What is a Full Stack Designer?
A full stack designer simply means a designer that is multi-disciplined and can take a project from research to production. Full stack developers have been around for a while, and it’s time that designers become just as cross-functional as developers have become. I started my career as a UI/visual/interaction designer, but I wasn’t content with the limitations of those roles. For me, going full stack meant increasing my knowledge in UX research and diving deeper into coding and prototyping so that I could design products in a more holistic manner. While we may not be an expert in every step of the product development process, we are fluent in the language of every single member on our team. The breadth of knowledge that a full stack designer comprehends allow them to work more efficiently within a team and improves the overall product they are designing.
Why Go Full Stack?
In the early days of web design it was very simple: there were right-brained web designers and left-brained web developers, and these roles rarely overlapped. Today, designing for modern web and app development requires a much broader skill set. Photoshop and Sketch source files are no longer enough to convey the complexity of interactions that go into everyday websites and applications. It’s important to speak the language of code to get your point across. Static comps and copious notes just don’t cut it anymore. Designs today also have to work on more screen sizes than ever before, and the only foolproof way to design for the responsive web is to know enough code to design in the browser. UX research is no longer a luxury, and it is being universally adopted because it can save hundreds of hour of design time by focusing design efforts. Testing and prototyping are also becoming a requirement as stakeholders are requiring more involvement to ensure that products resonate with their business goals. In the same way, working prototypes (whether they are live code or clickable prototypes) allow you to test your designs with the actual users before precious development time is wasted on faulty designs. These are some of the ways that design is changing, and the full stack designer has emerged as the answer to all of these new requirements.
Why Should You Hire A Full Stack Designer?
Ok, now that you understand what a full stack designer is and why they exist, here’s a few reasons why you want them on your team:
1. They Understand Every Step of the Product Development Process
In product design, teamwork is an extremely valuable skill, and designers that fully understand the role of their co-workers are extremely easy to work with. They understand design’s role in the product development process, and their designs are more realistic because of this knowledge. Collaboration is key for full stack designers and their knowledge of product roles helps them better understand their own role.
2. Their Designs Will Have More Lasting Value
Working knowledge of the UX research process will ensure that the product being designed will have the right goals and steps to address your audience. Designs that have been tested with users and stakeholders, should hold their value through the test of time better than untested designs. Designers should also be designing for the entire lifecycle of the product, not just the phase they are tasked with. Full stack designers will be thinking of ways that the product can expand and flex to accommodate multiple generations of use, saving huge amounts of money in the process.
3. Being Full Stack Means Being More Than Just A Cog in a Machine
Full stack designers never feel disconnected from the UX of the product as a whole. With one designer affecting change in multiple stages of development, you get a consistency of design that was not achievable before the full stack. UX consistency is extremely valuable when you have multiple products in an ecosystem, and hiring full stack designers is a very cheap way to achieve this consistency.
4. Having Designers with Diversified Skill Sets Allows Your Teams to Stay Lean and Agile
Most tech companies follow lean or agile principles to some degree, and the full stack designer fits in perfectly with these philosophies. Lean teams will find full stack designers are particularly effective at eliminating waste, building quality in, and optimizing the experience on a whole. Agile teams will like that full stack designers welcome changing requirements, measure progress by working prototypes, and cooperate with stakeholders and developers daily.
5. Full Stack Designers Are Constantly Challenging Themselves to Learn New Technologies
Many of the skills and knowledge that go along with being a full stack designer are learned after office hours. Full stack designers are addicted to learning new skill sets so their value will only increase the longer they are at your company. Because of these ever expanding skill sets, full stack designers are constantly seeking to improve workflows and foster innovation wherever they go. Having employees with this sort of self-motivated drive to innovate could have immeasurable benefits in the future.
How Will I Spot a Full Stack Designer?
Full stack designers often go by more general titles like UX designer or product designer. Their portfolios will have a huge breadth of variety, and they will be motivated by projects that offer unique challenges. They will appreciate business goals just as much as they appreciate the aesthetics of design. They will take a holistic approach to every task and will be versed in everything that design connects to. Look for these qualities and you will find individuals that will help your business grow for years to come.