By Graham Mazie

Working with peers in different disciplines can often lead to unnecessary friction, especially when it comes to website planning and development. We can get so bogged down in our own work responsibilities that it can be hard to keep in mind the experiences of others. In collaborative marketing departments, many different roles and skill sets are needed to keep all systems running smoothly.

This brings us to the mysterious web developer. 

I once was told by a friend that they thought of web development the same way they thought of theoretical physics: “Might as well be black magic.” Although I find this analogy more than a little unfair (after all, I’m no Voldemort—I’m a friendly developer), I do sympathize with the sense of mystery surrounding a set of skills that one may have not yet learned. 

To make everyone’s lives a little easier during the web design process, let’s talk about some key tips for collaborating with a web developer.

Specify Project Goals for Your Website Planning

One of the key ways to set yourself up for success in working with a web developer is by making sure project goals are established and communicated early on in the project lifecycle. 

Doing so will ensure your developer has a clear idea of what problems may need to be solved and will give them a head start strategizing solutions. This also allows you to catch any technical hiccups you may experience early on, because a seasoned web developer will be able to communicate hurdles you might not anticipate without their expertise. 

You and your web developer (and your clients) will have a much better experience when you involve all key players in specifying project goals.

>> Learn more about what your developer needs to be successful with this Website Development Handoff Checklist.

Improve Your Web Design Process by Asking Good Questions

Knowing what to ask a web developer can be one of the trickiest parts of collaborative website planning. Here are a few you should ask often:

1. How long will that take?

A website or application is an intricate system of moving parts. Things that look like simple fixes on the outside may involve a series of other steps that a developer familiar with the project knows about. Even if you’re sure a specific task won’t take long, it never hurts to check with your web developer just to make sure.

2. Do you foresee any particular issues?

This goes with my last point on specifying project goals. Beyond even the beginning stages of a project, certain unexpected issues may come up. Checking whether the web developer foresees an issue can help manage expectations and prevent avoidable technical challenges.

3. Is there anything you need from me?

Usually a developer will reach out if any assets or tools are needed to fulfill the requirements of the project, but asking this straight away will ensure that everything is addressed on the front end without interruption. Everything you need to plan, build, and launch a stunning website can be found  in "Mastering The Art of Website Redesigns".    

Communicate Throughout the Web Design Process

Make sure to check in with your developer in regular intervals—this allows the developer to work for uninterrupted periods of time, but it also provides a good checkpoint to update on the project status and be made aware of any new issues that may have popped up. 

Although periodic check-ins are important, good communication must be ongoing for successful website planning and development. 

Be sure to make your team aware of any significant shifts in scope or project goals. The web developer should reach out to you with any questions or concerns as well—communication is a two-way street. 

Project Management Tools

To ensure you have great communication and are aligned in your goal setting for your website planning, you need support from technology to document and organize your efforts. 

I’ve listed a few tools and their categories below to assist in managing your working relationship with a web developer. The tools I use the most are in bold:


Issue Tracking:

  • Teamwork
  • Trello
  • Jira
  • Asana
  • Basecamp


Prototyping:

  • InVision
  • Adobe XD


File Sharing:

  • Dropbox
  • Google Drive

Finding and using the tools that work best for your team will be one more step toward successful collaboration with your web developer. Be sure to establish best practices and processes to avoid confusion and allow for excellent communication. For more on this, check out our blog post on Best Project Management Tools for Marketing Teams.

Just like communication, it’s worth noting that it’s just as important that your web developer also makes an effort to be a strong collaborator. The goal is to provide a working relationship that’s as efficient as possible, and this effort must come from both sides for a smooth web design process. For more on that, check out our blog, “5 Ways to Empower Your Marketing Manager.”

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Graham Mazie

About the author

Graham Mazie is a web developer at SmartBug Media with nearly five years experience building and contributing to HubSpot COS and WordPress sites. He's led WordPress lectures and meetups in the NYC area and specializes in working with front-end code. Read more articles by Graham Mazie.

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