As a designer, communicating with developers can be challenging. Throw in remote communication and you might find yourself struggling to reach out in the first place.
You can’t get your point across over the phone, there are disagreements with how something has been implemented, your Wi-Fi cuts out mid-call; you’ve been there.
While remote communication can seem frustrating, there are a lot of benefits. It gives you a chance to share your work, exchange ideas, and build relationships with your teammates.
If you’re looking for ways to quickly and easily improve your designer to developer communication then this article is for you. I’m going to share with you the 5 tips that have helped me improve my design to developer communications over the last 3 years.
It’s important to realize that everyone works differently and has their own preference when it comes to team communication.
One person may prefer video calls over Zoom. Another person may find it easier to talk over a traditional phone call. Someone else may prefer asynchronous communication over Slack.
What works for you may not work for someone else.
With this in mind, it’s helpful to try and accommodate everyone when setting up a meeting or check-in. For instance, if you know someone has a preference for video calls, set up a Zoom call and be sure to turn on your camera.
If you’re not sure, ask the person what their preferred method of communication is and make note of it for future reference. If you use a personal CRM or something similar, this would be a good thing to make note of there.
Now that we live in a world where remote communication is the norm, there are many tools and apps that make this process so much easier and more fun.
Not only are there traditional communication apps that allow for video and voice calls, but there are also tools that allow for remote design collaboration, tools for collaborative note-taking, and tools for team task management.
Have a set of go-to tools/apps in your arsenal and you’ll immediately improve your team communication + collaboration.
Here’s a quick summary:
In the world of remote work, it’s important to be respectful of other people’s time. Don’t assume someone will be available at a moment’s notice for a quick chat. Some people may be OK with this but most of the time people would prefer some time to prepare for a meeting.
It’s possible the time chosen doesn’t work for the other person, so knowing this in advance makes finding a suitable time easier for everyone. Google calendar has a “find a time” feature that helps you find a free time slot for a group of people, so I recommend using this.
Use a calendar (I use Google Calendar) to schedule a meeting for a time that’s convenient for everyone. It shows how much you value everyone’s time and people will appreciate being given some time to prepare.
At a minimum here’s what should be included in a meeting invite:
If you take nothing else away from this article, remember this: spend up to 15 minutes before the meeting preparing and up to 15 minutes after writing up your notes from the meeting.
It sounds like overkill but you have no idea how many times my butt has been saved by taking detailed notes from a meeting. You might think “oh I’ll definitely remember to include the Figma file in ticket ID-1842323191, I don’t need to write that down”.. but my friend you definitely need to write it down.
I also find it helpful to take some time before the meeting to prepare and get into the right mindset. Taking the time to read the agenda or any relevant documentation primes my mind so I can jump into the meeting knowing exactly what I want to say.
For every meeting, I set up a new note in Obsidian that contains a meeting minutes template.
Before the call, I spend 5-10 mins reviewing my goals for the meeting and any relevant info that might be important to discuss.
There is nothing worse than showing up for a meeting 5 minutes late, then not knowing what the meeting is even about.. it doesn’t really inspire confidence. It also sends a bad message to the other people in the meeting that you don’t value their time enough to know what the meeting is about.
OK so I know I have talked your ear off about the importance of not wasting time but hear me out.
As important as it is to get right to the point in a meeting, it’s also a good opportunity to build positive relationships with the people you work with.
You don’t need to ask someone about their life story, just take the time to ask how they’re doing, what they did a the weekend, or even just “how’s the weather where you are?”. You’d be surprised at how many customer meetings I’ve been on that simply start with discussing the weather.
Finding out a bit more about your teammates also helps you to develop empathy towards them. The next time someone strongly disagrees with some aspect of your design, you’ll find it easier to see them as a real person and understand where they are coming from as opposed to thinking of them as someone who is just complaining for the sake of it.
I’ve learned a lot about my colleagues simply by chatting with them during meetings. There are people that have similar interests to me, people that are doing something cool at the weekend I’d never thought to try, people that are really knowledgeable about an area I know nothing about, and maybe people that are struggling with something at the moment and need some help.
You never know unless you ask.
I hope you found this article helpful. In case you missed anything let’s summarize the main points:
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