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Not all developers are created equal

Maybe this is why your dev team underperform

Context about Developers and Dev Teams

The typical dev team in an organization is filled with multiple developers and maybe a couple of designers because UX is important, right?

That creates tension inside teams, with designers working on design tools such as Sketch, Figma, XD etc., and sending pictures of interfaces to the developers with little concern about how things actually work.

Developers are not all equal

A large number, I dare to say, the vast majority of developers don't really enjoy working with HTML and CSS. One of the most common reasons I hear is that these are not "real" programming languages and therefore are considered inferior. Indeed, technically speaking, HTML and CSS are not programming languages and should never be. Instead, they are specific languages for specific functionalities. And guess what, they are exactly THE thing that makes the internet.

Apart from my little ranting, it is all fine that developers don't really enjoy HTML/CSS. These languages are actually closer to a designer's skillset. The HTML will deal with structure and information architecture, while the CSS will add visual treatment like spacing, colors, fonts, etc. This is also why traditional developers don't like them. They don't know what to do with the tools they offer, which is fine, simply because it is not their job.

The problem is that it is tough to find this rare breed of professionals who navigate both worlds. Really, once at a meeting, the team lead called me "that mythical creature, a Unicorn who designs on the browser." I couldn't help but feel very flattered by such a compliment. These professionals are rare because it requires an "in-between" skillset that is not common.

I assume it is a very unique set of skills that rely heavily on both sides of the brain. The artistic side, with its chaotic and emotion-driven process, and the logical side in a more methodical and orderly fashion.

The frontend designer or interface developer is a relatively recent niche of software production. However, these highly specialized professionals have this unique skill set to navigate the technical constraints of the medium to achieve the desired aesthetic.

Enter the design system team

If you got lost here, read the Design Systems 101 article to get the gist of it.

The design system team is composed precisely of these multi-disciplinary professionals. This team will create the HTML and CSS components that your "real" developers will then use in your organization's various applications, freeing them up to work on what they are really good at, like database performance, business intelligence, etc. They shouldn't be worrying if the buttons are yellow or blue, let alone the exact tone of blue of your brand.

This approach optimizes the teams' workflows, saving costs and offering a better and more consistent interface.