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Striking a Balance between Design and Development – DevTalks Fall 2021

Tiina Kotamies Dec 22 2021 7 AM | 4 min read

The last few times, DevTalks, our biannual developer meetup, has been very backend focused, so we wanted to go over to the frontend side for a change. In the 9th (and 4th virtual) Smartly.io DevTalks, we dove headfirst into the fascinating world of user interfaces and user experience. 

Our guest speakers Nils Binder and Varya Stepanova are both working to improve the communication between designers and developers to enable great UI and UX. On top of Nils and Varya's talks, Smartly.io's own Lead Engineer Arto Liukkonen shared our take on building UI components that grow with our organization.

 

Nils Binder: "Designers Should Learn How to Code!" – Now What Do We Do with Them

 

Starting as a so-called Web Designer in 1999, Nils calls himself a "Frontend Designer," working as UI/UX Designer and part-time coder. Nils moves between two worlds — continuously striving to improve the communication between designers and developers. 

Nils sees value in having a team of professionals who are not strictly tied to their respective roles. Through his talk, we learned how a CSS developer with a background in design could help build more resilient and accessible web applications. This is an excellent reminder that overlapping roles are not a big issue when building a team or a functional design system. On the contrary, it can be a real asset to have people who understand their field and the field of the people they work with. As a result, there is a potential to improve the communication between team members and lead to better web applications.

 

Varya Stepanova: Increasing Design System Quality and Adoption by Proper Stakeholder Management

 

Varya Stepanova is a Design Systems Architect with extensive experience in management and design. During her tech career, Varya's primary focus was in component-focused UI design and development, creating helpful tooling for the subject and spreading the practices across organizations. Now she brings design systems to the next level of success through cooperative work in the company development community and bridging the gap for designers, developers, and business specialists.

In her talk, Varya encourages us to stay structured with proper stakeholder management to get the best benefits from a design system, like enabling faster design and development. She gave us brilliant examples of bridging the gap between designers, developers, and business specialists to reach the next level with design systems. She reminded us that the key to a design system's success is the focus on people — as people build the system for other people. When building and maintaining design systems, communication between these different stakeholders is the key to success — starting from expectation management to getting the stakeholders on board and to seeing the value in building a design system. 

 

Arto Liukkonen: Building Components that Live with Your Organization

 

Arto works as a Lead Engineer at Smartly.io in a team focused on collecting Facebook advertising analytics and insights. Even though leading a backend-oriented team, Arto sees himself more as a frontend developer. With 20 years of web development experience, he has closely followed the evolution of the modern web and learned all kinds of CSS tricks. 

Arto talked about how design systems can be measured through flexibility in processes and the level of freedom they provide. Arto walked us through striking a balance between harder-to-break components in rigid systems and the possibility of chaos and loss of control with flexible systems. In this talk, we also heard about Smartly.io's journey with rigid and flexible components. Arto also covered the usage of behavioral hooks to enable the expansion of the components in a way that gives enough support to developers but doesn't allow them to deviate too much from the component contract.

 

 

Panel Discussion

After their talks, our guest speakers Varya and Nils sat down for a panel discussion about composable and extendable UI patterns and components together with Rami Ertimo from Smartly.io's Design System-focused team. We heard some intriguing thoughts about the design system approach, as well as technical extendability versus the design's extendability, and what limitations each might bring.

 

Hungry for more?

DevTalks will be back next year! In the meantime, join our Meetup group at https://www.meetup.com/Smartly-io-DevTalks/ to stay up to date about upcoming events.

You can also learn more about our Product Development team's challenges in our Engineering blog and Engineering Twitter account. On our YouTube channel, you can also find the previous DevTalks through our playlists, like our Kubernetes Edition and Fall 2020 Edition.

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Author
Tiina Kotamies
Employer Branding & Talent Marketing

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