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Over the last two years, I've taken over a web application development group. My focus for the first two years was building teams, get technology updated and in-place, and fixing my customers pain points so we can begin moving forward.

We recently starting building new applications in MVC, and I'm finding that my junior and mid-level developers are struggling to build the interfaces, since there's no more drag and drop.

Given that I don't have a deep pool of true html talent, I'm trying to determine if I need UI designers or Web designers to create the interfaces for the applications.

I also don't want the designer to be bored to tears either, but that's the job. Is this something that's typical for this situation, or am I better off bringing the developers up to speed with HTML/CSS training.

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    Your developers are going to need to know at least the rudiments of HTML, CSS and Javascript anyway. – Robert Harvey Apr 7 '16 at 18:53
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    @RobertHarvey you gotta ask yourself though, is someone with "basic/rudimentary HTML and CSS skills" good enough that you'd be OK with them building what is essentially the company's face towards the customers? maybe it is, it depends, but it's not a decision to take lightly. – sara Apr 7 '16 at 19:07
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    Perhaps not, but they still gotta know it. – Robert Harvey Apr 7 '16 at 19:22
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I think that if you have good software developers who can do their job in the server-side code and can do the business rules and architecture and design etc., then let them do what they do best. If some of them would like to take the opportunity to become a great UI designer too, then by all means, take advantage of that, let them take a course or something, encourage them. If you can develop the in-house talent, that's great.

You should really make sure that you DO have actual professionals though. Sure, most programmers can put together some html and css and maybe hack together some JS too, but it won't be even nearly comparable to what you get if you have some people who actually specialize in and know their stuff about UI design. I'm a back-end developer myself, but at a small company, so we gotta do front-end stuff too. Mostly I can sort of get done what management wants, but I know I am not doing half as a good a job as an actual professional would. I prefer to work with what I know best.

The back-end is extremely important because it's the core in the business and what keeps customers coming back/making them stay, but the front-end is what sells it. It HAS to be good, so you want professionals building it.

Of course this all depends on how big a company you're in, what the budget for hiring is, what your target demographic is and so on.

  • I can swing the budget for a UI designer, I don't want to hire someone and have them be bored and quit after 6 months. Most of the developers are full-stack, we have a strong competence at back end and mid-tier. One or two seniors can build front ends, but most can't. Maybe a consultant to work with them and kick-start the process? – Mike Apr 7 '16 at 19:32
  • I think a consultant might be a good idea if you have some foundation to build off of (and given that people are interested in learning!) – sara Apr 7 '16 at 19:38
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UX designers are good at user experince and making attractive look & feel. But many of them have no idea what all these wonderful things means for developers and the work involved beneath

There's a real risk at leting UX to take important decitions that could (they will for sure) have several impacts at development time.

As mates already pointed out. At some point you will need devs working at client-side and understanding its mechanisms. Also Its limitations and possibilities, that many times are bound to the design.

To make good client-side apps for web applications can be the hell on earth, so assure that your team is up-to-date in such technologies, frameworks and a little bit about 'design'. Thesedays there are many frameworks that provides good UI. And most of them are devs-friendly.

I would put my efforts into trainning my team. All of them. Its important to assure that everyone in the team is capable to take forward that part of the project and encourage to them to share acquired knowledge.

Finally I would hire UX designers once the work is done (or almost) and I want a plus on the final product. If they have any dev skills or knowledge it will be a plus. An important one.

This trainning will hit like a rocket into the planning and may be in the dead-lines. It's the well known 'learn-curve'. But its an invesment. You will see its benefits in short|mid-term.

  • Hi, Thanks for your response. I do continue to train, but too much too soon ends up being counter productive. I didn't realize how critical pure html / css and javascript were to the new framework. Everybody want's to do the new stuff, but I suspect only one or two actually understood what they were getting into. I'm thinking some htm5, css and javascript classes, backing that with a UI consultant to work on a handful of small projects that aren't overwhelming. – Mike Apr 8 '16 at 13:30
  • Trust in your team and they will do their better. At the end they will like client-side frameworks. JQuery, Angular, ... It will be like to a open window to a new world of possibilities. The many prespective and resources they have the better for any development were they ends up. Try to don't think in this period as a counter productive. About consultant. Well if his task is to give a push then its ok. But if you lean too much in him, once he is gone, knowledge goes away with him ;-). You are doing well. As a technician i would be happy been in a team that takes care of my career. – Laiv Apr 8 '16 at 18:30
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In looking at this it seems to me that there are two distinct needs:

  1. Design of user interfaces
  2. Construction of user interfaces

If your team has been getting satisfactory results with the former using drag and drop then it seems to me that the capability is there and that this more a question of practice with the new tools. (I think its a bit more subtle than that, but its close enough.)

Where this leads me is that losing the drag/drop has taken away the tools that your team use to do their "design" work - so it might be worthwhile to look at a lightweight design tool like Balsamiq Mockups (that's an example there are many more) to allow them to shape the design and to adopt a framework like Bootstrap or similar to give them the building blocks they need to work without making things too hard. This is new stuff, so its a question of learning new patterns and practices and you are going to struggle because its different (early WPF after a lot VB and WinForms was... well not fun).

I will however echo the value of acquiring proper UX expertise - I've had the good fortune to work with a couple of very talented UX types and they shone a light...

  • Great, thanks for the wire frame tool advice. I was also looking at some of the design tools like dreamweaver, or maybe a bootstrap editor. This is all new to me, so I'm just trying to set a direction that we can live with for the next 3-4 years. These applications are fairly complex, not your basic form data store. – Mike Apr 8 '16 at 13:37
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According to project, I am a back-End Developer but i know CSS and Html well, but that's not mean i can handle everything .. so direct answer see your client requirements and you need to ask yourself some questions.

  • Is it a public site, so you will need a rich and fancy UI or just simple service with basic interface.
  • you need a responsive design or adaptive design and can your developers handle that.
  • You will use a ready Framework (Foundation, Bootstrap) or you will build your own.

From my experience, if you are working in big public site and you want a clean and advanced UI, Hire UI developer, else you can train your developers or buy a ready template.

  • Thanks for the feedback. We do public and internal facing applications only, The greater web site is done by an entirely different team which create links to our applications. We are on VS 2015 which by default gives you bootstrap now, and Entity Framework. The developers aren't all that strong in .Net and some come from different disciplines (Powerbuilder, Java, etc.). CSS and Html are definitely our weak points right now. I don't want to stray too far from VS tool sets, as it's already a struggle for some. – Mike Apr 7 '16 at 19:09
  • Then check your project budget and if it enabled you to hire UI developer go for that .. If not begin to train your developers to use CSS and HTML. And I used ready templates in many projects and it helped me much. – Ahmed Ragheb Apr 7 '16 at 19:15

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