Speaker Spotlight: Stephanie Stimac

You've worked across both design and development. In your experience, what causes most of the friction between the two teams?

Developers don't want to necessarily spend time on the extra touches that elevate an experience, adding animations or video. Extra interactivity is often seen as unnecessary, and sometimes developers will often flat out refuse to do the work that can really bring a design to life. (I have experience with this, as do some of my design friends.) And that pushback can be super frustrating because it creates animosity. There's a breakdown in communication, and at the root of it all is a lack of understanding of the purpose behind design decisions. 

What can happen if developers don't understand the reasoning behind design decisions?

A few things. You end up delivering a product with a UX that is subpar and doesn't centre user needs. There can be a disconnect in what is designed vs what gets built and that can cause a lot of frustration and unnecessary back and forth between teams. 

A unified understanding of what is trying to be achieved is going to help developers pick the right tools or libraries to create an optimal experience. Otherwise churn and time wasting becomes an issue. 

It can also deteriorate the relationship between design and dev teams. If you can't trust each other to make the right decisions for your customers, it can lead to an unpleasant work environment.

What do you cover in your book, Design for Developers?

Design for Developers lays the minimum foundation for understanding visual design principles as well as user experience basics. I wanted developers to walk away with enough vocabulary to be able to feel confident in discussions earlier on in a project process as well as have the basics to understand how to make a project look more polished. 

I know many developers who say they can't design and I'm like, "but you can learn!" It's all about building relationships visually, and there are many ways to do that. I want people to understand how to choose and apply a colour palette, or what different typography styles convey about your project. 

At the end of the book, I want developers to understand how interconnected everything is. It's not about having developers replace designers either, but have them be more equipped to work together and build trust and empathy.

Your talk is inspired by the book — what can we expect to take away?

I want people to feel like design is more accessible and break down any gatekeeping attitudes towards developers learning design. It's going to be a combination of practical tips and examples using design principles and how that can help write better code, how it can improve collaboration and communication, and some anecdotes to help drive home customer empathy. 

At the end of the day, it's all about creating more empathetic people which leads to trust, stronger teams, and better work environments. 

Give us a little sneak peek, one design tip for developers?

Having consistent spacing/negative space is the easiest way to immediately improve a website's or an app's interface. 

Can you tell us a little bit about the CSS project you're working on with Jhey?

We want a place to write about CSS that is collaborative. Especially with all of Jhey's demos... he'll share a long post with details on Twitter (X, whatever :P), and then that gets lost. I also like to write about upcoming CSS bits. More to come but we're taking our time with it. 

Pixel Pioneers will be your first conference after a year off from speaking. What are you most looking forward to?

The community! I've met so many lovely people and especially here in the UK, I've done so many meetups and talks. I love how welcoming everyone is. It'll be nice to be back!

At Pixel Pioneers Bristol, Stephanie Stimac will be talking about design fundamentals for developers. The conference will also cover modern CSS layouts, AI and practical prompt engineering tips, how not to kill your design system, accessibility practices to avoid, and more. Get your ticket today!