When you want to build software — whether it’s the next essential mobile app or a standard ecommerce website — its construction is often thought of as a two-phase process.
First, your platform must be designed. The platform’s users must be studied, the screens and pages organized, the digital structure architected, and the colors, fonts and palettes chosen carefully for the user interface. And these are just a few highlights—the UX design process is an extensive undertaking.
Second, the platform undergoes development, where it’s actually engineered. It’s coded, tested, debugged, retested, and eventually is released, completing the platform’s long journey from ideation to launch.
The tech world tends to think of these as distinct, separate entities; because of this, many people consider going to one agency for their platform’s design, and then another for their development.
It’s not a completely baseless strategy. After all, doesn’t it make more sense to find highly specialized agencies that focus on a single phase of software creation, design or development?
It’s counterintuitive, but the answer is no — and it’s because design and development are not as independent as people think. In fact, to call them ‘independent’ at all would be misleading, as the two phases share connections that are imperative to the success of a project.
Design and development may look different, but their connection is undeniable (Source)
In this article, I’ll lay out why it’s much more prudent to find a digital agency that offers both design and development, and uncover just how intertwined the two phases really are.
When you hire an agency that offers one-stop shopping, you’re ensuring the smoothest possible transition as the platform passes from designers to engineers.
Designers at a full-scale digital agency understand the skillsets, workflow, and limitations of the development team they work alongside. They’re familiar with what design practices are going to make the job of the developers easier, and which ones will take hours to actually build.
Designers & developers must work in tandem — that’s difficult when you hire two different project teams (Source)
Similarly, developers understand the visual language their design-minded coworkers use, and are better equipped to realize their vision quicker and more efficiently. When dividing the design & development between companies, you surrender a key benefit to your platform’s success.
If you’re trusting the UX design of your platform to one agency and the development to another, you’re creating a disconnect between the two teams, and potentially disrupting the project workflow.
When you couple design & development at the same agency, you significantly accelerate the project life cycle, meaning your platform can hit the market earlier than your competitors.
This is partially due to the aforementioned alignment between the designers and software engineers, but that’s not the only boost the platform enjoys.
Whenever Codal inherits a project designed elsewhere, it’s our standard procedure to perform a UX content audit. This involves meticulously deconstructing the design we’ve been handed and diagnosing any positives or pain points.
A diagram detailing UX content audit strategy (Source)
It’s to ensure the platform’s UX is feasible, and ultimately to ensure a successful end product. If we blindly code poor design that results in a shoddy platform, that reflects poorly on us — even when the offending design doesn’t have our name on it.
But when we design ourselves, we skip this step entirely, significantly slashing the project’s hours and costs. With a complete design & dev agency, you fast-forward your platform’s deployment.
When the connection between the design and engineering teams is severed, the platform’s success becomes much more susceptible. It exacerbates the risk factors inherent to any project and generates new ones as well.
Take the UX content audit mentioned earlier. If the design has obvious flaws, blemishes that completely mar the user experience or simply aren’t feasible to engineer, our UXers must correct them. This takes time, and consequently, money.
The difference between UX-only designers and ones that work for more comprehensive agencies is the latter knows what’s not feasible for the developers. They’re not going to create some complex design that will take hundreds of hours for the engineers to build.
In contrast, UX-only agencies won’t care about development. As soon as they create an impressive design (regardless of how much time or money it will cost to actually implement), their work is done.
You run this risk, and more, when choosing to separate your platform’s design and development.
All of the previously mentioned benefits of coupling design & dev, as well as the pitfalls of dividing the two processes, add up to a more coherent, consistent solution. You wouldn’t want a doctor to swap out halfway through surgery—you want a singular vision, a united project team.
The ‘specialization’ argument behind hiring two separate agencies collapses next to a company that offers both services, each team collaborating and operating like a fine-tuned machine.
When you marry design and engineering you create a more aligned, cohesive project team, cut costs and time to launch, and mitigate risk.
Want to learn more about digital agencies that do software double-duty? Codal’s design and development life cycle further details our processes, and describes how the two phases coalesce to create a world-class digital solution.