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Beware These Nine Design Elements Your Front-End Developers Hate

Even though Lullabot’s front-end and design teams already work together well, we wanted to improve our relationship as one of many goals for 2016. Applying our UX research techniques inward, the design team used interviews and surveys to learn more about the front-end development team. What followed was thoughtful discussion, appreciation for the other team, some very exciting process ideas, and a laundry list of pet peeves.

One of the more straightforward discoveries was learning what design elements cause the most frustration during implementation, and how difficult each developer perceived them to be (from 1, a quick change, up to 10, biggest pain in the booty).

Our front-end team was awesome about explaining their perspective on this. My biggest take-away was that none of these are impossible—they can be done, but some come at a cost. In a time-constrained project, we need to consider these implications and prioritize carefully. To help clients and designers make trade-offs, Lullabot often employs what we call a ‘whiz-bang budget’: we offer the client a set amount of points to spend on enhancement features as they choose, based on their importance and effect on performance.

However you approach it, keep these pain points in mind when creating your next design system.

1. Custom Select Elements: 7.8

Styling custom elements for a form, particularly the drop-down list of options, can be particularly thorny. All browsers have their own default styling for form elements, and replacing the whole element can force you to recreate many behaviors that would have been there by default. Some form styles, like a select element’s option list, are essentially impossible to override.

Often, we compromise and style only the default, closed state of a select element. When a user clicks to reveal the list of options, they’ll see the browser’s default menu styles again.

2. Styling Third Party Social Components: 7.1

Social providers, like AddThis, offer sharing and following functionality, but have hardcoded styles that are quite difficult to override. Be warned, these third-party social tools can also bring a slew of performance problems, as many of these tools load extensive JavaScript in order to track shares and collect data for analytics. What might look like a few innocent icons on the screen can seriously slow down your site.

If you do need to provide sharing components, find one that has an appearance you can live with as-is or one that requires minimal changes. If possible, find one that leaves tracking data to a supplemental tool like Google Analytics, which the site probably already uses. Sharingbuttons.io is a simple, JavaScript-free and tracking-free generator you can use to style your own buttons.

3. Responsive Carousels: 6.6

Carousels are a pet peeve for developers and designers alike. They hide important content, as not many users engage with them. Worse still for front-end developers is converting a group of images that appear separately on larger screens into an interactive carousel for smaller screens.

When time is an issue, work together to find a module or existing code you can start from, like Slick Carousel, then tweak the styling. If you need something custom, make sure the designers have completely worked out the details across various screen sizes, to save refactoring later on.

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The WebRecital is a dedicated User Interface/User Experience professionals who come together to provide design and research workshops, portfolio reviews, and educational outreach to the greater Seattle area.
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