If you’re about to build a digital product, such as an app, software program, or website, you may be wondering who you need on your team. While it varies based on the size, scope, and nature of your project, development teams generally include the following:
- Front-end developer
- Back-end developer
- UX designer
- UI designer
- Quality assurance tester
- DevOps engineer
- Project manager
Some teams will be much leaner and some much bigger, but these seven roles are the building blocks of most development projects.
Front-end developer: the customer-friendly coder
There are three main types of developers: front-end, back-end, and full-stack. The names are pretty self-explanatory. A front-end developer creates the front part, or user-facing component, of a product.
As you can imagine, a front-end developer is a pretty vital part of any development team. In addition to simply building the user-facing part of your product, they make sure users have a smooth, seamless experience using the product. Among other things, that means creating an intuitive interface with findable buttons, easy-to-read text, simple navigation, and high-speed transitions.
Another part of the front-end developer’s job is to guarantee the same user-friendly experience across every device and operating system on which your product is available. For example, if you’re creating a cross-platform mobile app, your front-end developer will make sure it works well on both Android and Apple devices. They may also test your product across different browsers and device types, like laptops, PCs, and tablets.
In a nutshell:
A front-end developer
- Creates the user-facing component of your product
- Focuses on giving users a smooth, seamless experience
- Ensures that the product is user-friendly on every device and operating system
Back-end developer: the strategic architect
A back-end developer creates the “back end” of a product, or the behind-the-scenes technology that makes everything run. But your back-end developer does much more than just write code. They’re essentially creating the blueprints for your entire application.
As such, a good back-end developer is more than just a coder; they’re also a strategist, consultant, and problem-solver extraordinaire. In addition to just developing, they plan, offer suggestions, and fix complex problems that no one else can solve. You could also think of your back-end developer as an architect, since they’re responsible for planning and building the entire application, choosing which structures to use, and deciding which elements will interact with each other and how. Their #1 goal, like that of any good architect, is to give you a system that’s not only aesthetically pleasing, but stable.
In a nutshell:
A back-end developer
- Creates the behind-the-scenes architecture of your product
- Decides which tools and systems to use for building the product
- Solves problems that arise with your application’s architecture
While many projects will have a front- and back-end developer—and if it’s a large or complicated project, it’s probably easier to split it up this way—some will simply have one full-stack developer, which is (you guessed it) a developer who does both front- and back-end.
UX designer: the marketing champ
Designers go by various titles: your team may have a separate UX and UI designer, or simply one product designer handling both roles. You may also need a graphic designer or animator. But the two main types of designers are UX and UI.
UX stands for user experience, and a UX designer is responsible for ensuring that end-users have a positive experience with your product. Not only that, but they make sure the user experience translates into helping you achieve your business goals.
Of course, the most obvious part of their job is making sure an application is intuitive, easy on the eyes, and accessible. But beyond just the visual aspect, they also pay attention to the emotional aspect: does your product make people happy? Excited? Frustrated?
Many UX designers also have data, marketing, and management skills, since they have to work closely with the other members of a development team and understand things like KPIs and marketing plans. UX designers may also conduct their own research and user testing in order to build a product that satisfies end-users and meets business goals.
In a nutshell:
A UX designer:
- Focuses on providing a positive user experience that achieves your organization’s goals
- Works with marketers and data analysts to improve the user experience
UI designer: the visionary artist
UI stands for user interface. Whereas a UX designer is more focused on the overall user experience, a UI designer hones in on the technical details that contribute to that experience. Like a front-end developer, they work on the user-facing component, making sure all the visual elements work well together and the application is easy to use.
Another part of a UI designer’s job is translating your brand into a digital product. They come up with the color scheme, font style, graphics, and other visual elements of your application.
After creating the basic visual building blocks, UI designers typically create a set of mockup screens representing the different phases your user will move through in the process of using your application. The front-end developer then uses these mockups to create the product’s interface.
In a nutshell:
A UI designer:
- Creates the visual elements of your application
- Helps sync the appearance of a product with your brand
- Creates mockup screens for the front-end developer
QA tester: the devil’s advocate
An application is only as good as its testing, which is why you need a quality assurance tester (or two or three). These superstars find bugs and weak links in your product during the development process so you can fix them before handing things over to your end-users.
Testers do much more than just play with your application and check to see if anything’s broken. They check your product’s features against the requirements, create test cases, document their findings, and may even implement automatic testing to save time. Among other things, they test for quality, performance, ease of use, security, and user experience.
In a nutshell:
A QA tester
- Tests your product for bugs and performance issues
- Ensures all product features meet the requirements
- Also tests for security, ease of use, and user experience
DevOps engineer: the technical guru
A DevOps engineer is sort of like a project manager, but they’re also much, much more. As you can imagine since their title refers to development operations, they oversee the development side of things. That includes coordinating between developers and designers, streamlining software updates, and planning for product launch.
But their role extends beyond launch. After your product hits the market, the DevOps engineer is responsible for making sure it doesn’t crash, gets updated as needed, and costs you as little as possible.
That last part brings up another aspect of the DevOps engineer’s role: keeping the development process affordable. They help scale your product’s infrastructure up or down as needed, ensuring that every extra cost yields a larger ROI.
In a nutshell:
A DevOps engineer
- Manages the development side of your project
- Oversees continued product maintenance after launch
- Helps assess costs and keep things affordable
Project manager: your best friend
Meet the person responsible for keeping your project on track. While a DevOps engineer oversees the more technical side, a project manager oversees the logistics. They assess risks, keep communication active between all the different team members, and make sure everyone is hitting deadlines and staying within budget constraints. Because of this, they’re probably going to be your best friend throughout the development process.
In addition to just keeping everyone on track, a project manager is constantly looking for ways to solve problems and improve the process. If something goes wrong, they’re the first one on the scene. If there’s a set-back, chances are they’re already looking for a way to compensate. They’re also your link with the development team, and they’ll likely deliver reports on a regular basis to let you know how things are progressing.
In a nutshell:
A project manager
- Keeps a project on track time- and budget-wise
- Oversees all the moving pieces
- Reports on the progress of your project
You may have other members on your team as well, such as a CTO, software architect, business analyst, or copywriter, to name just a few. But with these seven roles filled, you have the vital building blocks for creating a successful digital product.
Need a capable team for your development project? We can supply everything from UX and UI designers to DevOps engineers. Give us a call for a free consultation.
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