Patrick McNeil on Designers vs. Developers

Patrick McNeil, the content director of HOW Interactive Designer, is the host of our first DesignCast next week: Can’t Designers and Developers Get Along? 10 Ways to Make Everybody’s Job Easier. The session will be live at 2 p.m. Eastern (11 a.m. Pacific) on Wednesday, Sept. 28.

Tell us a little more about your DesignCast. What personal or professional experiences led you to this topic?

My DesignCast is absolutely rooted in personal experience. I began my online career as a front-end coder. I often found myself in two roles. First, that I was taking designs from a designer to implement as actual code. And second, that I had to prepare front-end code to be used by the heavy-duty back-end coders. I had a strong understanding of both sides and could see the two groups unable to communicate with each other. Frankly speaking, early on I had a lot of failure in bridging the gap between the technical and creative groups. So after being a middle man for a long time, I’ve figured out a lot of things that can help streamline the process and aid communication. I hope that this DesignCast can help others in the same situation more quickly figure out how to make it work.

So you’re definitely an advocate for interdepartmental peace. What’s the main thing designers have to understand when working with web developers?

I think one of the biggest misconceptions is that developers don’t care about design. You will find that most developers are far more enthusiastic to work on a project when the designs are gorgeous. Everyone wants to create beautiful projects.

The problems tend to start with egos. Designers think they know best, and developers are annoyed that the designers don’t understand the implications of their designs. (This chart of common perceptions can be all too true sometimes.) I think a positive attitude can go a long way to bridge the gap.

Do you have any pet projects?

I am a glutton for pet projects. In a recent wave of personal interest in code-generating tools I built Coded Bits, a simple tool to browse such tools. I’m also the creator of Design Meltdown, a design blog that I’ve recently been working on revamping and relaunching. I can’t seem to help working on pet projects.

On the charity front, I’m just getting started with Big Brothers Big Sisters. I’m supposed to meet my little any day now, which is very exciting!

What can you tell us about your new book?

My new book, The Designer’s Web Handbook (a followup to The Web Designer’s Idea Book volumes 1 and 2), is very related to this DesignCast. My aim is to help designers who are new to the web. It doesn’t teach code or anything overly technical. Instead it focuses on simply explaining the factors at work and how they impact the designer. The idea was to create a handbook designers can turn to better understand the web. There are so many complicated web concepts—I hope my new book can introduce them to designers in a way that’s helpful, not confusing.

In terms of technology, what are you seeing that really excites you these days?

The way devices are shaking up the web is really exciting. It started with smartphones, exploded with tablets and is now finding its way all over. We have TVs that can browse the web, cars that turn into mobile hot spots. The dream of a computer in your refrigerator has been achieved and surpassed. The web has to adapt in new ways. It forces us to leave behind the notion of a website looking the same everywhere, which is an idea that is essentially rooted in print and that has held back the web.

Join in the conversation—and help create interdepartmental peace—by registering for Can’t Designers and Developers Get Along? at

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  1. Pingback: Web Designers vs. Web Developers: The Real Showdown at Indus Net Technologies Journal