November 14, 2022

Why designers need to know how data works

Every software team is structured differently, and I guess I can only speak from my experience at Moonward, but what I have observed more often than not is that the design of a software product is either outsourced to another team or done by an internal developer.

Both can work, especially if the developer is also a good designer, or if the outsourced team maintains high contact with the development team. But on the flip side, both of these processes have the potential to fail miserably. 

Here’s why: Designers need to know how the data captured by an app works, and how to present the data in a way that its users interact with it correctly.

If we outsource our design, the designers are not able to work close enough to understand the complexity of the data. If a developer works on the design, it will function well, but hey it might not look amazing and introduce user error. 

This is part of the reason why Moonward is a 100% in-house and integrated design and development team.

What is the difference between a graphic designer and a UI/UX designer?

Graphic Design is a type of design that is meant to be eye-catching and can convey information quickly. User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX) is a type of design that is specifically meant to be experienced and used by a person. 

Competible app designed by Moonward
Moonward UI/UX Designs for Competible

UI/UX is a design-led ecosystem, where a user repetitively interacts with forms, buttons, content, and media. All of this needs to be displayed in a way that is organised and understandable to maximise the user experience. 

How does the designer's mind work

I have been a designer at Moonward for around three years now, and the following statements are coming from my perspective.

A designer left unattended can be hard to manage. This can be likened to a child left alone to play in a room. If they are not monitored they could do something dangerous, because they do not fully understand what is and isn’t possible.

Designers who do not have development experience or access to a development team will assume things. Assume that you can do something technically, whether it is super complex or minor, assume a flow that they have created is possible, and assume you can retrieve data from a software integration when you actually cannot. 

Designers who are not fully integrated with a development team will most likely operate in a waterfall method. This means the design of the entire product will finish before any development starts. While this can work well in some industries (government, etc) it can be ultimately detrimental to software products that need to be agile. Forcing a scope on a product, especially in its first build can put a chokehold on creation. Things change.

At Moonward we use Agile Design and Development. This is also important for revisiting design work again in the future. Agile allows us to tweak and correct possible landmines before locking in that feature. We can quickly correct something that is wrong. But Agile can only works if the design and development team can work closely together, and part of working closely is understanding the other person's skillset.

What is data in an app sense

When we are talking about data, we are talking about what we capture from the user. It is then displayed to the user in the app. 

A good example of this could be Spotify. 

As a user, you sign up for your Spotify account using your data: your name, your email, your phone, your location. Then you decide to buy Spotify premium, so you enter your payment details. 

When you interact with the Spotify app, you expect that it displays your account information correctly; including your music and playlists that you created, and that you are being billed correctly. This is an example of good data collection, creating a clean database.

If the initial data steps were incorrect, this expected user experience can not exist. You might be targeted with playlists that are not relevant to your country. Your subscription could fail because you entered your payment details incorrectly and shut you out of the app entirely.

Why designers need to know about data

Most designers do not know how important the data they collect is, until they work in the industry. 

Here at Moonward we believe our designers are the first developers to touch the project. If data is not handled correctly from the outset, the user experience, especially for the early adopters can be pretty shit. This can be frustrating for both you and your users. Down the track you may need to rework your design, which means more development, more features and more work. This is why it is important to get it right the first time. 

In development, this phenomenon is called Tech Debt. This is when a team makes a decision to either expedite a project, or because of a lack of understanding, that results in rework. Tech Debt can be costly to a team, and can compound as you get more users.

Moonward Developer mapping out relational database
Development and Design team at Moonward organising the handling of data

Encourage your development and design team to collaborate

If you are building an app you will want your designers to talk to your developers and understand their world. The nature of code and development is it is very linear and logical. Does the code work, yes or no? 

The design and development team need to be on the same page and understand the systems and integrations the app has. The designer has the power to streamline and maximise the developers efficiency when they are developing the product. At Moonward, our teams talk all the time, and because we do it actually saves us time. 

Decisions that are made by the design team early on, such as using a full name instead of first name and last name can have lasting impact. Understanding the outcomes early and having different types of minds working together to bounce ideas around is super important. Because from our designs, the developers will go and create the database from there.

If you are thinking about developing an app, who you work with is vital to the success of your project and whether you will be tackling tech debt in the early stages or releasing new features. 

At Moonward, our designers think like developers and importantly our team is 100% in house. Book in a free thirty minute strategy call here.

Learn more about Tech Debt in this video below.

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