Cognitive Break: Working with Developers

Session Title

Cognitive Break: Working with Developers


Charlie Robbins, Lab49

Session Type: Presentation

As user experiences have grown richer, it is increasingly common for designers to not have the software development skills necessary to implement their creative vision. Instead, they need to work closely with software developers to turn their vision into reality. The problem is that designers and developers approach problems differently. Their patterns of thought and underlying cognitive structures are distinct, but both are valuable.

Developers maintain rich mental models about the software they help create. The user experience is only one facet of this model and fits into a much larger fabric. Developers also frequently communicate virtually; an environment in which it is almost impossible to directly observe change. Documentation, source control, and agile development methodologies have helped foster communication for development-specific issues and a similar approach can be used for the user experience of an application.

By fostering communication, focusing on delivery, and trying to understand what developers are thinking (and why) designers can work more effectively with their products and create a more compelling user experience for their customers.


Charlie Robbins is a consultant at Lab49 and a Masters student at Columbia University where he works with the Computer Graphics and User Interfaces research group. He has worked at Microsoft and large financial institutions as both a software developer and user experience engineer. His interests include user experience, human computer interaction, and a fanatical devotion to improving the design and development process.