NSConf Mini: Developers vs. Designers

On Monday, it was NSConf Mini: “Developers vs. Designers”. This was a 1-day event held up in Leicester by Scotty and the rest of iDeveloper TV. The premise of the event was to get developers (both Mac and iOS) thinking about design and how to improve their products, or the services that they provide to their clients.

John and I went up horrifically early in the morning and got in just after Matt Gemmell’s talk started.

Matt Gemmell talked about crafting applications. Focusing on experiences over features, locking to the core idea and apply this to people’s needs and using people’s emotions to help improve the experience.

Jaime Newbury talked about problem solving in projects and what to do (including how to avoid) problems that (always) occur during projects. The core message was communication. Typically, either the client or the service provider fails to communicate properly on one side, causing issues to either occur quite quickly, or slowly build up over time causing misery for everyone involved.

Communication -> Understanding -> Confidence -> Trust

But also, to have standards. Firing client is okay, and it’s what will differentiate you.

Cathy Shire talked about both the frameworks that we use and the interactions between designers and developers on iOS and Mac projects.

I have a really hard time seperating the design of the product with the application. To me, there the same thing.

She advocated putting designers and developers at the same cluster of tables (as had been done at Sofa). There’s always design work, so designers won’t get bored. At Sofa, tables were organised per project, this involved a designer and developer in close proximity. If the developer can access the designer (and vice-versa), queries and assumptions can easily be talked through, saving issues later on — and avoiding the divide.

On the side of code: Go for adaptability and resiliance, not reuse. The frameworks (say, Cocoa, et. al.) provide the reuse for us. Because of this, we should build frameworks for specific jobs (as Cocoa does for seperable parts.)

Dave Wiskus gave us a story (a rather entertaining one, actually, fitting for just after lunch.) He stated that “Design is what happens when you create and care at the same time”.

Josh Clark talked about buttons. They’re a hack, they work, but we can often do better. Big screens want for big gestures. Whilst your application can be featureful, your interface shouldn’t be. UI is a social convention, and it varies from place to place.

If the content can be navigable, let it be so. Abstractions need to be learned, so if you can borrow from other areas and keep it obvious, you are improving the experience for the user. But, if you’re going to take the effort to implement an stylistic interface, you really should be taking into account all of the other aspects of it.

Importantly, remember what it was like when you were getting where you are today. What was it like when you started? Hard? Well, help make it easier for everyone.

After this, most of us went for a curry, followed by a few pub visits. It was great spending a bunch of time talking to different iOS and Mac developers — something you don’t get in Devon very often.

In the process of this I ended up finally talking to Alasdair Allan, briefly catching up with Simon Whitaker, and also meeting; Duncan Lowrie, Torbjørn Vik Lunde, a few people from Black Pixel and several others. So, all in all, it was a rather good event.