Alida Arteaga, Regional Coordinator

19 February 2021

How Is Front-End Development Different From UI/UX Design?

Front-End Development and UI/UX Design are both solid options for entering the IT industry. That being said, they have more differences than things in common. Let’s take a look.

What Front-End Development and UI/UX Design Have in Common?

First of all, they are indeed some of the easier paths to an IT career. Employers are less likely to frown upon a non-engineering background of a Junior Front-End Developer compared to a back-end one. Although it’s hard to give a 100% factual answer here, an industry stereotype says back-end developers generally need more knowledge and skills before they can get a job. As for UI/UX developers, it may seem more welcoming than most IT jobs because you don’t need to know a single line of code. 

Another shared aspect between the two specializations is the freelance demand. Software development is sometimes associated with huge projects with dozens of people, but it is easy to miss how many apps and websites are made by a single developer or two. The pandemic forced practically everyone to have an online presence, and commissioning a Wordpress website to a lone wolf yields a pretty high quality-price ratio. As for UI/UX designers, there are plenty of companies that need designs too infrequently to have someone on staff. Also, people still need their logos, merch, or perhaps user interface design for a future Wordpress website.

Last but not least, both front-end developers and web designers are interfacing (he-he) with what users see. They are not diving into the underlying systems that make the app or product work, as this is something that is traditionally reserved for back-end developers. Always facing the customers is fun for while others may find it daunting, especially for front-end developers and designers who are just starting out. New apps for more tech-savvy users often have less-than-pleasant reviews blaming specific issues on the front-end developer(s) or designer. 

What Does a UI/UX Designer Do?

In short, UI/UX Designers:

  • Define how a website or app will be used
  • Make the product usable
  • Create visual elements that help a well-working app look well
  • Leave a lasting impression — or none when that would be better

Now, the job almost seems to have two jobs in one title. This is the trend that at some point was reverting but has since been only growing again. Companies prefer to have the same person define User Experience and visualize it with the User Interface for consistency purposes. Thi is even more relevant for businesses that work with design freelancers: managing two independent individuals, whose work plays off each other, is simply not worth it. Keep that in mind, especially if you aspire to be a freelancer specializing in User Experience only.

As for key duties of user experience and user interface parts of the job, we cover them in more detail in a separate UI vs UX blog. To give you some idea, here’s how our User Interface teacher Sergey Tolmachov describes his work.

What Does a Front-End Developer Do?

In short, front-end developers ship the designs that they received from UI/UX specialists (the industry term is implementation). They utilize HTML, CSS, and usually a specific JavaScript framework to make the user's device render images, play animations, and make interactive elements actually interactive. This is how UI/UX designers are not required to know any code: front-end developers got them covered.

It’s worth mentioning the IT industry trend of trying to bridge the gap between designing a solution and implementing its front-end. Notably, a very prominent (and mostly free) web design tool, Figma, allows UI/UX specialists to export CSS, Swift, and XML code for the elements they designed. This is, however, still a far cry from front-end developers getting phased out. Similarly, software tools will not be replacing designers any soon.

Front-End developers do not merely push images to apps and websites. They enable complex animations and make sure that the app looks and works well on various screens. You can find more information about the tools from our blog.