App designer vs App developer – What’s the difference?



Cameron Barrie


August 15, 2023

App designer vs App developer – What’s the difference?

The world of mobile app development is full of different terminology. For the uninitiated, it can be quite daunting to get started in this field. One such misconception is thinking that an app designer and app developer are one and the same. But in fact, designers and developers play very different roles in creation of a mobile app. In this post, we will explore what defines an app designer vs an app developer.

One question we get asked often: “What’s the difference between an app designer and an app developer?”

The simple answer is;  an app designer is an individual who designs the User Experience, and the User Interface an application. An App Developer, on the other hand, actually builds the User Interface, and the User Experience. They are both pivotal to ensuring you have a great mobile experience for your customers. And it’s pivotal to the success of your app, that they work together, there’s no point designing what can’t be built, and there’s no point building something different to the design

But there’s a little more to it, than that.

Let’s dive deeper into the world of App Designers and App Developers and take a moment to explore the roles and responsibilities of these pivotal skills, and how they are used in creating a successful mobile application.

Let’s break it down:

Who is an App Designer?

App Designer: an individual who designs how a user will navigate an app, and what an application will look like – the interface of an application.

As we all know, there are hundreds if not thousands of applications in the market, so how do you differentiate your own app from all of those out there?

This is where an App Designer’s skills are critical to the success of your App.

An App Designer must be able to create an interface that will draw in the user and make them want to use your app; and not that of your competitor’s.

One of the best ways to do this is with a well-designed User Experience and User Interface that is both functional, beautiful, and simple.

An App Designer is responsible not just for the appearance of an application; including buttons, colours, fonts, animations and other elements that are essential to its operation. But also for the experience, the navigation structure, the use of tab bars, navigation controls, modal views, and all the other ways one interacts with when using a mobile app. When, where, and how to use each of these compontents is critical to ensure your users have a frictionless experience

When designing for mobile, App Designers are expert in taking into account the size of a screen, how it can be interacted with via touch, how the keyboard will factor into the deisgn, and various other factors.

Tools of the trade:

Sketch, Figma, InVision, and Adobe XD

Sketch and Figma are two popular and powerful programs that our App Designers use here at Bilue to build and iterate on their designs and mockups. Sharing them regularly with users, clients and developers alike, seeking regular feedback, not only from users and stakeholders, but also from the development team.

And something you might not know:

Using these sketching and wireframing tools allows our designers to create high fidelity and interactive prototypes for iOS and Android so our clients, and their customers can experience the app before it’s built. In this way, we are able to offer a better service that’s more on-point with what you’re looking for, we can validate our designs early and often long before the App Developers have had to put them into production.

Here are some skills an app designer should have to be successful:

  • Strong communication and collaboration skills
  • Proficiency in graphic design, typography and other visual elements
  • A solid understanding of UX principles and processes
  • The ability to identify usability issues before they become a problem
  • Deep knowledge of mobile design standards such as The Human Interface Guidelines, and Material Design
  • A demonstrable passion for mobile apps.

In the world of app development, an app designer is not responsible for actually building the application. They’re not writing code, they’re design the interface. This task falls to a developer

App designer’s tasks:

  • Understanding the goals of the mobile app
  • Understanding the desires of the users
  • Developing ideas and concepts for what the app might look like
  • Brainstorming ideas for how a new design can solve the needs of a target audience and come up with workable solutions to problems that could arise
  • Creation of wireframes that include screens of content, navigation paths, and basic interactions
  • Creating mockups of the application so that developers know what to code and designers can see how it will look in action
  • Testing designs and prototypes with end users prior to development
  • Reviewing the work of a developer, validating the correctness of the implementation.

Who is an App developer?

App developer: a person who programs the logic and structure of an application. An app developer will take wireframes from their designer and turn it into a working application.

Generally, we have three types of developer involved in Apps:

Front-end, Back-end, and Full-stack app developers.

Front-end app developer

A front-end app developer writes code to build the user interface, with the designs provided to them by an App Designer. They do this using app frameworks and technologies such as React, Kotlin, Swift, Flutter, Ionic etc.

Back-end app developer

A back-end developer is not responsible for the looks of an application, but the functionality. They focus on “under-the-hood”’ part of an app, integrating into systems of record like SAP, or Salesforce, and working with databases like MySQL, PostgreSQL or MongoDB, and Cloud platforms like AWS to ensure that data is stored securely, retrieved efficiently, and delivered to your mobile app.

They are often, also responsible for developing the admining portal for an app, so that the client and other authorized users can update content for example.

That’s not all: their focus also includes creating APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) to interface with third-party systems – such as payment processing, analytics and customer relationship management systems.

A back-end app developer has demonstrable expertise in languages such as; Ruby, Python, NodeJS, Typescript, .Net or PHP. As well as databases like Postgresql, and Cloud Platforms like AWS

Full-Stack App Developer

A full-stack app developer can do everything a front-end and back-end developer does. They’re responsible for building the entire application from start to finish. Mobile app development frameworks like Kotlin and Swift are “full-stack.” Generally they’re not as specialised as a front-end or backend dev, they might not be across the absolute best way to do things in each of these domains, but they do have a wider range of skills.

An app developer is responsible for the following tasks:

  • Understanding UX principles defined by the designers to ensure you implement an app is intuitive and easy-to-use
  • Using programming languages and tools such as Swift, XCode or Kotlin etc. to code the logic and structure of an application
  • Using the latest technologies to bring to life a beautiful design in a high performing app
  • Front-end coding architecture and engineering “design patterns”
  • Integrating the API into the mobile application stack
  • Securing the front end codebase to ensure there minimal vulnerabilities
  • Using tools such as Instrutments to find and resolve performance issues or memory leaks that cause apps to crash
  • Creating User Interface tests that are integrated into the App’s build pipeline
  • Testing their work – for example; by trying break app by using it with a flaky or slow network connection

App developer in a nutshell:

An app developer is responsible for the coding and functionality of an app. They will work with a design prototype created by the app designer and turn it into a fully functional application.

App designer vs App Developer – What’s the difference

App designers plan out the scope of the app, come up with ideas and concepts for what the app might look like, brainstorming ways to solve problems that could arise, and designing wireframes that include screens of content, navigation paths, and basic interactions.

App designers don’t write the code – they leave that to the app developer. On the other hand, app developers work to make sure the app is functional and has all the features needed to accomplish its purpose.

For a developer the goal is the app should be fast, efficient, secure, and easy to use while helping the user to completing the job they’re trying to get done. For a designer the goal is the app should be intuitive, appealing, with clear navigation structures that are user-friendly and offer a good user experience.

App designer Vs. App developer or Full-stack developer?

Now that you can beat your chest and declare to the world that you know what an app designer is vs an app developer or full-stack developer, it’s time for the big question:

Which is better?

No one can answer that question for you, but there are plenty of opinions being thrown around on the Internet.

The first? An app developer is better at programming.

The other? An app designer is more important to the success of a mobile app than a programmer because they can create the interface layout and user experience.

The truth? They’re both important, but different in their way of thinking about what they do. And that brings us to which one you should choose.

So, you want to build an app. Not just any app, but an awesome one. The decision is harder than it seems when you come to a fork in the road and find yourself at a crossroads. Should you hire an app designer, app developer or a full stack developer? There’s no one right answer, as your answer will be determined by the specifics of your project.

To better help you with this decision, there are a few things to consider:

  • You need expertise in app programming and design to build your app. Both app developers and designers are needed for a successful app.
  • Hiring a full stack developer may be the way to go if you’re looking for someone who can do everything from conception to completion in a lean setup.
  • Hiring a an app development team consisting of specialist app developers, app designers and full-stack developers in addition to other experts like a project manager and QA engineer will be a better option:
  • If want to have the best of all worlds
  • If you are looking for an app that will be able to evolve over time
  • If you want an app that would work on multiple platforms
  • If you have a more complex project to tackle

At Bilue,  we can provide the best of all worlds. Our team consists of specialist app developers, app designers and full-stack developers in addition to other experts like a project manager and QA engineer. We have the skills and expertise needed to take even the most complex projects in our stride – for both design and development of your app. So when you are looking at hiring an app development company in Australia, come to us.

We specialize in building mobile apps for businesses, helping them take their business to a whole new level through an app solution. We are ready to do that for you too – get in touch now to discuss your requirements.

Book a free consultation

If you would like to meet us to talk through a project or find out more, we'd love to hear from you.

Cameron Barrie

Founder and CEO of Bilue

Cameron Barrie

I help companies uncover opportunities and solve problems using Web, Mobile, APIs, and Emerging Technologies.

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