At AND Digital, and up-skilling is a core part of our culture, so when given the challenge of ‘improving the look and feel’ of an internal project, I was overcome with excitement (and uncertainty).

I am a ; I have little experience in . I’ve done some designs for freelance projects and have created memes in Photoshop, but that’s as far as it goes. The idea that both designers and developers share a common goal — solving a problem — was comforting and allowed me to approach the same way I would a technical problem.

“It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”

-Steve Jobs

While reviewing the current product, I found that I couldn’t look solely at its functionality. I had to analyse its usability, colour scheme, sizing, spacing, use of shapes and images, how the design fits in with the brand identity and many other aspects.

When programming, I find that if a problem is too complex; I probably just don’t understand it and breaking down the problem until it’s manageable is the best way to solve it. This problem was no different, I didn’t really understand what was meant by ‘look and feel’. How could a digital product ‘feel’ like anything? I was unsure of where to start and so went to my personal advisor (Google) for guidance. I discovered through research and asking experts at AND, that ‘look and feel’ meant the overall experience of the user, how it feels when they interact with the product and how design elements provide visual cues as to how to use it or what it does.

An example :

How do you know you’ve pressed a button? It does something!

I had done a UX course and found that going over the material me flesh out my ideas and find what to focus on.

What I learned:

This challenge taught me a lot about empathy, as a developer it’s easy to forget who you’re creating a product for and why they need it. Being forced to think about the users’ needs taught me two things:

  • A problem isn’t ever purely technical
  • To think about the way the problem needs to be solved and why, and not just how it can be solved.

I now understand a lot more about designers’ processes and their reasoning. The end product may ‘look pretty’ but a lot of thought, research, planning and testing goes into creating a design that the user is always at the centre of.

When designing, I was able to understand that even small changes to the design of a product could potentially be quite difficult to Implement. This highlighted the need for both designers and developers to be empathetic towards each others practices and realise they share a common goal.

With my new design knowledge and skills, I take a different approach to my programming work, and recognise that design and development are two sides of the same coin — resulting in increased speed and quality of what I produce.

The main thing I learned, is that everyone is a resource. Asking questions and getting advice from experienced people in the design field guided my train of thought and developed my knowledge more effectively than research alone.

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