Working Together: Design, Development & Marketing

The variety of websites, blogs, and social networks that exist on the internet is dizzying. Each site has it’s own look and feel, but what makes a site work is a complex framework of different languages: HTML, CSS, PHP, Javascript, and a host of others. This is web development—nothing online would exist without it—and without design we’d still be staring at dark screens with white bitmap text. Similarly, without any sort of business vision a site would get lost in the shuffle. It’s no secret that the most successful sites incorporate design, development, and marketing.

So imagine my horror upon hearing a designer tell a room full of other designers his mentor’s advice: “don’t let development get in the way of your creativity.” In other words: design whatever you want, and let the developer worry about making it work. I find this incredibly troubling. While web development has seen huge improvements in the past few years, some things just aren’t possible, or can severely limit a site’s usability. Ignoring this for the sake of a fancy design is a bad idea and major time-waster.

I understand the importance of uninhibited creativity in the realm of design, but I think there’s a tendency towards superiority among some of us. Yes, what we do is important, but design doesn’t exist without a physical (or digital) manifestation, and most of the time designers rely on non-designers to make this manifestation happen.

Three’s a Company

Working with a brilliant developer (Jason Norris), and an equally brilliant businessman (Chad Wittman), I’ve developed (no pun intended) an incredible appreciation for what they do. Applum is a symbiotic company. The three of us share new ideas, and each phase of our work, to get everyone’s perspective. We all have our specialities, but we also share skills: Jason does most of the sketching, Chad is a statistics wiz, and I can front-end code. When we work together to figure out the problems that need solving, our solutions are stronger.


How We Work

Most of our projects start with an idea, as projects often do. Chad or Jason identify a problem with social media analytics, and they figure out the complicated programming that makes it consumable for our subscribers. Once they have an idea of what needs to be done, they explain it to me. If I don’t understand, we re-work it.

Design & Development

Jason will sketch how it could work, and Chad and I provide feedback. When the sketch is finalized, I design a detailed mockup, and share it for critique. Jason codes the finalized mockup, and I touch up everything in the browser using HTML and CSS.


When a project is complete, Chad starts marketing. He demos to potential clients, posts to Facebook and Twitter, and writes a blog post. The blog post is then edited by yours truly. If he needs any graphics to accompany a post, I design those too. All the while Jason continues to work on perfecting the backend code, or thinking of the next feature.

Almost everything we create goes through this process. I don’t sit alone in my apartment and design whatever I want and hand it off to Jason to “make it work.” The three of us go over every detail and figure out how to do it. Developers and businessmen can be just as creative as designers, even if it doesn’t involve choosing a typeface or organizing a layout. Collaborating with non-designers can ultimately strengthen the impact of what we do.

  1. “Collaborating with non-designers can ultimately strengthen the impact of what we do.”

    Important point. We have to keep in mind that most of our customers are not designers, or are not programmers. So they may not “get” the little things being done to make the end user experience better. No matter how pretty a design or clever a back-end programming scheme, the only thing that really matters is what customers think. It is easy to use, it it clear, is it enjoyable, does it make their life easier… etc. What matters the most in our mind might not always matter most in the customer’s mind. Along with Applum, customers go right in the middle of your diagram. :)

    • Kelby Hawn

      Excellent point, Nate! :) I think it’s really important when you work on a small team to utilize everyone’s skill set to figure out optimal solutions for users. When all of us are involved from the beginning we come up with better ideas—and there’s a clear direction for each of us to do our thing. In this field, when one person works independent of others the solution is usually far from ideal for everyone involved, especially the end users.

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