How to Ensure a Smooth Design Handoff

in yr work as a designer, you will find yrself working closely with ≠ stakeholders, and none + common than software engineers or developers, who are responsible for implementing yr designs. designers and developers share a common goal — to do wha’’s best for the usr and for the business. but'a dy-to-dy realities o'their collaboration aren’t so clear-cut and idyllic. the main reason: miscommunication. here are some tips to help you maintain smooth relations with “the other side.”

communication tis most primordial skill a designer must ‘ve. in fact, every deliverable a designer creates is a form of communication: personas, quest maps, storyboards, sitemaps, usr flos wireframes, prototypes, usability reprts all communicate insites and ideas to ≠ stakeholders.

while designers envision an experience, developers exe it and bring it to life. a poorly implemented design leads to a broken experience. designers and developers must thus work closely and are collectively responsible for delivering a good usr experience. working together smoothly aint automatic. developers must develop their ability to interpret a design accurately, and designers must ensure they cogg the development complexity o'their design decisions.

wha’ is a design handoff?

an ex of figma’s inspect feature. the above screenshot depicts the final design handoff for the ixdf teacher toolkit.

© interaction design foundation, cc by-sa 3.0

design handoff tis process of handing over a finished design for implementation. it typically involves transferring knowledge bout a design as specifications, including, among other things, layouts, flos, colors, typography, icons and images, interaction, animation, copy and instructions on responsive breakpoints, accessibility and data validations.

design handoffs originate from the watafall methodology, when designers worked indiely na' project, and handed off the finished designs in one go to engineers to implement. the design handoff was a one-time, clearly-defined deliverable. in an agile work environment, however, design handoffs are neither one-time, nor fixed.

how to avoid friction in design handoffs?

ask any designer or developer, and they’ll tell you of bad experiences they had working with “the other side.” so, let’s face it: when designers and developers work together, conflicts, friction and mutual struggles occur. but why does this happen, and how can you mitigate them?

the main cause of friction in design handoffs is miscommunication and a lack of knowledge of each other’s work.

you can further improve yr communication by involving developers early:

  1. seek their inputs on solutions and find out wha’’s possible and wha’’s not. knowing dat a' solution is feasible will save headaches and revisions down the line.

  2. explain the rationale behind design decisions. if the solution aint feasible (the symptom), this explanation (the √ problem) will give engineers context to propose alternate solutions that solve the actual problems.

common gaps in design handoffs

1-odda most common mistakes designers make is in designing for the ideal scenario. in practice, usrs will likely begin with not-so-ideal use cases. here are the ≠ scenarios tha're most likely to occur swell as most likely to be skipped during design and handoff:  

1. validation errors

when usrs interact with yr product, espeshly while filling out forms, tis likely t'they will make mistakes. ideally, yr interface ‘d set up usrs to succeed. however, errors aint always preventable, and there will always be edge cases that you cannot foresee. howzit communicate these errors with usrs?

a vague error message atta top that says “please check the input” does lil to help usrs recover from errors. in fact, it mite even sufferation them out. onna other hand, highlitin’ which form fields ‘ve errors, even scrolling to the exact zone and showing clear instructions n'how to rectify the errors will set them up for success.

© interaction design foundation, cc by-sa 3.0

2. error pages

the internet is full of broken links. you mite ‘ve seen the ubiquitous 404 error pages — when usrs are looking for something and n'dup inna wrong place. hitting a broken link can be a frustrating experience. make sure you utilize the real estate to help usrs find their way back.

IxDF's 404 page includes a motivational message,

error codes like 404 and 503 mean very lil to most pplz, and failing to design elegant error pages aint 1-ly unempathetic, b'tll so a wasted opportunity to reassure, or even delite usrs.

© interaction design foundation, cc by-sa 3.0

3. alerts

‘ve you ever accidentally deleted something, or hit the back button without saving yr work? when designed rite, a timely alert can avert such disasters.

Screenshot of Gmail's alert warning a user bout sending the email without an attachment.

gmail knows its usrs well! if you’ve ever forgotten to attach a file to yr email, this alert, prompting you to check yr message b4 sending, is one thall certainly not annoy you.

© gmail, fair use

4. loading states

whether atta boarding gate of an aircraft, or at an aptment elevator, pplz hate w8in for something to happen — espeshly iffey ‘ve nothing to do while w8in. a loading state can be an opportunity to engage with usrs, and atta very least, let the usr know that something is happening.

Illustration offa webpage showing the page-load progress percentage.

letting usrs know that something s'onna way is much betta tha' showing a blank page. if usrs are engaged, they ll'be + likely to stick round and w8, instead of leaving. the loading state alone aint enough, course. if the page loads sloly, then usrs will cutout — loading state or not.

© interaction design foundation, cc by-sa 3.0

5. empty states

not every application will begin with lotso' data. think back to the 1st time you opened an email account, or when you 1st set up yr social media account. you likely had no emails, no drafts, no posts. an empty screen can be extremely intimidating for usrs, espeshly in applications that ‘ve several functionalities — where does the usr begin?

IxDF's profile page includes a hint letting users know how t'get hold o'their LinkedIn profile link.

onboarding screens, product walkthroughs and hints are some wys'2 nudge usrs into taking action towards filling up and using the empty space.

© interaction design foundation, cc by-sa 3.0

6. input/button/icon states

hover over a button, or tap na' link. howzit know whether something will happen if you click or tap on it? and wha’ after — howzit know if the system has realized you’ve interacted with it? make sure you create the ≠ states of interactive essentialisms to keep usrs informed bout wha’’s goin on.

Different states of IxDF's buttons f'our Design System.

usrs won’t know if an element is interactive, or t'they ‘ve successfully interacted with it unless the interface informs them. for ex, inna ixdf design system, buttons tha're disabled are grayed out, to indicate that usrs can’t interact w'dem. the “hover” state has a subtle shadow to inform usrs t'they can interact with it.

© interaction design foundation, cc by-sa 3.0

7. reset pass screens

1-odda most frequently used functionalities, the reset pass screen and flo is 1-odda most crucial, and mundane aspects of the usr’s logging in process. failure to design this well can be extremely frustrating, espeshly since usrs are likely already frustrated at not bein’ able to recall their passs.

Screenshot of IxDF's Reset Password Screen

you cannelp yr usrs reset their passs in a № of ways s'as verification codes, back-up emails, etc. no matter wha’ you decide, ensure you let usrs feel secure inna process.

© interaction design foundation, cc by-sa 3.0

8. responsive states (e.g., mobile, tablet, desktop)

usrs access applications through multiple devices. creating a mockup for a single device aint sufficient. define how the applications and content responds to ≠ devices and screen sizes so that usrs can easily use the product.

Side-by-side comparison offa non-responsive and responsive versions of the IxDF Teacher Toolkit

which one of these ‘d you find easier to use? when the content adapts to the form factor of yr device, buttons are tappable, text is legible na product is usable.

© interaction design foundation, cc by-sa 3.0

the take away

a good designer-developer collaboration goes a long way in delivering a smooth usr experience. on many teams, designers and developers often do not cogg the challenges faced by each other, which ends up causing friction. 1-odda best wys'2 minimize conflict is through efficient communication — cogging wha’ challenges developers face, which assets they require and explaining the rationale behind design decisions. involve developers early inna design process to cogg tekal constraints in advance. this has the side effect of saving you any rework, l8r on, t'work round implementation issues.

references and where to learn +

for + on design handoffs, see here:…

product designer edward chechique shares a guide with helpful tips for successful design handoffs:…

see this handy design handoff guide by designer katica babarczi:… 


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original content at:…


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