How to create an effective design handoff

The design handoff is where the design team transfers its ideas to the technical department of a company. It is a key moment, as it is crucial for those responsible for development to understand all the information, avoid misunderstandings and ensure that the final product reflects the designer’s specifications.

This transfer includes any documents, reflections and specific knowledge that lead to a product or service’s design. It takes into account a wide variety of technical information, which, when combined with more personal comments, explains and contextualises the decisions made. Communication and collaboration between both departments is essential, meaning lots of meetings to resolve doubts and possible problems with implementation.

This process must happen before each change or improvement to the product or service. Due to its high complexity, it is best to break it down into three stages: design, handoff and post-handoff.

1. During design

As aspects such as dimensions, colours, fonts or images are defined, it is important that the design team prepare and plan the development of the handoff. To do this, all the necessary resources and documents must be gathered. It is advisable to include annotations that support and expand each decision.

This phase encompasses a series of steps, which end with the approval of an interactive prototype:

  • Discovery. Is the moment of communication between the technical and developmental departments.

Organizing joint meetings reviews the available resources and any technical limitations. It is also a good idea to integrate developers into user research processes, so that they understand existing needs and any problems to be solved.

  • Planning. Is the participation of developers during design ‘sprints’.

It helps align technical possibilities with ideas as they emerge, and allows developers to investigate what tools or features they might need. This is a good time for a joint review of the backlog or priorities list.

  • Prototyping. Is the intervention of the technical team during the prototyping phase.

It allows the exchange of knowledge about the operation of the different browsers, devices or interfaces, conducting usability tests in each of them. It also contributes to the joint analysis of user flows and interaction systems.

  • UI Design. Is the joint development of design elements, which the technical team translates into widgets or reusable modules.

It guarantees a consistent final result, ensuring that the sizes and distances are coherent in the digital environment. Finally, it validates how viable the project will be at the programming level while also reviewing user interactions.

2. During handoff

The second stage corresponds to the design handoff itself. It involves training sessions and discussions between the design team and the development department, during which collaboration and knowledge alignment are encouraged.

This stage includes the following aspects:

  • Documentation. The transfer of design ideas must be accompanied by all relevant documentation, ensuring it is easily readable by other members of the company.

This provides a reliable reference base, helps to reduce doubts, and allows notes to be added to clarify various specifications, as well as being easy to update and extend.

  • Assets. Along with documentation, designers must provide all the final visual resources. This includes images, icons, illustrations and any other graphic elements that will appear in the interface or final product.

Assets must be delivered in an organised manner, following a classification or numbering system that makes them recognizable and easy to locate.

  • Training sessions. Understood as the axis of the design handoff, these are meetings that present and explain design concepts, interactive prototypes and any relevant technical aspects.

They are a space for two-way communication between designers and developers, which is essential to answer questions, clarify details and ensure good understanding of the project.

  • Visual Hygiene. This concept refers to the clarity and consistency of the files transferred between departments.

The use of ‘dirty’ documents should be avoided. Instead, it is good practice to create more streamlined archives, where unnecessary, out-of-date, or redundant data has been removed. It is also important to standardise names throughout project, making it clearer and easier to search for information.

A UI button next to its programming code.
Source: Supernova

3. After handoff

Once the transfer of information is finished, the support and monitoring stage begins. Here, the design team continues to support those responsible for developing the product or service. Reviews and adjustments are made to ensure that the final result corresponds to the original design vision.

This stage includes the following processes:

  • Build precision. Through an implementation audit, each element or function to be developed is put through quality control.

Both teams meet to present the results of the ‘sprints’, where they can also establish usability and UX criteria in order to test the different previews.

  • Progress tracking. Through the use of project management tools and the assignment of supervisors.

Regular reviews allow the up-to-date progress of the development team. They also help detect problems and correct them early, preventing resources being wasted.

  • Design System. After the Design Handoff it is best to create a Design System that offers a library of components and design guidelines.

As well as including guidelines on the use of colours, fonts or images, it is also wise to add accessibility requirements and annotations for the development team, such as fragments of code or the corresponding widgets.

Whether you want to improve your Design Handoff or if you would like to create one from scratch, at GammaUX we have a team of design and product development specialists at your service! Contact us to see how we’ll help you optimise your company’s processes. Get in touch today!