The Intersection of Engineering and Design
Given the seamless proliferation and rapid commercialization of the internet, we all can agree that web design is one of the most innovative and dynamic fields one can work in. Within this dynamic field, a design engineer plays a vital role as he has a personal hand in how his client’s product is perceived by the world. As an Engineering Lead in this field, there is much that I have experienced and learned.
Being an industry heavily influenced by tech advancements, there is always more to learn and new things to try out. This field demands one to have a perennially creative mind, the propensity to keep learning, and the tendency to keep striving for excellence in every project one takes up and this is what makes this job challenging. Further, it demands a wide skill set that keeps getting furnished more and more with every project a designer takes up.
A design engineer – what does it take to be one?
During my years as an engineer in a design agency, I have undertaken several projects which include developing Banking Web Apps, Telecom Enterprise Web Apps, Progressive Web Apps, Graphical & Data Related Dashboard Applications, Single Page Web Applications, E-commerce, Brand Websites, Dynamic Websites with CMS, etc.
A field like this, which has extraordinary scope, comes with its challenges. These challenges are mostly common to everyone in this industry but not everyone handles them well. I have faced the same problems and from experience, I can tell you that these challenges can be overcome.
Keep yourself up to date!
The foremost challenge a design engineer faces is staying up to date with the latest developments and trending solutions that shape this industry. Developments and changes keep happening every minute. Even having a small lapse gets you out of the loop and the next thing you know, you have missed out on the latest trends and you are left behind! Staying in the loop is a challenge everyone here faces.
Generally, the most common obstacle in this issue is time trouble. People complain about not having enough time to sit down and seek out the latest information that there is to learn. In my opinion, the only solution is to have a schedule and consistently follow it.
You have to allocate a decent amount of time in your day to reading up and learning about the latest developments and trends. There is always more to learn in design and the way to stand out from the crowd and do justice to this field is to never stay in the dark. Constantly seek out new developments.
In today’s age of digital re-invention, web developers have a plethora of options to improve their efficiency and enhance their performance. For instance, if you are a developer trying to level up in your career, you should be conversant with the new-age technologies viz. OpenAI, ChatGPT, Github Copilot, DALL-E, and Midjourney, to name a few.
Other than these AI tools, one can seek resort to various third-party JS libraries (Solid.js, Next.js, Nuxt, Anime.js, Bideo.js) and VS code extensions (GitLens, ESLint, CSS Peek, Prettier) which will further help you boost the development speed.
You can also use platforms like YouTube and web – development publications like the ‘Smashing magazine’. Consistently reading through these magazines gives you the opportunity to be exposed to what the brightest minds in this field have to say and you gain more knowledge and exposure from different perspectives. YouTube, on the other hand, is a boon to the web design industry.
It is a great resource that can be exploited thoroughly because of the simple and consumable form in which it presents its content. Gyasi Linje, Chris Sean, and ForrestKnight are a few of the YouTube creators that I closely follow and learn from. Watching useful online content allows you to absorb vast technical know-how without having to skim through dense texts.
Designers who want to stay at the top of their game have to take some time out of their busy day to research and stay updated. Consistency, dedication, and the desire to learn is the way to go to overcome this challenge.
Always go that extra mile
Another challenge that one could face while working in an enterprise design agency is going the extra mile and striving for perfection. Most developers only code for the requirement and do not exploit their skills completely. As a developer, you would be working with many highly skilled UX designers. To make a mark of your own in this industry, you need to be an ‘influencer’ of sorts.
As a design engineer, the influence you create should not just be limited to the internal environment or the team that you work with. Instead, it should influence the design community at large. With an extreme conviction for every project you commit to, you can find ways to add value and knowledge to your team and to the community.
One way to do this is to test out the quality of your work with an eye for perfection and see if you can do anything to improve it. Repeat this process until there is simply no room for improvement. You can do this by conducting regular review meetings with the UX team and internalizing as much input as possible. Therefore, always go that extra mile and never be satisfied easily.
Team leading and Teamwork
Team leading is a tricky thing. The efficiency of your work does not just depend on you. It also depends on your team. Even as a leader, you do not have direct control over your teammates’ work and work ethic. As a leader, you cannot be overbearing or try to micromanage the work that your teammates do. The morale and attitude of your team toward work depend upon your disposition. It is important to strike a good balance between necessary supervision and giving your teammates space to work comfortably and grow.
Setting an example is obviously the most important thing.
As a leader, as they see me constantly trying to do the best I can and strive for excellence in everything I do, they are naturally influenced to do the same in their work. I push my team to take up every day as an opportunity to learn something new. I foster growth and betterment regularly in them. We, as developers, keep pushing ourselves to refine and review our work again and again to achieve perfection and excellence. I nurture the same mindset in my team.
Keeping a clean communication line and space, where the team can discuss and analyze its failures with thoughtfulness and celebrate its successes with pomp and enthusiasm does wonders for team chemistry. Talking about our own shortcomings, analyzing our failures to understand where we went wrong, and ensuring the same mistake is not committed again are how the team grows.
The other thing that is equally important is celebrating and appreciating the hard work and efforts put in by a team member and making them feel valued and important.
It is important to have a personal connection and understanding with everyone in your team individually. I care about the personal career goals of my team members as much as I care about the vision that I have for my company. When my team knows I care about them, naturally the care and loyalty come the other way around too.
More often than not, the individual career goal of your team members is going to align with the long-term goals of the company, and when a team member is motivated to achieve their personal goal, they will also be working towards the betterment of the company. Trust and loyalty are very important in teamwork, especially when you’re a leader.
Having a clear vision
Having a vision is how you make real progress, be it whatever project you have taken up. The engineering team in f1studioz started with a team of 3-4 people. Today, our engineering team has around 20 people. We have come a long way from where we started.
We have a clear vision of where we want to take this company and have a long-term plan to grow multi-fold. We intend to take our number to 50+ by 2024 and we are consistently working towards it.
As for tech goals, we plan to grow more towards Data Visualization, Interactive Progressive Web Applications, Hybrid Mobile App Development, Machine Learning Generative AI, etc. Progress is progress only when it is well-rounded and for everyone involved.
Maintaining a good work-life balance for every individual in our team is also something we pay great heed to and we do not develop at the expense of our team. We will also be focusing on achieving a great hierarchical structure that is well-balanced and diversified across all the tech stacks we work on.
So, yes. Being a web developer takes a lot – but it also returns a lot. Web developers are the key piece that connects a business to the outside world. A web developer has an excellent skill-set to boast about ranging from problem-solving skills to team leading and communication. There is always room to grow and there is always more to learn.
There is never a dull moment because your abilities and efficiency are constantly challenged and your limits tested. A mind which is always open to growth and a liking towards tasks that challenge are necessary attributes of a developer. Any developer with these qualities and habits nailed down has a long way to go for sure.