yeah the spacing thing is so true. Space is good, really good, and developers just get rid of it. Good point.

  • Diane

    The comments are as amusing as the article, ha! Glad this isn’t a just gripe session – the professionals are all saying the same thing: Web Designers and Web Developers worth hiring know a bit of both and work together.

    I’d love to see some best practices articles about slicing and optimizing these comp images. I find a lot of “look at the pretty pictures!” and very little “look at the pretty code!” Layouts are useless if you can’t implement them.

    It will be interesting to see how programs like Expression Blend and SketchFlow will move into the market. (I can imagine some designers freaking out that they aren’t Adobe.) But the idea of a developer and a designer working on the same file at the same time will be a beautiful marriage … or a cage fight.

    I’ve come to the conclusion if you don’t know a bit of both design and code, you are vastly under skilled in a competitive market.

    I hope webdesignerdepot.com is going to address both and keep the good stuff coming!Glad to read you plan another article from the developer’s side. Great discussion!

  • Zach S

    In my experience, I’ve felt having 3 people specialize in different departments turn out the best work. You have the Graphic Designer that handles the comps, flash edits, etc. You have the Front End Developer that specializes in HTML/CSS that does the buildouts, site updates, asset images, etc. Then you have a Web Developer/Programmer who handles the back end, making the site work specializing in PHP, ASP, etc. Ideally you’d have the Front End Developer sit with the Designer making sure stuff translates to the web. A lot of times I know what icons and link colors will make stuff stand out, while the Designer may not notice such stuff. Unless the Web Developer knows great HTML/CSS that’s why you’ll have some of these problems because you’re not using the right person to build your designs.

    And Designers, please organize your layers by sections and naming (ie, Header, Body, Footer) them before you hand it off to the next person! I HATE messy comps.

  • http://www.crearedesign.co.uk paul

    mmm seems that some people can develop as well as design, i suppose the people who on either end of the spectrum and not somewhere in between finds it the worst since they may struggle to find out what issues each side are having. good to do back ground research on both aspects!

  • Markus

    “Developers know they will encounter unforeseen problems and so tend to grossly pad their estimates.”

    We do this because there will always(!) happen unforseen things in developement. Starting from “Did I mention I wanted the logo to fly in from the top?” to “Looks great in the preview but could you add function XY in the final?”.

    And when the real content is added many of the design decissions are altered and thus part of the development needs to be done again and again.

  • Chris Estes

    Dear Sweet Designer Mavens with Ugly Glasses,

    This is all very well and good. But when you are given an 80-layer PSD with rock-concert-level lighting effects, fonts designed on Mars, majestically sweeping menu effects, fade ins and fade outs based on clicks, told it must look the same in all browsers and that the deadline is in three days….

    Well, the language for this would even be rejected by the Internet. Remember this web thingy has One Great Truth — The more control you try to have the less you actually do have.

  • http://www.thegraphicmac.com Jim

    Only issue I had was with the closing solution: “make sure you can justify why you broke it.”

    I’m paying the developer – I don’t have to “justify” squat. Obviously, you’ll want to be nice about it, but the idea that I have to “explain” my reasoning behind my design to someone who is paid to do what I ask of them is absurd.

    But this is a great article, and as you stated early on, communication is the key!

    • http://www.nexustechnologiesllc.com Charles Boyung

      Gee, I’m a developer, and I’m the one paying the designer, so he sure as hell better be able to explain why he’s breaking a convention, especially since I know a heck of a lot more about usability and user experience than just about any designer I’ve ever met. You may be paying a developer in your situation, but in more situations than not, I would say that the designer is NOT the one paying the developer.

  • Emu

    You can be a web designer and not know how to build your design into HTML/CSS?


  • Bryan

    I didn’t read through all the comments, but being that i am both a designer/developer i would just say one thing to designers… you have to learn the internet world then you can respect the work that has to be done after the design.

    its kinda like someone hearing a song and thinking its easy to play on the guitar, its disrespectful to the musician and 85% of the time you wont be able to figure it out, it just sounds easy cause your just listening, not playing it…

    all in all, good article, but now you have to make the opposition article. Pet Peeves Developers have with Designers, Like using fonts that they know WONT WORK :) hehe

  • dave

    As a developer what I see is to many designers who think they can suddenly code which rarely turns out well…. Especially the ones who go into php and a week later think they are OOP gods!

    The problem is that the train of thought between the two is different and the functionality is different. It’s like a developer builds the house and the designer paints it and makes it look perdy… but then suddenly the designer thinks he can now build a house… No he can’t & he shouldn’t try, same as the home builder shouldn’t think he can make it look as good as a designer, he can’t & shouldn’t try.

    The best partnerships are where each knows enough of the others to understand what the other is asking.

  • http://www.serenedestiny.com Nicole

    Thank god I am a designer and a developer. If I was just a designer or just a developer, I would go nuts on the other person.

    I believe the best way to solve this problem is for a designer to also be a developer and a developer to be a designer. Then we all can understand both sides.

  • http://www.341design.com.au Chris Howard

    Great article, and yes, it does need the complimentary article James suggested at the third post.

    I am like many others here, both developer and designer. I was a developer first (a computer nerd of many years) then got quals in graphic design.

    I totally disagree with those who say designers should be able to build their sites in HTML and CSS.

    In my second year of graphic design we had a unit of web design and the teacher tried to teach html/css but failed dismally. Not because of the him, but because their brains just don’t work the same. It hurt their brains to even learn the basics.

    (I on the other hand absolutely zoomed along, was in my element)

    HTML and CSS might seem easy to us developers but for most designers it’s torture. Just as learning design can be hard for developers. It took me into the second year to “get it”.

    Expecting designers to know HTML and CSS is rather pretentious, really. And dangerous! A little knowledge can be, after all.

    Whether designer or developer, we are the expert and it’s up to us to tactfully convey to the other the whys and why nots.

    If the other party has some knowledge of our field, that should be appreciated as a bonus, but certainly not expected.

  • http://twitter.com/tracepoint James

    I think that most of these problems can be avoided by both designers and developers having a grounding in each others work. If a designer has no idea what is and isn’t possible to recreate within the boundaries of HTML, CSS and Javascript then they are infinitely more likely to produce something that isn’t possible. Likewise, if a developer has no knowledge about design they are more likely to ignore the fine details of the design layout when they are implementing the design.

    I’ve worked with both developers and designers who had no interest in or knowledge about the other side of the project and it is always a headache inducing nightmare. I’m not suggesting everyone be a master of both areas, but you should know enough to know that #FFFFFF is not ‘close enough’ if my design specifies #E8E8E8 and that a 2MB background image is unrealistic.

  • http://www.metaspring.com Ian

    I would agree that these things are likely very true, but a lot of these can be solved simply by designers learning a little more development lingo. Not only does it help your designs, but it can also help you to understand some potential usability issues that could crop up during development, and give you some insights on how to solve them. We happen to have a great development team, where we both have done work on both sides of the fence, and I think that goes a long way to help everyone work harmoniously with one another.

    And yes, don’t we all know and love the non-designer people who think they are designers ;)

  • http://www.fuzzylizard.com Chris Johnston

    Personally, I think there is a simple solution to all of these peeves, designers should be able to code their sites in html and css. Designers sitting in their cubicles using photoshop and handing designs off to a bunch of developers is not collaboration is, of course, going to lead to conflicts. Designers who understand HTML and CSS and can work directly with developers to turn their designs into web pages will result in less conflict and better designs and web pages as the designers will understand what can and cannot be done on the web.

    And the argument that a designers brain is incapable of understanding HTML is ludicrous as evidence by all the self-declared designer/developers. On the other hand, I have to wonder, if these people are doing either well by dividing all their time and effort between two things.

    Bottom line, a design is not finished by a designer until it has been turned into html. It is the developers job to add the javascript and dynamic content to that design.

  • the dude

    i’d like to write a similar rebuttal piece about problems developers have with “web designers”.

    problem #1: most classically trained web designers don’t know shit about the internet. they are in the business of designing webpages because PRINT is DEAD and they have to make money somehow. they try to make every page look like a postcard and they crush usability. they know nothing about information architecture, just kerning, whitespace and layering. if my designer knew that a 3 column 483px grid with ambiguous gutter padding was a little impractical, if not totally meaningless, then we wouldn’t have any problems whatsoever. if my designer knew how to make a repeatable background vs. making a giant ass background image with some texture he ripped off of your site, then we’d have less problems.

    maybe the solution is DESIGNERS NEED TO BE SPECIFIC. don’t make me pull out the e-ruler and count pixels between the 134px tall header and the content. make a layer on the PSD with actual number values in there. get me a screenshot of your design on 1024×768 so that i don’t have to tell you that it doesn’t fit.

    if i was your developer, i’d be ashamed that you think of him/her as a lazy simpleton.

    don’t put all the blame on the developers, they’re sometimes pretty good guys and gals.

  • Ryan

    @liam, I agree with you.

    If you’re a designer, you need to step up and progress with the rest of us. There is no excuse to not at least try and learn more about your career field. And if you don’t, well, you’ll be replaced eventually unless you’re just that great of a designer.

  • David

    Ughh. Nothing worse than a designer who doesn’t know anything about html/css and how the web works. Those designers should stick to designing brochures and letterhead.

  • scott

    Web designers need to be able to build their designs in HTML/CSS. A little Javascript would be good too, but I that’s a bonus. Otherwise they’re just Photoshop designers and don’t have any business doing web work. I saw a lot of that back in the late 90’s when print designers started doing websites. AND I thought all that was over until I came to my current company where it feels like the designers are in some sort of union where they prohibited from learning HTML.

  • http://sixrevisions.com Jacob Gube

    The solution here is that you should provide developers the (X)HTML/CSS. Developers should be working on server-side and client-side scripting and the database. Web designers should be creating the front-end markup. That resolves all the pet peeves here. The role of a web designer isn’t to draw up a mockup, it’s create the front-end design.

  • http://www.341design.com.au Chris Howard

    The arrogance of some developers here is absolutely breathtaking.

    It reminds me of an incident a few years back I heard from a frustrated accounts department where a developer wouldn’t put “Invoice/Statement” on that document because he refused to accept that it was a legal requirement to enable clients to pay on that document. (He just put “Statement”)

    Several years ago I worked for a bank as a developer. To do the best job it meant learning about their systems and processes. But I didn’t have to do the work of the staff who’d use the systems. That has been the case wherever I worked as a developer – finance, police, community, councils, etc

    As a designer, I have to learn about the mediums I work with and what limitations there are – but I don’t have to go and do the work of someone who works in that medium. Eg recently I designed some flags, a medium I hadn’t designed for before. So I rang the flag maker and discussed the limitations. By doing that, my designs required much less tinkering by the flag maker. But it didn’t require me to learn how to sew the flags together.

    I recently did a WordPress site where I was the developer. I had to educate the designer a bit on what would and wouldn’t work, but certainly his zero knowledge of html/css was not a disadvantage. And even if he knew them, there would still have been issues with WordPress anyway because of its limitations.

    When a designer has a deeper understanding of the web that’s a bonus, just as it’s a bonus for designers when a developer has a deeper understanding of the principles of design.

    It’s our job as web developer to educate the designer about limitations – which will be different with each system, eg WordPress, Flash, xHTML/CSS, Drupal, inhouse, etc etc etc without the designer having to learn to code html/css.

    And as a designer we need to accept it when the developer says “it really can’t/shouldn’t be done that way”.

    Those of you demanding designers learn html/css are giving developers a bad name.

    And clearly prove why Webdesigner Depot had to run this article in the first place.

  • http://www.341design.com.au Chris Howard

    I think the problem is graphic designers vs web designers.

    I think the web developers here expect those doing web design should be specialist web designers, rather than a graphic designer who does web design.

    A graphic designer can and does work across many mediums, not just print. They can do design for print, signage, packaging, t-shirts, etc. And in each of those they don’t just design what’s written or illustrated on them, they often actually design the physical piece.

    But they don’t have to actually learn how to make the piece. They might make a simple mockup though.

    They do have to learn about the limitations and advantages of the materials they are working with.

    When it comes to web, how can a graphic designer make a mock up? xHTML/CSS? Yes, but that’s a much more different skill to learn than mocking up a sign or package. Those are hands on, an area graphic designers are comfortable. But coding is deep in the left brain, usually a long way from the designer’s right-brain.

    What does a graphic designer do if they don’t have the skills to mock up a design? They pay a specialist. E.g the company who is going to make the sign.

    In web design it’s easy to find that specialist because it is the developer they are going to work with.

    If someone is going to **specialize** in web design, then I agree, they should learn as much as they can about web technologies. (Just as a package designer will learn as muchj as they can about packaging technologies) But if they want to specialize, they probably already have enough left-brainedness to learn xHTML/CSS..

    But if a graphic designer want to do web design jobs as well as print, signage, packaging etc, we shouldn’t dismiss them because they can’t code xHTML/CSS.

    We just need to teach them about the limitations and then do the mockups for them – after all, if the developer is doing the mockups, he will get paid more.

    We should welcome graphic designers to do web design, not shun them coz they don’t know coding. They can enrich web design because their minds aren’t restricted by constant exposure to web designs only.

    So, specialists web designers, yes, it’s in your best interest to learn **as much as you can** about web design.

    Graphic designers working across different mediums – you are most welcome to contribute to the web design space.

  • http://enlightenyourelement.net Nick

    Thanks so much for writing this, it really helped me. I’m a designer/developer (depending on the project) and sometimes both. I’ve had communication issues with designers who were less technology-wise and developers who were less design-wise. After reading this, I can see where many of the disconnects were :)

  • Anne

    I’m with #11 … I’m both a designer and developer – life is peaceful ….

  • http://www.toroca.co.uk Tom Cash

    This post, albeit interesting, is very bias towards the idea that developer not understanding the designer… Perhaps a more balanced view in the next one?

  • Colin McCormick

    I’m with #11, #71 and all others who consider themselves designers and developers I think we are all in good position for either side of this argument.

    I’d just like to make a comment on peeve #4. Any designer, who does not understand that browsers display pages in slightly different ways, is not truly a web designer. Similarly, anyone who is designing for the web and does not consider “the fold” when designing, is not a web designer. These are fundamental concepts in web design. Although in saying that, I believe that “the fold” is grossly over emphasised. This is 2009, web users are now capable of scrolling.

  • Milk

    I’m a developer, and I’ve worked in a company, where I payed attention to white-space and usability, while the designer just cared about his rounded corners.. That’s it, round everything, that content area, that box with the form, even the inputs, oh, and lets overlap the inputs so that it looks really nice.

    And in this same design, I had to create new images, since most of the borders and rounded corners, didn’t match (in color and position) after he sliced them, he was using a vector tool, and some borders had 2px, some had 1px..

    But, really, this article will not help anyone since it clearly leans to the designer side, while there shouldn’t be no side at all.

    I agree there are some developers out there that just don’t care about the details, and I’ve seen a lot of bad sites (design and code wise) in my last job, but I can guarantee that for the most part, a developer who cares, will probably care the same if not as much as you, not about the design, but about the users.

  • http://www.creativeindividual.co.uk Laura Montgomery

    I find it interesting how people are taking one side or the other (designer or developer) and the people who are saying the least are generally the people who do both… coincidence? I think not!

    I understand that as a designer, if a developer doesn’t get the small details right, it can totally throw your whole design’s balance out of whack! But do not bite their head off over it, after all its your profession, so work with the developer to sort it out.

    And developers, I get what your saying about designers understand HTML and CSS and all things internet. Yes I agree that the designer should understand the media they are working for…but stop and think, if all the designers are able to develop at a decent level…what are you going to do?

    I’m so glad that I do both, and that the only back experience I’ve had of short-sighted developers (and designers) have been through posts like this.

    But one thing to note, sometimes (quite often actually) the biggest problem on a website project, is the customer! Especially those who either don’t know what they want, or who want everything, even if the functions contradict each other!

  • http://www.affiliatedating.net/ Simon Clements-Hawes

    I genuinely think one of the worst scenario’s of dev vs design is when the designer is only experienced with print design and doesn’t understand that web sites aren’t constrained to exact dimensions. There are so many aspects to design that I think the term is often mis-used.
    This is more prevalent when the designer continues to ignore the differences in media.

    Likewise, there are a lot of dev’s out there who should be re-titled (myself including lol).

    A lot of dev vs design issues can be cooled by a good project manager – ideally someone who’s been on both sides of the fence and understands both arguments (while appeasing both sides and getting the job done).

  • http://www.enricofoschi.com Enrico Foschi

    Great article guys.

    Anyway, please correct Jakob NielSON to Jakob NielSEN :)

    • http://www.webdesignerdepot.com Walter

      Corrected, thanks for that :)

      • http://www.enricofoschi.com Enrico Foschi

        Glad to help. BTW, great website and awesome articles :)

  • http://www.irregularactivity.co.uk/ Darren Cornwell

    There is of course another solution but it all depends on the size of your team project – I tend to find that when working on larger projects it pays to have a pure designer (competent in xhtml / css / js / xml) to work solely on the designs and a team of PHP developers who know little about design but are kick ass devs.

    Code is kept separate from design, so our designs always look the same as the comps, in every browser thanks to our design team.

    Our underlying framework and cms’s work as expected too. I would never expect one of our devs to start working from the design end and the same is true of our designers / markup experts.

    Just my .2c

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  • Roach

    I am a Designer and a Developer. At my day job, I am a developer, so I tread lightly with designer egos. I use my design skills to understand what a designer is after in a comp – usually with great success. Most of my design work gets done outside my day job as freelance work. It’s great that I actually am a designer, but I still have to be careful when my design expertise is not requested – unless I’m having a bad day and I want to have some fun and piss somebody off. :)

  • http://www.silent-t.com/ Margot

    For #2: It’s not just that colours look different on Macs and PCs, colours are rendered differently in different browsers as well, so even though you may have the same hex code for red in Photoshop and in Firefox, that red may look slightly different in Firefox than in Photoshop. It’s just the way the browsers are programmed to handle colour, and there isn’t much anybody can do about it.

  • http://www.silent-t.com/ Margot

    And @Colin (#73): As for the fold, yeah people can scroll down in their browser, but that’s not the fold. “The fold” comes from the newspaper originally, where what people saw first and what would grab their attention first and essentially get them to buy the paper is what was placed above the fold. People were fully capable of unfolding the paper and seeing the entire front page, just like people can scroll down and to see the entire page of a website, but that’s not the first thing they see that catches their attention and informs them about where they are and what they’re looking at. Designers know they only have miliseconds to communicate so much information to a visitor, so you don’t want to leave anything important under the fold, ’cause people need to get it immediately for proper graphic communication.

    And if anybody’s wondering, yeah, I do both web and graphic design, and I have for years.

  • http://www.iamchad.com Chad

    As a developer first and schooled as a designer second, I can completely appreciate the nuances between the two positions. You hit on some great points. The first and foremost thing to realize is there will always be differences between the two if neither one has been on the other side of the fence. Developing a relationship with the other side will prove beneficial on so many levels. Don’t argue points with each other for the sake of arguing. Acknowledge each others views and work together to further your dialog to ensure future project will run more smoothly…its a learning experience for both.

  • Mat

    Great article and great comments! It really comes down to communication – I generally consult with my developer prior to designing comps. I’ll share my ideas, expectations as well as listen to any concerns they may have. There’s still a level of back and forth, but it’s to be expected.

  • Tripod

    Absolutely Mat. There must be collaboration between designer and developer throughout the design phase, but also throughout the development phase. No concepts should be presented to the client before the developer reviews it, and no website should be launched until the designer reviews it. There must also be a mutual respect between the two. The designer must be able to understand and appreciate usability and functionality, and the developer must be able to recognize why design is necessary. Once I finally understood this, all the bickering and resentment was eliminated. Yes there’s still back and forth, but it was out of respect from both parties.

  • Vik

    What’s most interesting to me about this discussion is the variation in skill sets. (Full disclosure – though I’ve occasionally and reluctantly filled both roles, I’m a developer by trade and have done the hiring.) I expect a designer to know HTML and CSS at a minimum. To me, that’s part of the difference between graphic or print design and web design, and seems (on the surface) to be different from many of your perspectives.

    A good followup to this article might speak to the skill sets that developers and designers have, either in your organization, your studio, or what you look for when outsourcing (from either developer or designer perspective). I hear designers talking all the time about CSS, but developers not so much.

    The only item I disagree with above is holding somebody to an estimate, and that’s because there’s a reason it’s called an estimate.

    Lastly, the term ‘developer’ can vary wildly from place to place. I’d expect a front end developer to be fluent in Javascript and the DOM at the very least, with some PHP/Python/similar skills. Most web developers that I know, however, do their work on the back end. Again, with another set of skills – .NET and/or JSP/servlets/custom tag libraries, XML and possibly XSLT, SQL, database and or server admin, and that’s even before you get to things like Spring, Hibernate, etc.

    Nobody can do it all, and it’s been my experience that cultivating the right fit (which may mean give and take on everybody’s part) makes it all work. If either a developer or the designer is the project manager, then I’d say that’s a big part of any frustrations; you really need somebody that has a grasp of the entire picture and the issues that may arise.

  • klara

    I know some designers know only about designing but a webdesigner must be an XHTML/CSS-wizard.
    Makes me think about a mason who told me about this architect who gave him a plan for a house with the walls only one crayon-line thick. That gave him the option to either reduce the rooms by two times the width of a brick (imagine the smallest room) or to halve the stairs.
    A good designer is a good technician. As a webdesigner I can find as much pleasure in divs and pixels and elasticity as I can find in paper and ink.

  • http://pollyfolio.com/ Polly

    The brutal truth. Nice article :)

  • Isaiah

    its so nice to be both though i can avoid all of these problems and do my work. :D

  • http://finance.varolmak.com Sarah

    Web designers need to be able to build their designs in HTML/CSS. A little Javascript would be good too, but I that’s a bonus. Otherwise they’re just Photoshop designers and don’t have any business doing web work. I saw a lot of that back in the late 90’s when print designers started doing websites. AND I thought all that was over until I came to my current company where it feels like the designers are in some sort of union where they prohibited from learning HTML.

  • http://www.michaelladdie.co.uk michaell4

    I believe points 1,2,3 and 4 cannot be blamed on a developer. Based on my experience working at various agencies, they are all developer tasks.

    This is my ‘holy grail’:
    Web Design = Photoshop, HTML and CSS
    Developer = javascript and server side code.
    I refuse to do html unless it is a required output of the server side code. As for CSS i don’t touch it unless its on a personal level.

    Designers seem to think that it should take the same time to develop a website as it does to create a PSD. This is not true. Designers fail to see, for example forms require the something to handle the initial submission and validation, then the process and confirmation/failure. When a designer sees a form all they see is the boxes, not the many lines of code that go into making the form work.

    TBH, I would like to see the day a designer within an agency can walk the talk and not just babble what they have read on the internet.

    I cant believe that some designers think that a PSD is all that they have to do.

    • Lou

      However, “refusing to do html” limits your usefulness as a developer. Beware of the boundaries you set for yourself.

  • Brennan Young

    Nice one! And I am really happy this post includes ‘how to avoid’ in the title, which is what it’s really all about.

    My top peeve about developers *and* designers is when they badmouth each other behind each others’ backs, and then make zero effort to understand each other when they are in the same room!

    Misunderstandings are about knowledge gaps. If all you want to do is convince the other guy, you are by definition ignoring the possibility that there may be a gap in your own understanding of the problem.

    On the subject of estimation and ‘burning the midnight oil’ (point 5). This is a point of exquisite interest to both communities, I would hope. In any decent society, the trade unions would take steps to ensure that midnight oil is only burned on rare occasions, but such setups are rare. And of course, there is a lot of freelance going on.

    Well, if you’re working late on a regular basis, maybe it’s *your* estimations that are screwy, not the other guy’s. (This goes for both developers and designers). If you estimate sensibly, you can work ordinary hours and finish on time. That’s kind of the point of estimations, no? Don’t criticise someone else just because they want to avoid getting burned-out at the workplace. Give yourself the time you need, and don’t automatically assume that the client will turn down your expertise if you suggest a humane deadline. I was talking to a really successful web/multimedia guy a while ago and I asked “what’s your secret?”. He said “I always ask for long deadlines, under-promise and over-deliver”.

    And I must second the notion that designers need to know CSS, and preferably HTML too. If you think you’re a designer and don’t know CSS, your job is at risk. Seriously, there are plenty of really talented graphic designers out there who understand this, have trained themselves, and now they are looking for YOUR job. Take this as a friendly warning.

    BTW I am trained in visual arts, and self-taught in programming. I regard ‘design’ as something much more than (but naturally including) graphics. The graphic designers who routinely sneer at other aspects of design (such as development, information architecture or copy writing) are either poorly educated, or too arrogant to learn the relevant professional skills.

    Similarly, coders who think that graphics are just ‘skins’ need to realise that the programming concept of an interface (e.g. in Java) is not so very far from what the graphic designers are doing.

    The best designers and developers I have worked with have a bit of humility, and invariably have experience in other fields.

  • http://www.colakogluevdenevenakliye.com evden eve

    The brutal truth. Nice article

  • http://ted-apostoleris.com Ted Apostoleris

    I think most of the miscommunication is actually with the client. I’ve always worked well with the designers. The only challenge is when the designer and programmer come from different financial interests.

  • Brandon

    I started out my career as a web designer and in learning the basics of web development, I caught the coding bug. I am now head of web development.

    I have worked with some very talented designers through the years but here’s the issue. Just because you are a great designer does NOT make you a great WEB designer. I have noticed that an artist with a background in print really struggles with the transition to web, there seem to be very few designers that can actually understand the fundamentals of designing for the web. I strongly believe that you need to have a general understanding of code to succeed as a WEB designer.

    The design process needs to be a team effort in order for a project to succeed.

  • http://lyndit.com LyndiT

    Married to a web/ecommerce developer and for two years we were able to stumble through our own worlds of communication about web design projects. I don’t know if it is so much that we live in such different worlds as we both needed to learn to be better communicators. I think in general people are quick to judge or taking time to learn how to improve their listening skills, ask more questions and get clarification and feedback rather than doing the easy thing and just assuming everything is understood.

  • http://www.ospreye.com/blog Rhett

    Peeve #1 – Oh yeah? It depends on the developer. Not all developers are the same. Each developer has their strong points. I know some that are really good at database work, and some at the coding level (meaning vb, c#, etc) and then there’s the html, css stuff that the end user actually gets to see.

    I work at both designing and developing websites, not that I think I’m the best at design, but I find my designs are affected by what I know can be accomplished at the code level (meaning html+css).

    I think one that is missed on #1 – why can’t the developer just make it look like the comp? – is oftendtimes the limitations that are set on the project – such as working with a particular shopping cart or CMS that does not provide the level of access or flexibility for coders to do what they want. Believe me, there are coders/ developers who are very adept at making amazing things happen.

    Being employed as a developer, doesn’t make you a developer any more than being employed as a designer makes you a designer. I have often had to put on my ‘designer’ hat to touch up artwork that comes from design agencies looking granular, pixelated, fuzzy or with bad text antialising, etc.

  • http://www.treavioli.com Treavioli

    Oh god, I needed this post today. I work at a company where one developer/IT specialist controls everything (and with little knowledge about web standards). Me being a web designer with a programming/development sensibility, it really set me off to meet so much lack of cooperation. Luckily we had TWO project managers with us at a meeting to buffer but us sparring could’ve gone on for several hours. Working *with* a developer or someone with a technical background, could be really awesome but I need a teamworker not a brickwall. I most likely will be looking for a new job soon.

  • http://www.kailashiyer.com kailash

    I’ve manage to avoid this problem as a designer because:
    (a) I have a background in coding, so I keep the execution in mind while designing; and
    (b) The guy who develops all my sites is an old college buddy, and we’ve had a long working relationship.

  • http://masenchipz.com masenchipz

    Peeve #2: “The colors are all wrong!”
    hmmm… the colors is characteristics of your eyes *web :P

  • http://www.decoractivity.com decoractivity

    My guess is that this is due to installing software and not looking out for sneaky side-installs.

  • http://abstrainingguide.com Kyle Schmornoff

    And this is exactly why I’m trying to hone my skills in on the development side and the designer side. Avoid this kind of thing as much as possible. :P