Why Product Managers and Software Developers Must Understand Design

Aug 17th, 2018


A successful product cannot be designed solely by 1 person understanding design. Here are 10 reasons why product managers & software developers must understand design.

When a product looks great it’s clear that it's not only the user experience designer who was good, but also that the software developer & product manager understood design. It’s important for the entire team to understand design. It’s easily said than done.

Not many executives emphasize on the need for overall design understanding. From designing products for plenty of Fortune 100 companies, we have realized the importance of developers and managers understanding design. Here are some for the reasons you can keep in mind.

Great design is in implementation details

Design is not just theory.

An end product is said to be well designed when it’s implemented, not on paper. Good implementation can happen only when the development team & management understand the value of each pixel in design.

Who better to spearhead implementation than the managers themselves!

Design knowledge reduces an enormously large amount of timeline delays

If you have managed IT products, you will see that there is usually a delay in delivering.

A delay of up to 20% additional time is acceptable, however a lot of management sees delays greater than 200%.

If this is the case, one of the reasons for the delay is that managers don’t understand the requirements and the user experience design.

If communication in understanding requirements and design is solid, each feature will require to be built only once.

Otherwise, you’ll often find the team working on the same feature couple of times.

Design knowledge facilitates better understanding of product & design requirements.

Design screens / images can never communicate the complete experience. Unexplained user experience, flows, requirements and speed factors contribute to about 50% of the requirements.

Since documenting all the minute design requirements is impossible, it is critical to develop a culture of design in the organisation.

You need a culture where developers and managers make informed design decisions.

When they understand design, they understand deeper unsaid requirements. This eliminates a lot of the rework.

Avoid Missing Finer Details in Design Tools

Front-end developers especially need to be able to use photoshop, illustrator or other tools required to understand design details.

They need to be able to open design files independently.

Exact proportions, paddings, font styles and several design properties can be accurately assessed only using these design tools and files.

It’ll prove to be fatal if such details are missed.

You’ll not be able to get a pixel-perfect design, otherwise.

All Interactive behaviour details aren’t available in design files

Animations, scroll behaviors, transitions etc. are difficult to be included in the design files.

However, these are extremely important in the overall user experience.

When developers and product managers have design knowledge, they can intuitively add such interactions (in fact improve the design).

You can reduce a lot of time wasted during such communication when developers can add intricate interactive behaviour details.

Reduces Testing Time.

Design review and testing usually take up a lot of time in the entire UX design process. This is when the designers and managers test the progress of the product.

It’s a continuous process that involves a lot of editing and re-work.

Designers test whether the product is matching their desired result.

Developers with design knowledge can make sure unnecessary design errors are prevented at the root itself.

Everyone’s time is saved.

For example, in the case of setting the right padding, only the developer who knows Adobe photoshop can get it pixel perfect. Entering approximate padding measurements would lead to rework in the later stage.

Inform designers about the technology’s capabilities

A particular technology may facilitate certain designs better than others.

Having an understanding of design lets developers and managers inform designers about the capabilities of technology at hand.

Designers can further explore the possibilities of the technology by choosing the right designs and flows.

For example, a manager who knows that a particular technology can support “push notifications from the server side”, he/she can inform the designers about the same who would then include this in their design options.

Design Thinking helps developers and managers innovate.

Design Thinking enables developers and managers to really embrace the spirit of innovation.

When developers and managers apply design thinking principles, they lay the foundation for path breaking technologies.

It enables novel solutions to user problems.

Increases Credibility

A developer who is well versed in design can significantly improve the quality of the product and can build the product at a much faster rate.

From an organisational point of view, he is an asset that the company can always rely on. From an organisational point of view, he is an asset that the company can always rely on.

How amazing is it to have a developer who not only makes a responsive product, but intuitively makes sure that the animations stay consistent throughout!

It might take time in training and recruiting developers and managers who understand design.

But, it’s worth the time spent.

Company will have a better reputation in terms of timeliness and delivering outstanding product experiences.


Userfacet CEO Tanuj Shah

Tanuj Shah

CEO at Userfacet

Formally educated in HCI, Tanuj is adept at understanding user experience patterns and creating solid technological solutions around them.

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