I find many designers run into difficulty getting their designs built or even getting the visual designer to stay true to wireframes. What techniques and strategies work for defusing the us vs. them atmosphere and helps a UX designer find compromise that is good for users?
Often, the source of strife within a team comes from miscommunication and misunderstandings between team members that can be solved or at least improved through talking to each other. A few things to consider:
- Are all team members involved in the process? Is everyone's opinion asked? Even though the role of a certain team member is to do design does not mean he cannot have good ideas on usability. Even if they do not make any suggestions, they will at least feel included in the process instead of just being told to implement the end result.
- Do all team members know what the others are doing and why? It can be very difficult to be told to implement something without knowing why it should be done a certain way. Making sure people understand what the other team roles are and why certain decisions are taking can help a lot in defusing underlying strife.
- Everything goes both ways: There might be good reasons why a certain design does not (or cannot) conform to the proposed wireframe or usability design. It is in the best interest of the UX designer to learn about those kinds of constraints.
Try to make all the parties aware to the constraints of the other parties, so that the UX guy sticks to the grid, and know what can and cannot be solved by the graphic designer, and at what point the wireframe slides into graphics and begins to limit the graphical freedom.
Since you can do this only up to a certain point, and you can't give the UX guy a perfect understanding of the graphic constraints (that would just make him a graphic designer), be sure to work closely with the different parties during all stages. The earlier the graphics and the devs are involved in the process, the less problems will come up when the process goes into their stages. This works on two levels - the practical (if they see a problem early, they can prevent it), and the psychological (since they were involved from the start, they can't blame others for giving them a design they can't work with, any they're now responsible).
This works both ways - the graphic designers should also understand up to what point they can stretch the wireframe, and what constitutes a violation of the UX concept. Same for the devs. A talk explaining these topics, delivered by each team to the others, can do a lot to reduce friction between teams.
The first step in working with people of other disciplines is to understand the discipline itself. Whether this is through self teaching, internal workshops or courses/conferences, if you can get inside the head of the people you work with it makes it much easier to understand what their needs are compared to yours, and vice versa.
Obviously unless you are coming from a particular background you won't be as competent as them, but a basic understanding of the role goes along way to helping you understand how to hand over work in the best format, what restrictions the medium has or even what is 'bad graphic design'. Even more so than working with designers, an idea of what is required from a developer's viewpoint allows you to avoid lots of traps and pitfalls that may occur later, which also goes to cement a better relationship.
I started life as a developer who also had some eye for design - while I am not nearly as proficient as the 'full timers' in their prospective fields, I have understanding enough to allow me to appreciate time constraints, platform constraints etc..
This approach also allows you to understand when you are being fobbed off by people 'over-elaborating' issues.
There are two challenges UX faces in every project:
ONE. Developing Consensus on a Team
Ultimately, user experience design as a profession must encompass more than pure interaction and visual design. I see understanding the constraints of engineering and business management as a requirement of user experience design. For UX to be successful, it must embrace building consensus as one of its chief responsibilities, and delivering solutions that work for all team members.
TWO: Following a Project to the End
Traditionally in a waterfall approach, designers create artifacts, throw them over the wall to engineering, and hope for the best. I think most teams now know this approach is none too effective.
Much better is to plan for design to be involved every step of the way, throughout all phases of development and QA. I have never seen a design actually uncover and answer every edge case up front. Every single time, new constraints and use cases come out of the development