Blurred Lines

The students in Big Nerd Ranch’s first week-long Mobile Design Bootcamp this month were from all walks of the industry. We had app, desktop, and web designers, Android and iOS developers, project managers, and college professors. The common trait they shared was that they were all seeking app design empowerment. 

They were interested in rapid prototyping, user testing, and visual design trends. They wanted to know the correct vocabulary to have a meaningful conversation with their app teams, and to make design decisions in line with the code they were writing.

There has been this line between software development and aesthetic design. A class system of “artistic people” and “non-artistic people” has kept programmers from pursuing more attractive interface design on their own. 

Ten years ago, one did not presume to cross that line, lest you be petted on the head and told to go back to what you’re good at. Recently that’s changed in a really big way. A bridge has grown between software and design, and both are not only given permission to cross the line, but encouraged to blur it.

The app market is the gateway drug for many developers to become interested in UX and UI design. The evidence connecting beautiful design, simplified user experiences, and user success to money spent is palpable. Developers can no longer ignore design. Consumers are privy.

That care for design and attention to the actual user adds an element of humanity to software development. It has all the feels now. The humans matter!

As designers at Big Nerd Ranch, it’s our job to make sure our developers come to each project with this understanding and appreciation firmly in place. In fact, most of our developers are eager to take our new Mobile Design Bootcamp to better understand design principles, usability, and platform best practices. They want to know how best to use these tools. Why are they there? What do they do? Why should they care? What does the user gain? I love these questions!

And designers can no longer ignore the numbers, brackets, and letters that make up the code of an app. Our design team is always learning bits of JS, Objective-C, or simply boning up on complex animation capabilities introduced with new SDK’s. They are curious about where the boundaries lie, how they can better converse with developers, or how they can push natural mental models. They aren’t necessarily learning how to program, they are learning what programmers do in order to be better app designers.

We want to encourage developers and designers to blur that line and step over it. To stop tossing designs over walls, and to stop automatically saying no. Start a dialogue. Make better apps.