RWD and design

A few days ago, Mark Boulton tweeted out this:

I wonder if #RWD looks the way it does because so many projects aren’t being run by designers, but by front-end dev teams.

And then, Tim Kadlec, responded with a blog post that said many, many smart things, you should go read it, but here is one of them:

Transitioning from the traditional waterfall/siloed approach to a fluid process where designers and developers are working more closely together can be a very difficult adjustment. Not only do you have to battle the internal politics involved in such a move, but you have to experiment to find the right comfort level.

After reading Tim’s piece I’ve been thinking for a bit about what he said. Coming from the front end dev world, where I am taking the design and making the responsivey good things happen, I’ve experienced both good and bad in this process. And the above quote from Tim’s piece perfectly summarizes why it is either a fun process or a painful process.

Whenever I’ve had access to the designer and we’ve worked closely together, it goes swimmingly. We can chat about what is happening, I can explain why something may not work, and the designer can push and prod at me to get me to try new things. That is the key to make RWD designs look different and do different things; having the designer push me and push me hard. I want the designer to ask me to rethink things when I say something can’t be done, to see where it leads us in the work. When it happens and you trust each other, it makes the work that much better.

But when there are layers between me and the designer, communication never goes well, it breaks down. The designer and I can’t push each other to make better work, to push the boundaries, and the work suffers as a result. Once communication breaks down, everyone involved is frustrated, annoyed, and just wants the project to finish.

At some of the places I’ve worked, transitioning to the developers and designers working this closely together was a hard proposition to make. Departmental differences play a role, but if you work for a consultancy, you may not even work for the same company as the designer. It’s hard, really hard, to make changes to work flows in large organizations but let us not forget, as Tim said, “Responsive design is still relatively young.” As the process, techniques, and more grow with age and wisdom, some of these things will be overcome. And if we, as designers and developers, push to work together, the work will get better.