September 21, 2022

How being a good writer makes you a great software developer and designer

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Do you want to become a better software designer or developer?

Of course you do!

There is one thing I always tell our team to work on to achieve this and it’s not the obvious, like refactoring code or learning new UI techniques.

It’s improving your writing.

It seems a bit random; it won’t outwardly improve your ability to design or develop, but I can guarantee it will improve your quality of work. Because writing is all about being able to think and communicate clearly; and we always tell our team that being a great designer, or a great developer will only get you so far in your career, whereas being a great communicator can take you anywhere.

Why writing is an important skill for great designers

Design is often the first base when it comes to creating a software product. While rich text and cues on buttons are easy to change throughout the development phase, the choice of some names and words made during the design phase are often carried throughout the lifetime of the project.

Writing is a vital part of a users experience

The user experience (UX) with a product is made up of many different touch points. 

There is, of course, the visual design component to UX - how it looks and feels when the brand is applied, how the visual hierarchy guides a user's eye, and how the users interact with different cues. E.g., hamburger menus and green ticks. 

But often overlooked by the design team is the writing component of UX. Writing is about taking users on a different kind of journey, the journey where you tell users explicitly what you want them to do. The ability to communicate clearly creates smoother interactions and takes the guesswork out of a user's experience. You want the UX writing to feel natural and conversational so the experience flows.

Fault app sign out button
An excerpt from the Fault app which is currently in development with Moonward.

Writing creates a strong brand image

Creating a brand is all about establishing consistent messaging between the product and the user. Setting the voice and tone of the product is just as important as establishing the colours and fonts.

Have you ever received a text message from someone, and thought to yourself: what was the sender's intended tone when this person sent this? Were they angry, were they in a hurry, have they had a bad day? This is a pretty good example of tone and why it should not be overlooked. At Moonward, we set the brand's tone before pen even meets paper, because how the product speaks is just as important as how the product looks.

Writing gives you another opportunity as the designer to solidify the product's brand. Put yourself into the headspace of the brand and think about how it would talk to its users (friendly, funny, assertive).

Why writing is an important skill for great developers

Writing clearly and being able to communicate through your code is vital. This is pretty obvious, as writing is a baseline requirement for many software developers, but it is not a skill that is typically associated with when it comes to improving your career. 

There are many different types of frameworks and styles of code; what makes the difference from a developer perspective is having solid foundations to build on.

Choosing good naming conventions as a developer

Naming is a huge part of developing and being a developer, especially when you are working in the backend. Because words are the basis for all code, the names we pick must convey the whole picture. While going back over code and changing names is not impossible, it is a huge pain in the ass, especially when you have developed an entire app. And let’s be honest, no one likes unnecessary rework. For this reason, it’s important that as a developer, you have a solid understanding of writing and grammar. A few good examples where writing is important in naming conventions are: 

- Functions

Functions describe code that performs a task. A function needs to be a verb, so a developer can look at the code quickly and understand what it does. E.g., getUserData(), filterPosts()

- Non-Boolean Variables

Variables are a single piece of data with a label, they should be named using singular nouns. E.g. user, product, business, venue.

Naming conventions in the Fault App that is currently in development with Moonward.

Transferring code to other team members

At Moonward we have systems in place to make sure that our code is not reliant on one developer. From a business point of view, this means any project can be transferred quickly and painlessly to any member of the team. From a developer's perspective, this means that the code does not have any hidden landmines that only one person understands how to diffuse.

Risky code is code that is only understood by a few people, it is messy and riddled with spelling mistakes. Derisked code is code that is clean, understood by many and free from spelling and grammar mistakes.

How can I get better at writing?

Unsurprisingly, the best way to improve your writing skills is to write and read a lot. This can be a hard thing to implement into your day, especially when you are busy doing client work. So here are a few tactics we use at Moonward to hone this vital skill.

Write more as a designer or developer

One tactic we love to use at Moonward to reinforce good writing skills is getting our designers and developers to record our team processes and systems, as well as keep active documentation on all of our client's products. If you are trying to improve this skill, writing about what you are doing is the best starting point. If you are unable to, this may mean a lack of understanding on your behalf.

Read more as a designer or developer

In the words of Bill Nye, "Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t." At Moonward, we encourage our team to read about other development teams to learn from their successes and failures. During our team meetings, we nominate a team member to read one of the following books in one week. Here are a few of our favourite books we circulate throughout our team.

Getting Real
Shape Up

If you have any tips on how you have improved your writing, get in touch and let us know. You can find us on Instagram, LinkedIn, or alternatively, join us on stream every Wednesday and Friday on Twitch for a chat! 

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