Communicating for Handoffs

Conveying Ideas to Developers

Photo by Charles-Adrien Fournier on Unsplash

In a perfect world (like those described in academic settings), developers will wait for high fidelity, pixel perfect, annotated mockups from designers, complete with a fully functional prototype that illustrates their ideas. Alas, reality is never as perfect as the theoretical situations painted in classrooms, and we have to find ways around it.

Annotations written with precision and care, only possible with ample time

In the tiny startup UX design role I jumped into, there was no real handoff process with developers. About a year ago, a freelance designer created high fidelity mockups which were given to an offshore development team. Since then, the developers have mainly worked off the original designs and updates conveyed over a variety of mediums: email, Word docs, and Google Slides. There were also no major design changes done — mainly bug fixes, and language/content edits.

Having completed my own audit and a usability test of the product, I knew we were in for some major changes. However, without an established process for handoff, I didn’t know how my designs would actually end up in the hands of users.

Google Slides with screenshots: it gets the job done

The Google Slides deck with app screenshots and requested edits was working for typos and minor changes, but I wasn’t sure that it would work for a task flow change, or full redesign of a page.

I ended up creating a Figma document with detailed annotations of each screen and the associated interactions. Due to time constraints, I wasn’t able to create a prototype to illustrate all of the interactions. We also struggle with time zone barriers, so much of our communication is asynchronous.

Hopefully this is detailed enough?

In the coming weeks, I’m aiming to establish a better, standardized handoff process with developers. This is one of those things that is impossible to learn in an academic setting, and now I see why: it will always differ from situation to situation, from company to company.

How do you handle hand offs? I’d love to learn any and all techniques!

UX Designer, eater, thinker