Let’s talk about the web design process. At Sparkbox, we’ve been discussing and improving our design process over the last several years. It all started with intentionally designing our design culture and creating our Hammer and Chisel approach for writing and refining code. Through many experiences, issues, discussions, and successes, we’ve found some guidelines that fuel us toward better projects and a healthier design culture:
Embracing constraints as part of the creative process
Breaking boundaries between roles so team members are free to use all of their skills
Involving designers with frontend code early in the process
And of course, we pair these with frequent communication, collaboration, and empathy between designers and developers. Read the following articles to see how we’ve discovered, implemented, and benefited from these guidelines.
Articles We’ve Written
Accommodating constraints (small budgets, short timelines, limited technology, etc) can be a difficult part of the design process. While constraints can initially seem like problems, we consider in this article how constraints can push us to find smarter solutions. When we embrace constraints, they can fuel creativity in our design processes.
Last year, we worked on scaling our design capabilities. In this article, we share how we brought in more designers, created our “frontend designer” roles that bring together both frontend development and design skills, and started investing in up-and-coming frontend designers through our apprenticeship program. We discuss how we found more opportunities for our team to collaborate and communicate about design concepts.
We know there can be issues with the normal waterfall design process of a web project, where the designer gets a brief, works on the design, and then hands it off to a developer—and the designer has minimal influence after that. We wanted to find a better way to ensure the final product functions as the frontend designer intended. This article details a better process of collaboration and how it benefits our projects in many ways, from saved time to more cohesive designs.
At one of our Maker Series workshops, Meagan Fisher and Andrew Couldwell spoke on bridging the gap between designers and developers. They shared how better collaboration and empathy with designers and developers working together can create both better products and a healthier culture. And they drove home the point that a great design process breaks down the boundaries of where designers should go and where developers should go, which brings us to the next article.
After a couple of years using the Hammer and Chisel process, we stopped and discussed what had been going well and what could be improved. We found developers and designers had been feeling stuck, pegged as only hammerers or chiselers—that hadn’t been our original intent. So we decided to clearly break down that barrier and let our team members use their skills wherever they fit. This article shares that learning process and the other ways we’ve worked to improve collaboration and skill sharing.
Designing a website can be weird and difficult compared to print. This article provides a deeper dive into how a frontend designer can maintain the design vision by involving themselves early in a project. It details how the Hammer and Chisel approach builds empathy and allows for team members to use their full skills, even if that means stepping outside the box of their job title.