What a UI Developer Does: A Guide To This Unique Role
Learn how a UI developer fits into a product team with this deep-dive on their role in action and the benefits they provide.
Think of your favorite website, app, software tool at work, or digital space where you like to hang out. Then consider why it’s your favorite. Maybe it’s the colors and images, how easy it is to use, or the way it makes your life easier. Perhaps it’s just an enjoyable way to spend some time.
You might wonder who designed the app’s visual appearance or who decided to put a specific interactive element just where you needed it at just the right time. The web design and UX teams get all the glory for those usability decisions. But it was a UI developer that took the design vision and transformed it into the user interface of your favorite website or app.
Sitting between the creative genius of the UI and UX designers and the technical masters on the software development team, the UI web developer builds the pixel-perfect interfaces that help bring the user experience to life in your digital world. Keep reading to understand more about the UI developer role, how it fits into a product team, and why you need a UI developer for your next product or feature build.
The Art of User Interface Development
User interface development is the collective result of understanding product business objectives, appreciating the nuance of the design intent, and delivering that vision for the ultimate creation of working software.
The goal of a UI developer is pixel-perfect precision in the visual appearance of websites and web applications. UI developers use their skills to translate the page layouts, images, and interactive elements designed by the creative team into HTML/CSS solutions. UI devs also have the added complexity of ensuring their solutions maintain their visual appeal while aligning with the given technology platform and its limitations, as well as the preferred browsers and devices of their end-users.
UI developers work with the design and engineering teams in a consultative role. They provide input and guidance to web designers on potential opportunities and risks in design and workflow concepts. And, they communicate business goals and design intentions to the engineering team, ensuring the end product stays true to the vision.
Finally, the UI developer is responsible for building the visual interface of the website or web application. Unlike front-end developers who implement product functionality, UI developers focus on the visual aspect of the product, including animations and design effects like transitions.
The UI Developer’s Role in Uniting Creativity and Technology
UI engineers sit in the middle, between the creative and technology teams. Let’s look at how that works in the real world, from concept to design and, finally, to product launch.
User interface designers use design thinking principles to start the development process for a new product or feature by identifying business and user needs, discovering or validating those needs through UX research, creating visual elements and workflows, and then confirming those decisions through wireframing and prototyping activities
Using their expertise, a UI developer provides input throughout the design process and can often validate UI/UX design decisions early in the development process. They take finalized hi-fi wireframes and prototypes delivered via Sketch, Figma, or Axure and construct pixel-perfect HTML and CSS mockups with fully-functioning animations and other design effects. This work is a UI developer’s output, delivered to the front-end developers to complete the product build.
Finally, in consultation with the UI and backend software developers, the front-end developers bring the product to life by transforming the UI dev’s HTML and CSS output into reusable and scalable web components ready for release to the end-user.
Front-end developers use Angular, React, Vue, or other frameworks to build the functional aspect of the product, ensuring proper validation of user input, accepting and processing user data, and handling various interaction use cases within the product workflows.
UI Development in Action
To accomplish the lofty ambition of pixel-perfect precision, a UI developer job requires an individual with in-depth knowledge and experience working with HTML and CSS.
Years of experience with HTML and CSS build a UI developer’s skillset to prepare advanced design effects for front-end web developers. Transitions, animations, and visual effects applied to interactive elements all fall within the UI web developer’s expertise and expected output.
UI developers are also responsible for building a visual presentation that is optimized for view on a variety of platforms. The product’s end-users may be loading the web application on a desktop or laptop. Some users may be interacting with the software through an Android or iOS mobile device like a smartphone or tablet. Individual web browsers also have unique ways of interpreting code. UI developers must prepare the user interface code to respond appropriately in various devices and web browsers.
Except for animations, UI developers don’t add to the visual design or add new functionality. They are not UI designers. A UI developer’s primary function is to transform finalized designs delivered by UI and UX designers and UX developers into working code.
User interface developers, working between the user interface design and tech teams, have insight into a product build’s execution. They help user experience designers prioritize their work to ensure the front-end development team has the right elements at the right time to execute their work efficiently.
The Benefits a UI Developer Brings To a Product Team
UI developers use their understanding of business objectives, design principles, and technology to link UI/UX designers and front-end developers’ work. Receiving the design team’s output, UI developers transform those design artifacts into the input for the front-end development team, who adds the functionality and prepares the final product for release to end-users.
Positioned between creative and technical teams, UI devs stand ready to collaborate with the design team on technical possibilities and functionality. They also provide early validation on the creative team’s design decisions.
During the creative vision execution, UI devs support the software developers by clarifying information on design elements and workflow decisions, enhancing the technical team’s understanding of the product vision.
Acting in a consultative and functional role on the product team, UI developers preserve the business object and design intent throughout the product development lifecycle. The ultimate result is a high-quality product with a delightful, cohesive user experience.
While not represented in a UI developer’s job title, they play an essential team role by promoting an efficient and effective cross-functional flow of work between teams, from concept to launch.
At December Labs, our UI developers are critical in developing the team synergy we use to create user experiences that delight digital audiences. We’re proud of the expertise on our teams and the work we do. If you’re planning a new product build, we’d love to share our experience and expertise to help you create an elegant product with the perfect combination of design and function.