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Designer vs. Developer: what do they do?

Eboreime Rhoda
A nerdy front-end developer | I share what I know & learn - HTML | CSS | JavaScript | React | UI/UX design | CS undergraduate …
・4 min read

Most people know this already, but for most beginners, these terms are often confusing. For someone new to web development, there is a need to understand what the roles of a developer and designer are so that it will be easy to decide whether to learn how to be a developer, or how to be a designer. In this article, I'm going to explain as much as I can who a developer and a designer is, their differences and where they overlap.

Who is a designer and who is a developer?
A designer or web designer, is an IT professional that works on the appearance, layout, and in some cases content of a website. On the other hand, a developer or web developer, is an individual who is responsible for bringing the designer's work to life by using various programming languages to develop the product. Let's dive a little deeper into their differences. But first, I'll explain the phases of building a project so that you can clearly see the differences between these two sets of people.


Planning phase

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The first phase of building any project is the planning phase. It is the first and most important. This is when you decide and map the entire project. Also, at this stage, you interact with your clients to decide what their goal is and what they want. You should also ask yourself some important questions like, how should the product look?; how should the product feel?; or what should it do?.

Design phase

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From the planning phase, we go into the design phase. At this point, you've gathered information about what your client wants and the expectation of the user. You should already have a visual representation of how the product will look and what the users will see. You then take the information from the planning phase and make it a reality by creating or designing the site structure, mobile structure, appearance and layout of the product.

Development phase

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The development phase is where the designer's work is implemented with various programming languages. In this phase, you use all the assets and information that have been gathered from the design phase and try to implement it into a live website or mobile app.

Launch phase

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Once the product has been developed, we can now talk about launching it. That is putting it on a server or hosting it. In this phase, you deliver your product to the users. After the product has been launched, there may be some design tweaks and testing of the product to make sure it works properly. Once you've launched your product, it doesn't end there, there is another phase which is the post-launch phase.

Post-launch phase

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In this phase, you will have to monitor how the users use the product to see if there are any issues or bug fixes that need to be addressed. More testing is done based on how the users interact with the product, like, how they navigate through the site, why they are not clicking on a button, and so on.



The phases of building a project outlined above will eventually turn into a loop because from the ideas and insights you will get after the launch, you can start improving or updating your product. Improving your product means planning again, designing again and developing again. As time goes on, you may get better ideas and improve the product over and over again. This whole process continues.

You can never really finish developing a product because a product can always be improved.

Now, coming back to the topic of the discussion, a designer is involved in the planning phase, design phase and post-launch phase. They are heavily involved in the planning phase and design phase. They are the ones that will interact with the clients and design what their clients want. They have the responsibility of designing the product to meet the user's expectation. They are also involved in the post-launch phase because they learn from the user and improve their design.

The developer is mainly concerned with the development, launch and post-launch phases. They receive the designs and use tools and technologies like HTML, CSS and JavaScript to implement the designs into an actual working website or mobile app. They are involved in the launch phase in the sense that, they put the code they have written on a server so that their clients can have access to it. While testing is going on, they may likely encounter bugs in their program or see a need to improve or add a feature.



In conclusion, a designer is involved more at the beginning and later stages of product development. Whereas, the attention of a developer is needed at the intermediate and later stages of product development. There is no restriction on either field, a designer can also be a developer and a developer can also be a designer.
Below are some resources for further studying. Thanks for reading!. Feel free to connect with me on Twitter.

Illustrations credit - undraw.co

Resources

Discussion (2)

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ingosteinke profile image
Ingo Steinke

Thanks for your article! From my experience as a developer, who is also interested in design, I want to add, that the project phases do not necessarily have to follow one after each other, but they can overlap and recur in agile development cycles.

In the past, I have been working for customers that handed over graphic design to web developers without any notion of interactivity and responsive design, but luckily, times are changing. If designers and developers meet and talk to each other, and agree on tools that facilitate collaboration, this benefits the design and development process and thus the resulting product or website.

DevUX strives to achieve a symbiosis of design and development for the sake of better communication, creativity and avoiding errors that can occur due to misunderstandings and inflexibility.

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doctdev profile image
Eboreime Rhoda Author

Thanks for this addition. I agree the phases can overlap.

You make a good point!. Designers and developers should communicate with each other in the process of building the product.