Teamwork: The App Developer and Designer Relationship With the Client

Teamwork: The App Developer and Designer Relationship With the Client

25 Oct 2021


Tiffany Palmer

Are you struggling to get your app development team working well together? Or have you just put a development team together to make your dream mobile application a reality?

An unproductive relationship between the client, designer, and developer can send those dreams crashing down before they’ve even begun.

No matter which stage your app is at, it’s never too late (or too early) to create a positive and productive working relationship between your team members.

Clear communication and smooth teamwork make all the difference in completing your app project on time and to your exact specifications.

Below is our guide for how to develop a smooth working relationship between client, app developer, and designer for the best teamwork possible.

Understand Your Application Development Contract

First of all, the entire team needs to understand the contract before getting to work. 

First of all, every member of the team must understand their role and the expectations required of them. It’s good practice to have a lawyer take a look at the contract to make sure it is fair and clear.

Answer All Questions at the Beginning

One of the most important parts of an app development contract is ownership rights. Is there an NDA that stops the developer from creating the same software for other clients? Who owns the intellectual property rights? Who owns the software? 

You need to make sure that everyone’s questions are answered before the contracts are finalized and signed. Always get the help of a qualified lawyer if there’s anything you’re unsure about.

Understanding your app development contract is key to effective teamwork in the future. When everyone’s clear on the contract, you reduce the risk of arguments that arise because something in the contract was confusing.

Understand and Respect Everyone’s Role

The next step is to develop a culture of understanding and respect for everyone’s role. Even though you’re all working together on a contract, you need to work as hard as any company to develop a positive and productive work culture.

Each member of the app development team has different areas of expertise. So, they may have ideas that the other members might initially be resistant to. 

Example: A Clash Between Client and Designer

For example, let’s say you are the client and you had shown your designer flowcharts where you had wanted a white login button at the top right of the screen.

When you talk to your designer, they think that it would be better to change the colour of the login button to red and move it to the middle of the screen. They explain that the purpose of your app is to help users schedule their time better, so they need to be able to log in right away.

You get irritated because this goes against your vision. The designer gets stressed because they are trying to help you upgrade the app’s user experience.

In this example, it would have been worthwhile for the client to listen to the designer’s reasoning. This is because the designer is the one who has the most expertise in user experience.

Instead, you could come to a compromise. You might move the login button as the designer suggested, but change the colour according to your wishes.

Develop Transparency and Trust From Day 1

Transparency and trust aren’t only reserved for corporate environments. Even if you’re a temporary team working together on a contract, you need to make sure everyone trusts each other. This means trusting that people will do their job well without nit-picking or micro-managing.

You can’t expect everyone else on the team to read your mind, so you need to be transparent about why you made a certain decision. 

And when everyone else on the team understands the reasoning behind your decision, they’re more likely to trust you.

Consider setting up a project management tool so that everyone on your team is on the same page. These tools allow you to share files, give everyone permissions, have a team chat for easy communication, and more.

Be Open To Learning

When working together in a group, it’s understandable that everyone is protective of their vision and expertise. But members of the team can learn from each other and build trust by seeing that everyone on the team supports each other.

For example, an app designer who’s only worked in the non-profit sector might not know some of the best practices for creating an app for a fashion e-commerce client. But the developer has worked in this industry before and has helpful tips.

Instead of assuming they know everything they need to do, the designer could take the opportunity to learn from someone with experience in a different industry.

Make Sure Everyone Is Clear on the Vision

If everyone has a different vision for the product, then you can be sure you’re in for a rocky collaboration. 

Whether you’re still validating ideas for your project or you’re already in the development stage, make sure to have regular meetings with your team.

Even if you’ve established a clear vision during your initial meetings, you need to make sure everyone continues to work towards the same vision so that your app is consistent and doesn’t look like a different person made each page.

Having regular meetings also takes into account that the vision for the app may change during development. For example, your team might find a different solution for your customers’ primary pain point and pivot in this direction.

Expertise and Vision

Everyone may have a different vision because their expertise trains them to think in a different way. For example, a developer may focus on keeping the code logical and making the app function smoothly.

A designer may see the app through ease of user experience, while the client may be most focused on solving the customer’s pain points.

And since clients are more likely to be unfamiliar with industry jargon, your team can make use of diagrams and flowcharts to make sure everyone is on the same page.

While the expertise from these different mindsets gives your team a varied skill set, you need to keep the vision for the app clear at all times.

One way to do this is by creating a team vision statement, which shows where you want your team to go while connecting and inspiring its members.

Divide the Project Into Manageable Chunks

If there’s one thing that can dissolve a team, it’s feeling overwhelmed and taking it out on everyone around you. Or worse, one person on the team has so much work that it’s impossible to finish within the deadline.

Everyone’s role within the project may fluctuate with how much work everyone will have during each stage of app development.

For example, if the entire user interface needs to be designed, the designer is going to have a larger amount of work than the rest of the team members during this time.

And if there is a problem with the code, then the developer will need to work on it until this is fixed.

Avoid Burnout

If you try to do too much at the beginning, your team could burn out too soon. But when you divide the project into chunks that can be managed by everyone on the team, you help mitigate business risks.

If one team member does have some more work to do, then the rest of the team members can see if there’s anything else they can work on to get ahead of schedule, or they can see how they might assist the busiest team member.

This is one of the benefits of working with an agency, as each member of the team knows each other and already has systems in place for smooth teamwork.

Focus On Effective Communication

Businesses with less than 100 people spend an average of 17 hours per week on clarifying communications from before.

Imagine how frustrated a developer could get if they misunderstood poorly written instructions from the client and then had to spend hours fixing the code to get the right functionality.

Each person’s role on the team affects how they might see the project as a whole.

For example, a designer is more likely to see the project from a “big picture” perspective as they’re focused on the entire user experience. But a developer is more likely to see the app in small parts, as each part of the code does something different.

Business Communication Best Practices

To avoid wasting time that could have been spent making your app even better, your team should always strive for business communication best practices during your project. These include:

  • Being clear on timelines
  • Making sure everyone knows which metrics equal success
  • Appropriate word choices and tone of voice
  • Getting everyone’s input
  • Giving constructive feedback
  • Staying consistent with goals
  • Using the right vehicle for communication (e.g. email, phone)

Effective communication has the added benefit of increasing morale, which increases engagement and helps increase the quality of your product.

The Consequences of Ineffective Communication

Poor communication can make your team members feel like they’re not being heard. This can lower their motivation and how well they perform. 

If your designer and developer are always emailing each other back and forth because they can’t understand each other’s suggestions, then they waste the time that your hard-earned money is paying them for.

And when you spend so much time trying to fix ineffective communication, you may find that you’re way over the budget of your start-up costs.

This is why listening is so important. Even though your app development team doesn’t function as the classic employer/employee relationship, everyone needs to feel safe and make their voice heard to fix potential communication problems before they arise.

Have Self-Awareness and Empathy

Remember that designers, developers, and clients come together on contract, which means that they have the choice not to work with you again if it was a frustrating experience the first time.

Let’s say your developer is struggling with getting the GPS functionality on your app to work and is three days past the deadline. If you let your anger take over and yell at the developer, you risk damaging your relationship.

Your app also suffers because now the developer is resentful of you and is no longer as engaged in the project. Even if you have good reason to be angry, this strategy won’t help your app

Instead, you can work on developing self-awareness and watching your tone and actions. Perhaps the developer has been trying their best but ran into a snag in the code, or they may have had a medical emergency in their family.

The best thing you can do in situations like this is to try and have empathy. Be stern when you have to and when it’s justified. But if you nit-pick and get angry over every single thing, you can be sure that the lack of teamwork will show in your app.

The Best Teamwork Between Client, App Developer, and Designer

Effective teamwork not only lets you get your app done on time, but it can help you create a better app.

When choosing or working with an app development team, make sure that they have the necessary skills to complete the project but also that they have soft skills like communication and self-awareness.

At EB Pearls, we’ve built over 380 iPhone/Android apps, 44 of which are in the app store’s top 10. None of this would be possible without the effective teamwork that we focus on at our full-service agency.

If you’re looking for a Sydney app developer that goes the extra mile, then book your free consultation with us today.


Tiffany comes with a unique creative ability. She is one of the quickest learners of new tools and methodology. She leads the atomic design principles within our UI & UX team that has helped us to deliver high-quality design faster.

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Giuseppe Saffioti

— Founder at Intro Dating