Software designers and coders are often confused because in the real-world these two jobs are often done by the same person. There is, however, a difference. A software designer can code but is also responsible for the overall design and architecture of a software product. A coder, or computer programmer, designs, writes, and tests code, and understands algorithms. They use one or more computer programming languages which enable them to write the code that executes the commands that run the software or application as planned by the software designer.
Software designers create the foundation on which the software must be built and coders do the building. If you are unsure as to whether you should be a software designer or a coder, here are 7 signs that you should probably choose software design.
1. You enjoy doing research
Research is an integral part of the software design process. You need to research what your competitors are doing, what applications your software should integrate with, how to monetize your software, and what functionality your target audience requires. Software Designers will have to spend a lot of time observing user behavior or listening to users of a similar product to better understand how to design the software to best suit their needs, and solve their problems.
2. You love problem solving
Designing software is like creating a road map. You will need to lay out various workflows for your users. These workflows map out the way in which the user will navigate through the software you have designed according to the task they want to perform. You will need to think about what a user’s journey through your software will look like. You will need to decide which parts of the software need to be linked together, and how they link together. This is called information architecture and, when the architecture for a software program is designed well, users will be clear where they are in the software program or application, and what they need to do to get where they want to be or perform certain task.
You will need to create wireframes for your software that are the blueprints of your information architecture. Wireframes indicate where each piece of content belongs and show the overall structure of the software. They’re basically a map of the user’s journey and are usually used to create a prototype for testing before the graphic design is applied.
3. You like engaging with people
Usability is key to a successful software product and a software designer will need to actively engage with users before, during, and after the software if created. At the beginning of the project you will research who your target audience is, what their needs are, and establish how your software will help them. During development you will enlist users to assist you to test the software prototype and get feedback from them. User testing and feedback is critical to the success of the software and can be done in person, digitally, or both.
4. You’re creative
Software designers are responsible for the user interface design and will decide what the software is going to look like visually. You will decide on a color palette, which fonts to use, as well as the visual style and language usage. Software designers will not only determine the structure of the user interface but also the look and feel of it. There are a range of tools that can be used to do this, but Sketch is the most popular.
Good software designers practice human-centered design starting with establishing who the target users and getting to know them through research and testing. They will then design and build the interface for the software with those people in mind. Testing software to make sure it meets the users’ needs and adapting the design, and even the architecture if needs be, is pivotal to creating human-centered design for your software.
5. You like variety
Software designers are generalists rather than specialists because they don’t just focus on one aspect of the software development like coders do. Enjoying the stimulation of variety is a sure sign that you should be a software designer and not a coder. Coders, code. They only write and refine code which, although specialized, can be a very monotonous task offering minimal variety in your working day. Software designers, on the other hand, perform a wide range of different tasks and draw on a myriad of different skills from problem solving to graphic design.
6. You have a basic knowledge of coding
If you want to be a coder you will need to be proficient in a large number of different programming languages and will more than likely have a diploma or degree in information technology or computer science. As a Software Designer you don’t need to know much more than a smattering of code, if any. This means that you are not expected to have an extensive educational background in computer technology in order to be involved in the software development process.
7. You’re a master self-starter
Software designers are generally people who are highly self-disciplined, always show initiative, are curious, and will find out how to do something if they don’t know how. They don’t need a manager to incentivize or to inspire them; they get on and do it themselves. Two of the most important attributes of a self-starter are their organizational and time-management skills. As with any project management position, a software designer needs these attributes on both the big spectrum and as an individual.
You are probably better suited to being a software designer than a coder if most of these 7 signs ring true for you. It is an extremely fulfilling profession as you are designing something that people are interacting with and not simply observing. You are also creating a product that solves problems for people in a way that can drastically improve their lives.