UI Developer or UI Designer

Designers and Developers have two very distinct roles and parts to play in the delivery of a digital system, namely an enterprise website. It’s important to determine which one you are from the outset.

2 minute read

A brief post, this time, on how to establish which one of these you are.

In some development worlds, “the front end” is considered to be anything HTML and design, when in fact this is a far too high level categorisation. That said, the same labelling is applied to “the back end” whether it be regarding Databases, C Sharp. Ruby, Python, Configuration, “Server,” Deployments, Continuous Integration etc.

It’s important to establish what type of individual you are when you enter the digital delivery world, so that your objectives and career path can be defined and established respectively.

What is a UI Designer?

By definition, a UI designer will design the user interface! This can be UX (wireframing, prototyping) or Creative, which is generating the visuals based on previous UX outcomes. Designers also are involved in branding and visual identity quite frequently too. Designers are required to be trend savvy, as well as proactive in thinking and approach and also have a keen understanding of business ambition and be familiar with cross-vertical markets.

Some tools used by designers:

  • Axure
  • Sketch
  • Illustrator
  • Photoshop
  • InDesign
  • InVision

What type of activities to designers do in their role?

It can be quite a broad range of activities, from attending client workshops and devising high level pitch material to daily delivery of interface design. Designers are required to be presentable and confident and it is important that they are able to articulate their views and opinions on all matters, regardless of the audience.


What is a UI Developer?

UI Developers, or Frontend Developers (FED), are typically more technically minded that creatives, which makes the crossover less broad, incidentally.

UI Developers are not necessarily academic, like typical backend developers, but the more senior and hardcore individuals are able to think logically, develop HTML, CSS and JavaScript and understand and conform to multiple workstreams and development life cyles. UI Developers will take wireframes and designs and build the application in code, often integrating with the backend. Aspects such as buttons, animations, navigations, accordions, carousels, forms and AJAX driven applications fall within the remit of a UI Developer.

Some languages and libraries common in FED:

  • HTML5
  • CSS
  • JavaScript
  • jQuery
  • Angular JS
  • Knockout JS
  • Mustache JS

Some tools used by UI Developers:

  • Visual Studio
  • Sublime Text
  • Brackets
  • Grunt
  • Gulp
  • Notepad++

Frontend developers are often good at scripting languages and are likely to be the sort that will be familiar with copy and paste as there is a strong FED development community. Truly talented UI Developers will write their own code, understand solid coding principles and be somewhat talented in the server-side domain also.

In summary

There is some crossover between the two. Designers often know a bit of HTML and UI developers will be able to understand and appreciate the creative process. Some individuals are highly competent at both but it’s quite rare, most people are specialists in one or the other and quite rightly so. If embarking upon a career within Digital Delivery, it is important for one to determine where their ambitions and talents lie for a prosperous and fulfilling career.


  • Creative Design
  • User Experience
  • Clientside

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