Many UX design agencies are skilled in the art of gathering user requirements and designing a user-friendly experience. However, they often lack a backend developer’s understanding of the technical constraints and complexities required to bring that experience to life.
Meanwhile, some IT teams view design as “beautification” — an exercise that often doesn’t connect with technical feasibility. Given their role, developers naturally prioritize technical constraints over the users’ needs and desires.
When you hire a UX agency that only handles design and front-end development, you inherently limit your organization’s ability to arrive at the most functional, user-friendly, and innovative solutions. That’s especially true when you consider the complexity of most healthcare companies’ backend systems. Here’s why you should go out of your way to partner with a healthcare UX firm that has both frontend and backend development capabilities.
What is the Difference Between Frontend and Backend Development?
In order to build a portal, app, or website, you must call on three distinct disciplines: UX design, frontend development, and backend development.
All three disciplines work in tandem to produce the finished product.
First, the UX design team elicits user needs and translates them into a user-friendly design. This design accounts for both the visual elements (the UI design) and the way the site will behave.
Next, the frontend and backend development teams work together to build the product. The frontend team is concerned with building out the visual designs into actual screens that users interact with. And the backend team handles the data manipulation and business logic — all the “under the hood” requirements that make the portal or app functional. Put another way, if the backend team determines how data is stored, transferred, and manipulated, then the frontend team is responsible for presenting that data to the users.
The UX team’s designs are inextricably linked to the data that is used to populate those experiences and interactions. Yet data is primarily in the hands of backend developers. As you can see, the more these three teams work in collaboration, the better your end product will be.
But if you hire a design agency that doesn’t offer backend development, you create a natural barrier to seamless collaboration. That’s especially true if your IT team isn’t looped in during the earliest stages of the design process.
Great UX emerges from the entire experience, not just the UI. Which means you can’t have a stellar frontend experience without a well-integrated backend system.
Why Healthcare Companies Need Integrated Frontend and Backend Development Partners
Healthcare organizations must be especially attentive to how well their frontend and backend teams work together. That’s because of the complexity of their digital products and the backend systems that power them.
Nowhere is this need more pressing than when complex legacy systems are involved — a common reality for many healthcare companies. Without the proper context, your designers may ultimately suggest solutions your IT team can’t build within the existing technical constraints.
For example, in order to properly design your member portal, your UX team will need to have a deep understanding not only of your industry, but of your particular data infrastructure.
Let’s say you’re designing the interface for member families to manage their plans, coverage, and claims. You’ll need to understand all the legal requirements (i.e. whether parents can access their dependents’ health information over a certain age). And you’ll also need to understand how the data is captured within your backend systems over time, as rules and regulations change. Not just that, but you also have to understand how data is routed to your customer support team to ensure that your portal and customer representatives are serving up the same information.
In short, you need to make sure that the design solutions you pursue are viable — yet still forward-thinking. The best solutions come from envisioning a desired future state and projecting that vision through the lens of your existing systems. Creative teams are great at projecting the future. But their efforts need to be rooted in the reality of existing and legacy systems to facilitate successful technical, experiential, and business outcomes.
Finally, there’s another reason your own IT team may not be the best choice for building out your new portal or app. Many healthcare companies spend the vast majority if their IT budgets on operations — that is, keeping complex legacy systems running. Their internal IT teams are geared toward maintaining systems, not innovating and improving the user experience.
By selecting a UX design agency with both frontend and backend experience, you ensure that your designs will be technically viable — while at the same time pushing the envelope on innovation.
The Benefits of a UX Agency with Frontend and Backend Experience
At UpTop, we offer UX design as well as frontend and backend development. Our frontend and backend developers are an integral part of our entire process, from discovery and UX design iteration to build and launch. By offering a full “design and build” package, we enable our clients to:
- Delineate clear roles and responsibilities. There’s no confusion about what our team is responsible for versus what your IT team is expected to do. We work with your IT team to gain an understanding of your backend systems and take it from there.
- Collaborate more effectively. Some internal IT teams are resistant to change, which can hamper collaboration and innovation. By having both frontend and backend expertise on the same team, we ensure a free flow of ideas back and forth. In addition, our UX design team knows what our backend team is capable of. Because we know each other’s edges, we can quickly expand into maximum value, while at the same time remaining within the realm of possibility.
- Make smarter decisions. We involve our backend and frontend technologists in every key decision. This allows our clients to make smarter, more informed decisions because they know from the outset what the impact-versus-effort of a given feature will be. They get a holistic picture of what they’re committing to in the design process, rather than waiting until the design is done to then scope out the project. In addition, we can act as a liaison between the business and IT teams to ensure that everyone is on the same page.
- Head off preventable problems. By involving backend architects from the get-go, we make sure that the business needs, user needs, and engineering needs are all properly accounted for.
- Tease out the best experience for your users. Working in unison, our team identifies the most user-friendly solutions within a given system’s constraints.
- Facilitate innovation — even within legacy systems. Introducing engineering input in the creative process doesn’t just help determine the feasibility of solutions. It can also open up avenues for innovation. It’s a complementary relationship. The design team thinks in terms of desired behaviors, and the backend team helps to identify the full range of possibilities to support those behaviors within the existing systems.
Want to learn more about how UpTop Health works at the intersection of business, design, and technology? We’d love to talk.