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The Critical Designer-to-Developer Handoff

Posted on October 21, 2020 by Matt Stewart

For the best web design and ui/ux, web designers and developers need to work closely together. A relay baton is handed off.Completing an effective handoff from the webpage designer to the developer is key to realizing a project that satisfies the client and works as intended. After all, the designer has invested a lot of time creating innovative designs and wants to make sure all that effort is translated during development.

Why jeopardize all that work with a bad baton pass?


Why is the Designer Handoff to the Developer So Important?

The handoff of the designer’s vision for how a website will look and function represents a pivotal moment in the ownership of a website development process. Up to this point, the site design has been largely conceptual and existed in wireframes, mockups, and conversations with the client.

When the designer hands all that hard work over to the developer, the building blocks of code and site navigation become a reality. This transfer is similar to an architect handing over plans to the builder, but instead of a building, the developer interprets the design to build a functioning website.

If the designer and developer do not have good communication methods, the final product may not be seen until it's time to present it to the client. If the handoff went poorly, and the client’s vision wasn’t achieved, it can mean costly redesigns and dissatisfied customers. No one wants that.

Avoid a rocky transition by following our handoff procedure below.



Improving Handoff Procedure

To ensure a successful transfer of the designer's work to the developers, you need to establish and follow a coordinated workflow. Even though designers and developers share the same goals, they come from different backgrounds and think about projects in different ways.

By isolating and creating conventions around the following priorities before the handoff, your team will have the best chance of a successful webpage buildout. Here are the different areas your team should focus on prior to handoff.

  • Communication Strategy
  • Image Preparation
  • Typography
  • Basic Styles
  • Component Description

We’ll go a little deeper into each of these areas to see what your team can do to prepare each one.

Considerations prior to moving to a web design/ux project from design to development. [graphic] people at a conference table.

Systematic Communication

Good communication is critical for both a smooth handoff, and for an entire project to succeed. Make sure that the design team and the development team keep lines of communication open throughout the entire development cycle.

The sooner the two groups begin a dialogue, the better. The designers will have a better idea of what the developers will deliver, and the developers can start thinking about what the client needs.

Establish who will serve as the communication contact and put them in a room together. If that's not an option, a remote meeting can work, too. Be sure to make a face-to-face conversation part of the process.


Image Preparation

A significant portion of the final file size of most webpages are images, and the design team spent a lot of time sourcing, placing, and editing these images. They should make sure that the images are compressed and ready for developers to place on the site. 

This is important for a variety of reasons. It ensures that the compressed images retain the quality that the designer and client expect in the final product. It also helps make the website more appealing to Google’s search algorithm, which will lead to the site receiving a higher ranking and more views. While this step may seem trivial, it places both teams on even footing and lets the developers focus on building the back end to perfection.


An important part of designing a webpage is finding the font, or fonts, that best represent the client's desired aesthetic. Designers are responsible for making sure the fonts are available to the developers and have been appropriately licensed so they are cleared for publication when the site goes live.

The penalties for failing to do this are severe. The embarrassment of having to admit to a client that this step wasn’t taken can do serious damage to your company's reputation.

💡Once the font is properly licensed, use a program such as Font Book to save the font as a single file and send it over to the developers.


Style Choices

Just as the design team spends a good deal of time selecting the best font for the webpage, they must also balance presentation elements that include:

  • Color Schemes
  • Button Types
  • Type Sizes
  • Forms Fields

Finalize and prepare these elements for the design team in one coherent document to avoid miscommunication. The design team should find and record the exact hex codes for colors that affect backgrounds, links, and text choices. Does the client prefer radio buttons or checks? How should contact forms be handled?

All of these questions should be answered by the designer before the handoff meeting, and those choices should be readily available in the developer's instructions.

Component Descriptions

Nothing excites a client more than innovative design components that bring a site to life and set it apart from competitors. Developers are more than capable of making these concepts a reality, but they need to know exactly what it is the element should do and how it should look. To that end, designers must annotate their concepts to explain their vision.

The process goes even better if the designers can provide an example of what they have in mind. If there is a webpage with a similar design or an animation reference that will help communicate the idea, include it in the design notes.



Positive Designer Handoffs Create Better Websites

Once all of these tasks are complete, your design team can get ready for a handoff meeting that will prepare the project for success. Good communication, clear instructions and a collaborative culture will produce a website that exceeds client expectations. 

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