Designers solve problems - what do developers do?

Squeezing UX design into an agile process is hard. I think so and Joshua Porter thinks so. He reasons that this is because “design is about solving problems”, and solving problems cannot be squeezed into 2 week iterations.

Hm. I wonder what that says about developers?

Let’s use logic

So… Designers solve problems. Solving problems cannot be done in sprints. Thus designers cannot fit into an agile workflow. But developers do fit into an agile workflow. Thus developers cannot be solving problems.

Uhm, what?

Guess what, development is also about solving problems. In fact, Joshuas paragraph about designer motivation could easily be about developers:

What motivates [developers] is that they love solving problems…they are unsatisfied with the status quo and want to improve things. They get their kicks out of solving problems with [code] as solutions, and the thing they hate the most is [code] that doesn’t truly solve a problem (but purports to). And because solving the problem is the goal some [developers] keep working through deadlines…in the same way that a Sunday morning crossword puzzle can stretch into Sunday afternoon simply because it’s not solved yet.

Sounds about right to me.

I have faith in you, designer dudes(ses)

But why does sprint based planning work for developers, then, and not for designers? Potentially because developers are more used to splitting things into tiny pieces that fit together. Doing so makes our software more adaptable and it’s only natural that we split large problems into smaller problems when we plan our sprints.

Can designers not do the same thing? I suspect they can. But I also think they are used to thinking holistically about solutions, which makes it difficult to consider each piece of the puzzle on its own.

Difficult and uncomfortable when you’re not used to it, but not impossible. I recommend Morten Justs Introduction To UX in Scrum for one (working) way of going about it.


Designers and developers are not that different. We are all trying to solve the same problems. So please, let’s not create artificial schisms between designers and developers - we need each other to ship quality software.