Designers and developers around the world use Codeship, a continuous integration platform, to automate the testing and deployment of their applications and increase the efficiency of their teams.
We recently talked to Ryan Wilke, Codeship’s Senior Product Designer, about what it’s like to be the only designer, how to build trust, and why designers and developers need to work together from the start.
You’re the only designer at Codeship right now. What’s that like?
Because Codeship is a service that’s largely used by developers all around the world, the feedback that I gather from our in-house engineers and also from our customers is an essential part of my design process. Every iteration to the product essentially starts from a developer’s perspective, and I’ve been entrusted with bringing that vision to life.
To be clear, I believe every product should be built in collaboration with developers in the organization, but that’s even more important here.
How do you communicate with different teams at your organization?
From a design perspective, I much prefer to document key design decisions in InVision whenever possible and use that as the primary tool to drive collaboration and collect feedback on the direction we’re headed.
How do you typically kick off new projects?
At the start of a project, it helps to gather a wide range of feedback from several people that may have very different views and workflows. Talking to each of the project stakeholders can often give you this type of insight, but nothing beats talking directly to your users.
“Don’t assume that you’re going to be right on your first try.”
When you do your research and understand the core problem the user is facing, you’ll have a much better ability of solving the problem in ways that might not have been readily apart to the project stakeholders or the users. People are often blinded by what they’re used to, and it’s our job to shake things up and challenge the status quo with some other creative solutions that we feel more passionate about.
Oh, and don’t assume that you’re going to be right on your first try. Problem solving is a process, not a science. Let go of your ego and be willing to accept that your “best” solutions aren’t always going to be the most successful.
How can designers and developers work better together?
Designers often struggle to understand the limitations that developers are faced with and the tools that they have at their fingertips when building an app.
In my ideal world, designers would be doing more development and developers would be doing more design. Some of the most useful tools in the world are created because designers and developers have a better understanding of each other’s skills.
“Designers and developers should be collaborating on every single project.”
If Codeship eventually decides to add more designers, how will you hire them? What catches your eye when you’re looking at someone’s portfolio?
In the past, I’ve tended to focus on a few important ingredients: communication skills, receptiveness to feedback, a solid foundation of basic design principles, and how well-rounded their skill set is (e.g. Can they code? How well do they solve technical problems, etc.).
Those are some of the key ingredients for any designer to truly become a master at their craft.
“Don’t take yourself too seriously.”
What turns me off though is usually ego. Ego is helpful to a small degree, but it’s easy for designers to have too much of it and their growth tends to stagnate—not to mention all the issues that can arise on a team when those egos start to collide. I value people who don’t take themselves too seriously and strive to work together with other to achieve the best possible outcomes.
How can teams build trust with each other?
Don’t check my math, but here’s how I see it:
Transparency + Time = Trust
How do you use InVision as part of your design process?
I love using InVision Sync. That’s a slightly new part of the design process to me and I love that I can just sit in Photoshop and every time I hit save, it’s automatically updating the prototypes in InVision—that’s my favorite feature and also allows others in the company to see what I’m working on and how I’m progressing on certain projects.
Do you have any advice for young designers?
I suppose my advice would likely vary depending on the situation of course, but I’ll mention a few of the standards that I try to adhere to throughout my daily design process:
- Learn to stand your ground. Doing great design work is often only half the battle. Understand and be ready to articulate why you’ve made certain decisions, and how this fits into the vision that the company and the users have for themselves.
- “People don’t buy products, they buy better versions of themselves.” –Samuel Hulick. As designers, we need to step back and realize that design isn’t about us; it’s ultimately about the people we’re designing the product for.
- If you have to do a lot of explaining, your design probably isn’t working as well as you think it is. Our designs should be intuitive—period.
- A surplus of information is a deficit of attention. Everyone is different, but our brains are all wired to perceive information overload in the same ways. We need to be mindful of this as we strive for simplicity in the design of our products.
- Great art can withstand the test of time. If you’re adding fluff to your design that you think will quickly go out of style, then it’s probably not worth the time spent designing or developing it either.