On my last contract I was very distant from the users of the app I was working on. I don’t mean distant geographically, or distant emotionally; I mean distant in terms of knowing how the app was being used, what the users thought of the app, and even who the users were. The app was a kind of enterprise app, it wasn’t published to the unwashed masses, it was only used by other people in the company, who I never met.
The longer I worked on this app the more I realised how important it is to me to be close to the users of the product I am working on. And how development and UX are very closely linked. This may sound like an obvious statement to some people, but it’s surprising how many developers I have worked with who treat UI/UX as something that someone else does, and it’s not their concern. Which is what led me to ponder the question that is the subtitle of this post:
Can you be a good developer if you’re not interested in UX?
Part of the reason I love Android and iOS development is because I am involved with the whole product. I’m not just working on a small part – one screen or the backend for example, I’m nearly always working on a vertical slice through the app.
So if I’m working on a feature like following/unfollowing users in an app, I’ll be involved in the specification of the api service, the design of the screens, the navigation of those screens, transitions/animations, and of course the actual code that implements the feature. Depending on the size of the team that is building the app this may involve working as part of a cross-functional team (scrum masters, designers, server guys, dev-ops), or I may just be doing all these things myself. Either way I’m involved in the UX of the app.
Also, Android and iOS evolve at an incredible rate, as developers we need to keep track of all the changes, which includes the recommended design of apps. So if we’re working as a team we can advise the designers on the latest trends, and if we’re working on our own we can implement them.
Which leads me to the answer to my question:
As mobile developers we need to be interested in, and embrace, UX and UI.