App Developer vs. App Designer: What’s The Difference?

Knowing the differences between the developer and designer roles helps businesses when looking for a digital agency to turn a promising idea into a great app.

Any digital venture leveraging a mobile app or interactive website requires talented technical professionals to transform a great concept into a compelling user experience. These tech pros typically boast a variety of roles, including project managers, QA testers, business analysts, as well as app developers and app designers. Arguably, those last two roles remain the most critical components of any mobile app development, except for the PM.

Knowing the differences between the developer and designer roles helps businesses when looking for a digital agency to turn a promising idea into a great app. After all, they need to understand all the tasks involved in mobile app development. This knowledge informs their efforts in scoping a project as well as truly vetting the capabilities of different agencies. Anything less means the business is essentially flying blind when searching for the right partner. 

So let’s dive into the details on the differences between app designers and app developers. Leverage this information for a measure of wisdom when searching for the right partner to help build your company’s app. Ultimately, this knowledge ensures your business begins the project with a better understanding of the entire mobile app development process and its most important roles.

The App Designer as a Mobile App Architect 

First off, we need to differentiate between designers who work in a software architectural role as opposed to those professionals crafting the user interfaces and graphic elements used within the app. Some companies use the term interchangeably, while others specifically refer to app architects and app designers. 

An app designer serving as an application architect tends to be a senior-level programmer with significant experience designing the flow, information architecture, business rules, and back-end codebase for mobile apps. Depending on the size of the team and their other project duties, they may or may not actually write code for the mobile apps they architect. 

Mobile app architects need significant experience with both iOS and Android app development. Exposure to the latest software development technology innovations, like AI, VR/AR, and data analytics, is a must. They must also understand modern iterative software development methodologies, like Agile and Lean Startup. 

Additionally, experience with development tools like containers, virtualization, CD/CI, and DevOps-powered automation identifies the exceptional software architects. Any digital agency partner you choose must have talented professionals able to serve in this architectural role for your next project. 

The App Designer as a Crafter of a Compelling UI/UX

Of course, the more common usage of “app designer” relates to the person responsible for designing a mobile app or website’s user interface, including any graphic design elements. Throughout a project, this role transitions from the designing of wireframes at the beginning to building the graphic elements used to make a mobile app flow in an intuitive and seamless fashion. Ultimately, it’s a critical function that plays an important role in any app’s ability to captivate users.

Not surprisingly, these professionals need strong graphic design abilities, with familiarity with the Adobe software suite or similar applications. Some programming experience helps, but isn’t necessary. However, understanding the role of an app developer is important.

More importantly, they need significant history working as a mobile app designer with an understanding of how to design effective and intuitive user interfaces and user experiences. Some experience with information architecture is also nice to have, especially when considering the limited screen real estate of a mobile app on a smartphone. 

The Role of an App Developer 

Simply stated, the app developer writes the code that ties a mobile app or website’s architecture and design together. As such, they work closely with both the architect and the graphic design team to turn their design concepts into reality. As with any project using an iterative methodology, expect close interaction between all three roles throughout the initiative. 

Mobile app developers also need experience with the programming languages used for this kind of software development. On iOS, Swift and Objective-C remain Apple’s choice. Android developers mostly use Java or Kotlin. When using cross-platform development tools, experience with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript definitely helps. In addition, a variety of JavaScript libraries, like React Native, also get used to power the UI/UX in cross-platform mobile apps. 

An app developer with basic graphic design skills makes translating wireframes into mobile app screens an easier process. Again, you want someone with experience in the latest tools used for mobile app development as well as modern software development methodologies. This ensures the project proceeds in a smooth and productive fashion. Expect a compelling mobile app or website as a result. 

If your business wants a partner to help transform an intriguing idea into a state of the art mobile app or website, connect with the team at NineTwoThree. We boast significant experience in mobile development, employing skillful professionals able to architect, design, and develop the app your business needs. Schedule a meeting with us to discuss your great idea and how we can help turn it into an app that’s a gamechanger.

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