How to be a designer's favorite software engineer

A few weeks ago I asked designers on Mastodon to tell me about their favorite software engineers. What did those engineers do that they wish all engineers would do?

How to be a designer's favorite software engineer
Photo by David Travis / Unsplash

Hey there! I'm Nat Bennett, and you're reading Simpler Machines, a newsletter about making software, and being a person who makes software.

A new pop-up newsletter

Things around here are finally calming down after the holidays. I'm off my most recent contract and entering back into the "marketing and product development" phase of being a software contractor. Also got some exciting stuff planned on the photography front – I'll be walking around the San Francisco Bay, over the course of about a week, starting approximately February 20th.

The basic gist is I'm going to spend five to seven days walking about 10 miles a day and taking photographs, and there's absolutely nothing better for writing and thinking than a good long walk like that. I never know exactly what I'm going to write until I get into it, but right now I'm anticipating an extended meditation on living on the builder's remedy, the history of the Bay area, what it means to be a California, my own relationship with place as a Coast Guard brat and accidental nomad, and why it is that I, and so many other people, keep being drawn back here.

Expect to hear more about this as I get the details nailed down, but you can subscribe A Walk Around the Bay now.

I've also got a landing page up. If you know anyone else who'd enjoy getting these e-mails, please share!

What designers want (from software engineers)

I care a lot about design. I want the software I work on to be good. Well-designed on the inside, but also a joy to use, and good at getting its job done. That means I care a lot about working with good designers, and about working well with them. I know that working with software engineers isn't always easy, and that our respective worlds can be pretty different sometimes, so I've been talking a lot with designers lately about what they need from engineers, and how I can be the best possible partner.

A few weeks ago I asked designers on Mastodon to tell me about their favorite software engineers. What did those engineers do that they wish all engineers would do?

Nat Bennett (
Hey designers-- Tell me about your favorite software engineers/developers you’ve worked with. What’s something they did that you wish all engineers you work with would do? #design #designers #ux #uxdesign

Some themes emerged. Engineers who are good partners to design...

  • Participate in user testing and read through UX survey results
  • Comment on designs when something is missing or wrong, instead of just fixing it themselves
  • Ask questions about the underlying user need
  • When something looks hard, offer options that might get most of the way there and offer options
  • Know how to build things with third-party technologies, rather than always building everything themselves
  • Enjoy experimenting!

One of the best responses, from violetbison, included some advice for designers.

I was super lucky to talk to a developer at one point and he told me to always ask myself "what's next" and "what if", because that's how developer's mind work. What if there's 100 items in the table? What if there's none? What happens if I drag&drop this and that? What if I open it in the private mode? Etc. etc. It was a good tip. A good lesson. Quick tip, but made me a better designed almost immediately :D

Subscribe to Simpler Machines

Get essays a bit faster. I write about once a week, mostly about software development. It's free.
Get a weekly email