Digital Strategy

5 Reasons to Include Designers on Development Projects

Posted: January 01, 0001

Designers and developers working together on a software project

Companies small and large recognize the importance of UX as their project requirements have grown to include the demands for beauty, function, and seamless experiences across all channels, devices, and screens.

It's safe to say that user experience is no longer a nice-to-have for software development--it's a must for relevancy and competitiveness. Steve Jobs, a pioneer in design and technology, responds to an attendee's question at the World Wide Developers Conference in May 1997, "You've got to start with the customer experience and work back towards the technology." (see video at 1 minute and 53 seconds)


At Arrow, we started including designers on every software development project over seven years ago. We’ve always believed that software needed to be both beautiful and functional to increase adoption and make our clients' products stand out from the competition. As our company has grown, and our process has been formalized around integrating an in-house development and design team, we've seen incredible results.

Design and development together make software development teams stronger, ultimately allowing clients and customers to reap the benefits.

Let’s take a look at 5 ways including designers on development projects leads to success and how:

1. Marketing & IT Alignment

When marketing and IT are aligned, business goals, customer needs, and technology requirements align, keeping software development projects running smoothly and efficiently. Research (and our own experience) has proven that marketing and IT departments struggle with getting and staying on the same page regarding technology decisions. Cliff Condon of Forrester writes, “…only half of them [CMOs and CIOs] develop a technology strategy together, before allocating a budget.” (How The CMO And CIO Will Determine The Future Of Business In 2015)  

You can help marketing and IT achieve alignment through software development projects by having UX designers lead the discovery phase and propose ideas based on both user insight and technical knowledge. By doing this, possible solutions are thought through and agreed upon quickly during conversations that include both marketing and IT teams throughout the discovery process.

We’ve seen this dynamic at Arrow help our clients tremendously. To quote a CIO from one of our projects, “The Arrow team’s great understanding of both marketing and IT actually helped bring our departments closer and allowed everyone to put the ministry’s needs first.” –Brad Brown, CIO, In Touch Ministries

If you want to add value to your company and have a successful software development project, include designers to facilitate marketing and IT alignment. 

2. Customer Centricity

In 2013, Avon rolled out software so difficult to use that representatives left the company “in meaningful numbers,” costing them somewhere around $100M to $125M! (Read: Avon's Failed SAP Implementation A Perfect Example Of The Enterprise IT Revolution)

The advancement of technology is evolving around customer needs, wants, and behavior and software that fails to put customers (internal or external) at the center can put a business at risk.

The best and most advanced developer can solve your complex technical problems with their strong analytical skills, but without the insight and eye of a designer they are more likely to overlook a user’s needs. You need to include UX designers on your software development project to analyze behavioral data and bring human empathy to your product. When developers and designers work together, technical requirements and human restraints are thoroughly considered as the project progresses.

If you’re an IT leader, learn as much as you can about UX design best practices. When customer centricity is a part of the conversation with your marketing or executive team, you’ll be better equipped to make technology recommendations that consider customer needs and increase the bottom line.

If you’d like to assess the usability of your software, contact our UX team for a complimentary evaluation. 

3. Faster Delivery

Production delays are a real risk for many software development projects. Having to play catch up on a software project reduces momentum and ties up valuable resources. It’s important to include designers on software projects to ensure a successful and timely launch that also results in a high adoption rate.

One of our UX specialists shares his experience with being brought onto a project in the past that didn't originally include a designer, "Without a designer, the developers were forced to play the role as UX designer as well. This led them to make decisions based on their own judgement without the proper research to understand best practices. Software design decisions ended up being based on very subjective opinions."

Leaving developers to build without a designer’s input can lead to a product completely missing the mark on user needs and ultimately technical requirements. Include designers on your development project to reduce the risk of “new” technology requirements being discovered during implementation which can lead to time spent on configuration or revisiting code and re-engineering business processes. The after-effect of overlooking user experience best practices at the beginning of a project can be schedule slip for several months, and in some cases, years!  

We’ve gained the business of several clients that previously hired outside developers who did not have a UX design team and encountered this problem. We helped them either go back to the drawing board or create something completely different. If you want to be the technology hero at your company, insist that designers and developers work closely together on your projects for an efficient launch.

4. A Culture of Trust & Excellence

In the same way that marketing and IT departments differ in their perspectives, style of work, personality-type, and expertise, so do designers and developers.

Encourage designers and developers to work closely together to build up their business acumen and facilitate cross-training. Developers will learn more about the skills, requirements, and motivating factors of designers while designers learn more about the application architecture, coding/development, and the perspective of developers. This will produce excellence in your team and greater quality assurance in your projects.

Bringing designers and developers together also improves moral and trust amongst teammates and co-workers. One of our core value statements includes, “We're a family.” Our family-like environment encourages consistent collaboration between designers and developers, solidifying a sense of unity at Arrow.

When there’s trust and unity, your team can focus more on delivering exceptional software through unified project efforts. Designers and developers will benefit from each other’s differences rather than get sidetracked by them.

5. Competitive Advantage

Depending on your industry, good UX design can be an opportunity for your business if the competition hasn’t caught up with other sectors who are implementing good design and code. Although, just because your competitors are behind, it doesn’t negate the fact that good UX design is critical for your software and will increasingly be so moving forward.

“When compared to their peers, the top 10 companies leading in customer experience outperformed the S&P index with close to triple the returns. Forester Research shows that, on average, every dollar invested in UX brings 100 dollars in return. That’s an ROI of a whopping 9,900 percent,” cites Andrew Kucheriavy for Forbes.

When analyzing the software of our clients’ competitors, we always evaluate usability and design. In most cases, a client’s first impression with their customer is through their software. A bad interface and overall lackluster or poor digital experience can send your customers quickly in the other direction.

Considering the ROI of UX as reported by Forrester and the risks we discussed earlier of not having good UX, make UX professionals a necessary part of every software development project you lead. 

We Can Build What We Propose

Have you tried working with software developers who lack the UX skills to understand your customer’s unique needs? Or have you tried working with creative agencies only to find they don’t have the technical expertise in-house to build the ideas they propose?

Contact our customer experience team at Arrow to find out how we can build both beautiful and functional applications as well as support them for you!