How to Differ Frontend Developer from UI Developer?

George Fironov

How do you know for sure whether you need to hire a Front-end Developer or a UI Developer? The answer isn’t always easy. Front-end and UI are similar – but not identical.

It’s hard to keep up with all that’s going on in the software market. There’s a lot of changing terminology. New things pop up all the time.

But there’s a problem. Most of us have slightly different ideas of what phrases like back-end, front-end, or framework mean. This can create a lot of confusion between non-programmers and coders.

Confusion can lead to a lot of time wasted in screening candidates, hiring freelancers, for example hiring python programmers, or browsing offers from outsourcing companies. To hire the right person, you need to have a clear understanding of what different roles do.

—>You might also like: Hire Locally or Remotely? A short guide for project managers.

Front-end and UI are similar, but not identical

Front-end is a term from software architecture. It represents the presentation layer in software. The back-end is the data access layer. Front-end is what you click on, back-end is what makes things happen after your click. User Interface (UI), on the other hand, covers the whole spectrum of designing human-machine interactions. You could say that your keyboard, mouse, and screen make up the UI for your computer. (source)

Let’s talk about web and application development. Here, front-end and UI mean the same thing. And Front-end Developers could be called UI Developers, but that’s not the industry standard. Front-end is used for development roles, UI is used for design roles.

Developers vs Designers

Keep in mind that these roles intersect a lot of the time. Especially in the case of smaller teams. Startups and small companies have limited resources. Developers have to design, marketers have to code, founders switch roles every few hours to keep everything going and take care of design, development, SEO and so on. We all probably know what it’s like.

As teams grow it gets more important to outline the difference – even if it’s just to avoid putting the wrong title on a job posting. Once we enter medium-size and bigger teams, the roles of Front-end Developers and UI Designers are typically structured like this:

Front-end DevelopersUI Designers
ToolsetHTML, CSS, JavaScript, frameworks, code libraries, code repositorySoftware for graphic design, prototyping, wireframing
Main responsibilityBuild usable app / web interface in line with the UI Designer’s vision OR design and build interface (when there is no designer)Create a wireframe / graphic representation of app/web interface in line with branding, current trends, and marketing/sales strategy
Focus onSpeed, usability, integration with back-end, tech stack limitationsAesthetics, user flow, design principles, style, branding

Are the UI designers always necessary in software projects?

Not really. For a small project, one Full Stack Developer can design, build and maintain websites/apps without a problem. Designers come into play when a project is big. Or when it’s starting to scale. The examples of hybrid apps can show the significant scope of job for designers to do. Or when there’s large funding involved, and you can afford to hire an expert or outsource the design.

Should UI designers know front-end technologies?

In a perfect world – yes. Or at least have an understanding of limitations. Depending on the tech stack, some design ideas might not always be easy to implement. Designers aware of these limitations could potentially shorten the overall development time. But is it absolutely crucial for designers to know all about the tech? No. That’s the developer’s thing.

Is UI design becoming obsolete due to the popularity of frameworks and templates?

Frameworks allow developers for hire to build interfaces out of pre-designed elements. If you want to build an app or a website, there are endless frameworks and templates you can use. They don’t eliminate the need for design, though. They are useful for building usable, good-looking interfaces if you have no time or resources for custom design.

And they’re still useful when you have more resources for custom design. You can customize the pre-built components of a framework or a template. Overall if you want a unique app that looks and feels like none other, then hiring designers is the way to go.

Should designers earn less or more than developers?

They might earn more but only when unusual circumstances arise. Developers typically earn the most. That’s just how it is in the industry right now. Your project might be different, though.

For example, there might be huge competition in your market. In which case the design could make all the difference between profitability and bankruptcy. This could lead to hiring designers with rates bigger than your developers.

Understanding the Difference Between UI/UX Designer and Front-End Developer Skill Sets

Since they have such different goals and projects, it’s no surprise that UI/UX designers and front-end developers work differently. UI developers are focused more on how the website looks and feels to users, while front-end developers are prioritizing the site’s operability and functionality. To succeed at these unique web development goals, they require drastically different skill sets.

Here are some important things to know about the sorts of skills and abilities each type of developer will need:


  • Tools — When it comes to UI UX vs front-end developer tools, both use technological tools and types of software. However, UI/UX developers tend to use things like Adobe Photoshop, Corel, and Expression Blend while front-end developers work with web browsers, code libraries, and integrated development environments. They often use at least one of these programming languages: HTML, CSS, JavaScript, ReactJS, or Vue JS.
  • Methods — UI/UX design involves a broad blend of design, psychology, and engineering. They often have to communicate with other team members and take into account things like sales tactics, marketing, and brand recognition while creating a variety of prototypes and mockups. Meanwhile, front-end developers often work independently or with a small development team, and they mostly employ methods like coding, algorithms, and technical theory.
  • Skills — The divide between UI UX designer vs front end developer skills is actually smaller than you think. Though each of these careers involves different projects and tools, they both require the same general skills. Both types of people need to be creative, intelligent, and logical. They need to excel at problem-solving and pay attention to small details. The only big difference is that UI/UX designers need more style and design skills while front-end developers need more coding, debugging, and development skills.

Common Examples of UI/UX Designer Projects

To better understand the difference between UI developer and front end developer, it’s useful to take a look at the projects UI/UX designers work on. Generally, a UI developer’s duties are conceptual, big-picture jobs. To design a system that users will appreciate, every UI designer project must address these questions:


  • Will the interface let users perform necessary tasks?
  • Is the interface easy and convenient to use?
  • Does the interface look visually appealing?


Here are some examples of ways UI/UX designers work to fulfill these priorities.

Improving Customer Retention

Companies often bring in a UI/UX designer to help them retain customers. The UI/UX designer can improve the way a user interacts with their product, so people are less likely to get frustrated and go to work with the company’s competitor. This project typically requires designers to analyze data, identify potential problems, and create solutions.

For example, a UI/UX designer could notice customers keep beginning the sign-up process and then leaving the site before creating a password. This would tell the developer that they need to redesign the password creation process to be less complicated.

Generating Leads

A huge part of user interface design is making a site or app that allows the company to generate leads. UI designers help a company capture the attention of casual visitors and turn them into actual customers. To succeed at this goal, UI/UX developers may create and analyze multiple wireframes to find user flows that create the most leads. Even small things like the layout of a call-to-action button can have a big impact on conversion rates.

Planning User Systems and Internal Procedures

This is one of the main reasons people get confused about front-end developer vs UX designer responsibilities. Both developers have a say in how the technology behind the site runs. Even though UI designers don’t focus as much on implementation as front-end developers do, they still have some input in how internal procedures and systems work.

UI designers use their understanding of human psychology to think about how customers will expect the website or app to behave. Then they consider the available tools and technology and come up with ideas for how to make this tech best suit users’ needs.

UI isn’t always the same as front-end, but in web and application development – it is

Hopefully, after this article people won’t use the term “UI Developer” in job postings anymore. It’s best to use standard industry terminology. It’ll help you find the right people faster, and avoid confusion for all people involved. And the standard is that Front-end is married to development, and UI is married to design.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this article. If you’re currently looking for Front-end developers on outstaffing service, come and see how Talmatic can help you with that.

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George Fironov
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