Choosing Between UX/UI Design vs. Web Development

By Lauren Stewart
Last updated on April 16, 2020


You’ve heard the terms “UX/UI Designer” and “Web Developer,” but do you understand the differences between these tech roles? As a UX designer and instructor at New York Code + Design Academy, Jimmy Chandler gives us the scoop. Learn what you should consider when choosing between UX/UI Design vs Web Development, the types of jobs you could land after a bootcamp, and the soft skills you’ll need in each role.

What does a UX/UI Designer do?

UX stands for user experience and UI stands for user interface.

A designer starts by identifying what problems people have in their lives – at school, at home, at work, at the gym, anywhere. Then designers work out how a website or an app on their computer or their phone could help people solve those problems. Designing is solving problems, it’s not creating art.

A design needs to fit within the capability and brand of the company that needs it. AT&T is not going to build an app to help me figure out what shoe will fit my feet, because that's not what they do. So that's a part of the designer’s responsibility, to ensure that the business goals match the needs of the target customers.

What does a Web Developer do?

Developers write the code to bring those UX designs and ideas to life. Developers use languages like HTML, JavaScript, Ruby, C++, and many more. They connect the code to real data through databases and APIs, and then they test to make sure their code works properly.

UX/UI Designers vs. Web Developers

When building a website, the UX/UI designer determines what the team should build and what the website should do; the developers make the website work and make it functional.

How should I choose between a design bootcamp vs. web development bootcamp?

If you’re choosing design:

  • You need to be interested in how to improve things for other people, not just for yourself.
  • You need to be open to different ways of looking at the world and different ways of thinking.

If you’re choosing web development:

  • You need to enjoy problem-solving
  • You need to find solutions AND implement them
  • You need to look at error messages as a good thing

How do designers and developers work together to build a project?

Designers and developers may both be responsible for writing or evolving project requirements, and working with a client or product manager. I find that the best software teams integrate designers and developers to work together. Methodologies known as Agile, Lean or Balanced Teams when implemented well encourage this kind of deep collaboration. It’s not just about having meetings once a week together, but actually working together in the same space. The developer codes the software so that the screen looks the way the designer wants it to look.

But there are a lot of other ways you can collaborate. For example, I've brought developers into our design team’s research tasks in a project. They're not just seeing a report at the end or watching a video, they're actually participating from the start.

Towards the end of the NYCDA UX/UI Design Immersive, our students sometimes critique and contribute to the developers’ projects. And vice versa – we might have students from the Software Engineering class look at a design students' work and ask about implementation or even use a design student’s prototype for a coding project

How to Be a Good Designer

Which tools do you need to know in order to be a good designer?

Some of the popular tools that designers use are:

  • Adobe Creative Cloud, such as Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. Adobe software is expensive, but they have a discounted rate for students. Adobe has been in the industry for a very long time – some of these tools actually predate the web. Photoshop and Illustrator go back to the 1980's.
  • Sketch, which is what we use at NYCDA for our UX/UI Immersive. Sketch was designed specifically for UX designers from the ground up, whereas most Adobe products (except Adobe XD) have been adapted over time. It also costs much less.
  • Other tools include InVision (which students use at NYCDA for prototyping) and dozens of other apps you can use as a UX designer.

It’s important not to say, “I only work with this one tool." The ability to learn and adapt to new tools is a skill that all designers need to have because you don't know what tools your next job or project will require.

Do designers need to know how to code?

Designers are going to need to be able to use some software. Designers may know how to code as a skill: they may use HTML, CSS, and even JavaScript. But even then, designers don’t use code in the same way that developers do. It's not about coding skills the way it is for developers.

Which soft skills are important for designers?

If you want to be effective as a UX/UI designer, soft skills are just as vital as the hard skills. These include presenting, listening, and learning how to give and receive critique. If you can't clearly communicate your ideas and your designs to your client or the decision maker, it doesn't matter how good the design looks. Being open to critique is vital – you’ll have to take feedback and criticism from a lot of different parties without taking it personally.

What does NYCDA look for in prospective design students? Are there specific skills that a prospective designer should have?

This is what we look for in UX design students:

  • People who are interested and capable of learning.
  • People who can communicate in a professional manner and think critically.
  • People who have the end goal in mind – how is this going to help somebody, how are they going to use it.

You don't have to be artistic – I'm not artistic! Design is about solving problems for real people. It’s a mix of art and science. Being artistic and creating things can be helpful in UX/UI when you're working on the aesthetics of a product, but it's not a prerequisite. I started out writing first, coding second, and only later did I delve into design. I was not trained in visual design. I picked up my visual design skills along the way from great people I worked with.

What makes a Good Web Developer

What types of skills would lend someone to become a web developer versus a designer?

Being a logical thinker, being persistent, and wanting to figure out hard problems. You don't have to be a mathematician, but being able to speak in a logical way is very important.

Developers should be able to see the “big picture” as well as small details. Often times, there are many solutions to a problem, but one will stand out as the best when looking at the full context or business goal.

Do web developers need design skills to be successful?

From the developers' point of view, I think learning design skills are very helpful in your career. Are design skills necessary for a back end developer? Probably not. If you want to be a front end developer, then the more you understand about design, the better you’ll be at your job.

On some teams, one person will cover both roles. For example, a Front End Designer or Front End Developer might conduct user research, create visual designs in tools such as Sketch, Illustrator, or Photoshop, and code it in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

The UX Design vs Web Development Curriculum

What does the New York Code and Design UX Design Intensive curriculum include?

Students have three or four intensive class projects to learn all the steps that go into building apps and websites, and the different methods that different teams might use. We can’t cover everything in twelve weeks but we cover a lot:

  • Conducting usability tests with a clickable prototype, and other kinds of research like cards sorts.
  • Methods for conducting that research, analyzing it, and converting it into an artifact to show their team or client what they need to know about their customers or a product.
  • How to create a persona – a model of a target person that might use your product, to figure out what their needs and goals are.
  • Facilitation and interviewing.
  • How to create journey maps to show the journey a customer takes through the whole process, wherever the service or product touches the customer, and how a product affects their experience.
  • Information architecture, which is how we label and organize information.
  • Interaction design, which is how the product interface indicates what people should do when they click, tap, or slide on certain features; and how the interface should react to that user’s action.
  • Content strategy to figure out what content to use, how to organize content, and what forms the content should take.

To be an effective designer, you have to start with research, be user-centered in your decision making, and realize that everything you do affects how people are going to use your product.

What does the New York Code and Design Software Engineering Intensive curriculum include?

We just revamped our curriculum for the Software Engineering Intensive, and it’s now centered around a software development core (Ruby and JavaScript), project-based learning, integrated workplace simulation (agile methodology, coding challenges, whiteboarding, midpoint reviews, interview practice, and presentations), and career support.

How are the Web Development projects different from the UX Design projects at NYCDA?

NYCDA has a web page with examples of student projects – there are some really neat ones. One student designed an iPad app that allows users to order custom-built lightsabers. Another student built an app to help users find and rate indoor rock climbing clubs.

The biggest difference between projects is:

  • In the Software Engineering Intensive, you're writing code and building something that works, connecting it to a database, and people can interact with it and real functionality happens.
  • In the UX Design Intensive, you’re conducting research, creating wireframes and layouts with design software, building a prototype, and building yourself a portfolio that you can show potential employers to demonstrate your design process and the kinds of deliverables you create.

Jobs After Bootcamp

What types of roles can UX Design grads expect to get right after bootcamp?

A lot depends on an individual student’s background. If a student was already a successful visual designer, such as graphic design for websites/apps, they may have a better chance over somebody who just graduated college with a degree in English and has never done anything with design or software. If you're already in the design field, our goal is to get you a better job. Our UX design graduates have found jobs as Product Designers, User Researchers, UX Consultants, and UX Designers.

If you’re a beginner and really dedicated to being a designer and you put the time and effort into it, you should be qualified to at least get an internship in design, which can lead to an entry-level job opportunity. Multiple students from our intensive receive internships right after bootcamp.

What type of roles can NYCDA web development grads get right after bootcamp?

Web Development Intensive grads have found a wide variety of roles using their new technical skills combined with past experience. Some different positions include Technical Project Managers, Product Managers, Full Stack Developers, Sales Engineers, QA Engineers, iOS Developers, UX Designers, and even entrepreneurs starting their own company.

Advice for Future Bootcampers

What’s it like being a UX designer in the field?

I continue to learn about users’ commonalities and differences and the role of technology in their lives in practically every project that I work on. That has such a profound impact on how I actually design and research.

I’ve found the best way to build products is collaboratively. In the “old way” of building software, a client gave us requirements and then we designed, received feedback, and handed it off to somebody else. In a collaborative situation, instead of just getting a client’s requirements and working by myself, I work with the client as my expert. Clients are the experts in what their needs and problems are; I’m the expert in design. Agile and Lean methodology allows you to include stakeholders, decision makers, and users in the product so that you build it better and more cost-effectively.

How can people prepare for design and web development bootcamps?

If you're interested in design or web development, reach out to NYCDA to talk, or look at the website and see what we offer.

Here are some great UX design resources:

Here are some web development resources:

Read New York Code and Design Academy reviews on Course Report and be sure to check out the New York Code and Design Academy website!

About The Author

Lauren is a communications and operations strategist who loves to help others find their idea of success. She is passionate about techonology education, career development, startups, and the arts. Her background includes career/youth development, public affairs, and philanthropy. She is from Richmond, VA and now currently resides in Los Angeles, CA.

Also on Course Report

Get our FREE Ultimate Guide to Paying for a Bootcamp

By submitting this form, you agree to receive email marketing from Course Report.

Get Matched in Minutes

Just tell us who you are and what you’re searching for, we’ll handle the rest.

Match Me