How to get it built
Find a CSS Guru
There are specific relationships you need to build to manage a scalable design
system. One of the most important is your goto CSS Guru. This person will be the Bonnie to your Clyde. They will be the one to build your elegantly reusable components and advocate that the rest of the front-end team adopt them.
I was able to trust my guru with any feature without giving them a single redline. The work they produced would be exactly what I designed, down to the pixel. Additionally, they built the components to work like lego blocks. They helped ensured the components could scale as the product grew. This relationship is key for any designer on a growing and fast-paced team.
However, finding such a developer is often a tall order. What a rarity it is to find a front-end developer who actually loves working with HTML/CSS? If youʼre fortunate enough to have a guru on your team, hold onto them and get them on your side.
Win the heart of your FE bull
Your frontend bull focuses on hitting their sprints. They may have very strong, or even very biased, opinions. These developers have the loudest voices on the team and are often the most senior.
Getting them onboard will influence the entire team to follow.
The best way to win this personʼs heart is to get them involved in the process as early as possible. If this person cares about hitting their sprints, tell them your design ideas while theyʼre still forming. They may have valid input and/or reasons to focus on other ideas.
Knowing that they reduced the scope of a feature by a few points will let them
know that you care about their opinions. This will only be in your benefit. Since they know that you are looking out for them, they will do the same for you. Instead of finding any way to wriggle out of a design request, they will dedicate their time to finding the best tools for the job.
Aligning with Back End Developers
This advice may not apply to larger companies where the divide between design and the backend is a chasm. However, for small, cross-functional teams, itʼs beneficial for backend developers and designers to align before they start working on a feature.
Your mental models of the product and corresponding APIs need to match. An
amazing relationship with the frontend team will be for naught if the backend isnʼt cooperating. If the backend devs want to live on their own island, there will be issues in the product.
For example, they may push out an unintuitive feature that has unintended side-effects on the client interface. This will happen when you take design out of the picture when building back-end APIs. It takes the human element out of why we need that API to begin with.
Developers need to understand this. Unless they work for a company thatʼs
building its product for other developers, their end users wonʼt think like them. Theyʼre non technical people(NTP).
I was lucky at this particular startup. The backend engineer was always open to answering any questions on how the APIs worked. I wanted to make sure that I was designing the right thing.
Working with backend developers will make sure your work is right.