Building a digital product is a challenging journey. If you’ve ever at least started working on one, you surely realize how many elements it consists of. Various details need to be considered to ensure the project’s success. Even though some of them may seem insignificant to you, in reality, they often have a powerful impact on the performance and popularity of your product. One of these elements is design!
A thoughtful design of your app’s interface can massively improve your users’ experience. And proper UX (user experience) makes people want to use your product. Why? Because it makes it intuitive, easy, and fun to use — and believe me, your users don’t want to struggle with finding features or information. If they’re forced to, they will most likely stop using your app even faster than they started. And it’s highly doubtful they will give it a second try anytime soon (if ever).
From the developer’s perspective, I can honestly tell you that having a designer’s guidance during the project makes our life (I mean, work) way much easier. It helps organize the workflow and gives us a clear perspective of the path we should follow to fulfill the project’s requirements. It protects us from wasting time on moving back, re-checking, and rebuilding components that don’t work properly together because they were not well thought through at the beginning. It also saves us lots of frustration and confusion during the project — which, in the end, helps us work more efficiently and provide better results.
There are many wrong assumptions (often based on thinking about a designer as an unnecessary extravagance) that can lead to various problems in your project or even its failure. That’s why, in this article, I want to dig into them and reveal the truth that can significantly impact your project’s success. Let’s dive in!
I don’t need a designer because…
1. I know how I want my app to look like
Think of the project development process as going to the gym. You go to a fitness studio, knowing precisely what you want your body to look like. You pick some exercises by intuition and go back to the gym every other day, working as hard as possible. You expect great results to be visible soon — but somehow, they’re not. How is that possible?
The problem is that your activities were chosen without professional knowledge. Hence, not only are your results not aligned with the effort you put into training, but also you’re at high risk of injury by exhausting your muscles unevenly. But there comes the personal trainer! With their help, you save time and energy, avoid the risk of injury and achieve much better results.
The same things happen when you involve an experienced designer in your project. If the product’s design is considered properly, your team can allocate their resources evenly. The back-end and front-end developers have a much easier time discussing the work division, and the whole team’s progress is balanced. Thus, the job can be completed faster and with better outcomes.
Think of it that way: after all, you hire specialists for your project anyways. You want to ensure your product will be well developed; therefore, you choose the best developers. You should apply the same approach to design. If you want your product to be attractive and convenient for your users, you need a specialist to help you make it happen.
2. I already have the design
If you’ve got the designs already — that’s fantastic. Having your ideas presented visually helps the team understand the vision for your product. The thing is, there is always a possibility that your project will encounter unexpected challenges — no matter if the design was prepared by a professional designer or not. How come, you may ask? After all, I keep telling you that having a designer should save you from understatements and inconsistencies. Let me explain.
Product development is a dynamic process. It can never be entirely predictable, and not every case can be thought of before starting actual work on functionality. (That’s also one of the reasons why you’ll never get a detailed calculation of your project but only the estimates). Hence, the presence of a designer in the team covers your back on a few different levels:
1. An experienced specialist, having already worked on many projects, has a better understanding of possible scenarios and can predict more potential paths. Thanks to that, such a person is able to prepare a more detailed design, which significantly reduces the risk of understatements, inconsistencies, or other problems that would require fixing (meaning: wasting your time and money) in the future.
2. If some unpredicted path will occur anyways, having a good designer on board makes it much easier to fill in the missing pieces or find a new approach to implementing some components. This way, the project can move forward without losing too much time (and money) trying to figure out the best solution.
3. An “unpredicted path” can also be a scenario in which, during the development process, you decide to add to your application a new element undiscussed before. Naturally, adding it requires extra time — so budget estimates for your project grow. They can grow even more if the new feature collides with the project’s fundamental assumptions (like architectural decisions) or is harder to implement than expected. In such cases, the support of an experienced designer is priceless. Without it, figuring out the proper way of implementation may (and most probably would) consume lots of time spent on testing various approaches and solutions — which, again, would unnecessarily hit your budget.
4. In cases like the one above, the support of a professional designer brings you one more benefit. If you come up with new functionality, they would add it to the existing designs before the team implements anything. Thanks to that, you get to know the scale of planned changes — which gives you a chance to assess if they are worth the time and resources they might consume. This way, you avoid the risk of moving on with ideas that could cost you a lot but not improve your product enough to make them worth the money.
Imagine your product has a feature that allows granting employees access to specific spaces — but only to one person at a time. At some point, you decide it would be more convenient if the access could be granted to a few people at once. Seems like an easy and quick change. But is it, really?
As it’s a real-life example, let me tell you what happened. When the designer started applying the changes to the design, it occurred they couldn’t be implemented without a complete reconstruction of the feature — because many related elements needed to be redesigned to allow the new version of the component to work as desired. Thanks to the designs, the team could show the client the complexity of such a change and discuss priorities. In the end, the client decided that the change wouldn’t impact the user experience enough to be worth the resources it would consume.
What’s also worth mentioning here: it’s commonly known that it’s usually easier to build something from scratch than integrate with someone else’s work — and so it is in the case of digital product design as well. So when you have a designer working on the design from the very beginning, implementing any changes or additions is much easier for them. But if you didn’t have one before and realize that you need them in the middle of the development process, you may end up paying double — because while the new designer will be doing their work, your developers won’t be able to move any further.
3. The developers can come up with their ideas for UI
I’ll be honest: such an approach can result in the team being frustrated and exhausted from figuring out proper ways to fit all the elements into the layout. Reason? Each developer writes the code differently. While structure, architecture, and different conventions aren’t a problem, the layout differences and design approaches that come with it may become one. Even in the case of something as simple as switching an item to another state using transition! A designer, being specialized in such matters, knows which animation fits the component best and how to unify them through the whole application.
As you can see below, both items are animated, so the requirements are fulfilled — but the movement of each element differs a bit. For example, if we want to animate opening a sidebar, animation on the left seems more appropriate because it’s more natural — it behaves similarly to how a drawer in real life moves when we open or close it. Even though it may seem irrelevant, such a detail affects the user experience and overall comfort of using the application. A good designer has a broad knowledge of such nuances and can design them correctly, ensuring that all the elements of your project will act properly and provide the best possible user experience.
Even if every team member has a sense of what looks good and what doesn’t, one may like a snappy UI that will just get the work done, while the other prefers complex animations that keep the user’s attention. Without a person responsible for deciding which is the best option for your product (and aligning the approach of all the developers at an early stage), your interface can end up incoherent. Result? At some point, you and the developers would have to spend a lot of time correcting it.
Of course, your team communicates with each other, and you give them regular feedback. Still, since it’s really time- and resource-consuming, it’s not a good idea to leave thinking about the UI/UX approach to your developers. When you have someone taking care of the design overall, your developers get clear instructions on what and how should be done — what makes them able to work more efficiently and avoid inconsistencies.
Imagine your app has to work on mobile devices, tablets, laptops, and desktop computers, and you want a new navigation bar in your application. Every developer takes care of their best-known environment and has to figure out how to implement the feature so it displays correctly on a particular device. The desktop developer came up with fancy on-hover animations based on the button’s action. Since the standard smartphone’s input is a touch screen, there is no “hover” action, so the desktop approach can’t be used here. What about a tablet that can be controlled either via a mouse or a touch screen? Also, think about laptops with touchpads that can take some gestures that others can’t. You probably already get the idea. If your project is anything other than a simple internal application, there is no way that developers can take care of business logic, site performance, and all of the things mentioned above by themselves.
There are so many possibilities that could be standardized and problems that could be avoided by hiring a separate person to take care of the designs. So if you want to have the most qualitative product around, having a designer is mandatory.
4. I’ve got a limited budget
An unoptimized process (lack of clear guidelines, proper design, workflow, etc.) is one of the worst scenarios for the software development process. When the work plan and designs aren’t entirely clear, developers waste time figuring out how to approach various challenges while they don’t even have a clear view of the expected outcome. In the majority of cases, this leads to additional re-works and fixes. Also, considering the back-end and front-end teams often have to complement each other in building particular components, they naturally spend more time planning the proper workflow if they don’t have clear guidelines.
If the development process lacks specific skills (like the designer’s), it cannot be properly optimized. In consequence, your developers spend much more time on the project — meaning you spend much more money on them. There is no big cost difference between paying four people for a week and paying one person for a month. But your team composition makes a big difference in implementing your project — and paradoxically, hiring more people can actually save you money. A well-composed team covering all the relevant skills works faster and much more efficiently — and shorter development time means less money spent.
Moreover, having a designer, you can review various aspects of your product without waiting for developers to prepare the demo. You can discuss the design with your team and easily evaluate whether some functionalities or changes are worth the time and effort needed to implement them. You can also give the team the necessary feedback at the right time to have your product polished as much as possible without the need for future changes or fixes. Result: lower risk of additional costs.
5. I am short on time
That is exactly why you should hire a designer. Reading everything above, you probably already get the idea that, in every case, having a designer saves time. Of course, you need to consider the time required for preparing designs, but that is actually a constant element of every product development process. And to be precise — one of the most crucial ones because it saves you from many unexpected problems and delays in the further steps of the project. And as you already know, shorter development time means less money spent on the project overall.
6. I don’t have the knowledge to hire a competent designer
It’s a very common scenario, but also one with a simple solution: partner up with an experienced software agency. If you do so, your tech partner will take care of choosing the right designer (as well as provide you with competent developers and other specialists, if needed), taking this responsibility off your shoulders. This way, you won’t have to worry about having enough time or knowledge to recruit the right person. Furthermore, if your agency also provides you with other team members, it’s highly likely everyone has already worked together. That means they will get along and communicate better and thus be more efficient. Therefore, by choosing such a solution, you save yourself a lot of trouble and, again, precious time.
Why is it worth hiring a designer for your project? — summary
Even if you are not going big and want an internal application for your company, the advantages of hiring a designer outweigh all the cons you could think of. Although, to be honest, I can’t think of any. Better process optimization, more precise budget estimates, higher effectiveness of the development team, minimizing the risk of understatements and inconsistencies, saving time… These things significantly impact your product’s development and help ensure its success. And after all, this is exactly what you want for your project, right?
Gain a competitive advantage and a loyal user base. Design digital products that support your business goals.