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The Devil’s in the Details — The Benefits of Having UI Developers in Your Projects

Technology

Jul 26, 2023 - 9 minute read

The Devil’S In The Details — The Benefits Of Having UI Developers In Your Projects
Michał Szymczak Team Leader Senior UI Developer

He has been with Objecitivity for more than 3 years and in the IT industry for about 20 years. Michał remembers the times when Flash was king, and layouts were done on tables. He’s passionate about exploring the intersection between design and development. Michał created the Fluid UI library, which presents an innovative approach to managing typography, space, colours, but also project structure, CSS variables and design tokens. Outside of work, he’s a happily married and a father of three children, music lover, novice gardener and a badminton player. 

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2988 HC Digital Transformation 476X381

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Table of contents

  1. Web for All, Web on Everything 
  2. UI Developer — the Front of the Front
  3. Responsibilities
  4. The Benefits of Having UI Developers in Your Projects 
  5. The Future of the UI Developer Role 

We’re experiencing intense growth in the IT industry. There are many companies and products on the market competing for the same customers. The final outcome depends on multiple factors. Rasmus Andersson, the co-creator of Spotify’s success, said: “people come for the features, but they stay for the details”. Remember this sentence as I introduce the role of the User Interface (UI) Developer, the person who takes care of the details, the whole long list of them. 

Web for All, Web on Everything 

When the first websites were created in the 1990s, they were usually displayed on CRT screens with a resolution of 800 x 600px connected to a PC.  

Today, over 30 years later, the situation is completely different. There are more devices than ever; you have to consider tablets, phones, high-definition TVs, but also the display screens on fridges or LCD panels in the car cockpits. The conditions and contexts in which people use devices have also changed. The user is no longer just an office worker. They could be a parent with a child in tow trying to pay the bus fare with a smartphone or a tourist analysing the route to the nearest hostel on a rainy night on a phone screen. Or perhaps they could have certain disabilities (visual, cognitive or manual) and use assistive tools such as a screen reader. 

The WC3 (World Wide Web Consortium) has the mission “to lead the World Wide Web to its full potential by developing protocols and guidelines that ensure the long-term growth of the Web.” Their fundamental design principles include the words “Web for All. Web on Everything.” This means that the internet should be accessible to everyone, using any type of devices.   

Adapting digital products to these unfamiliar conditions is much more complex today than it used to be and requires special attention to detail. At Objectivity, UI Developers is the designed role to handle the details related to the User Interface.

UI Developer — the Front of the Front

Let’s take a moment to explain where exactly this role came from. A front-end developer, or a Software Developer in general, writes code in HTML / CSS, JavaScript/Typescript and creates the relevant integrations with the backend (.NET, Java, databases, external services).  

The main goal is to implement the business logic. The technologies and frameworks used by Software Developers are developing quickly and require constant upskilling (in the frontend alone there’s Angular, React, Vue, Svelte and many others). When you add the fine-tuning of the User Interface layer to these responsibilities, it turns out that it’s too much for a single role to handle. The lack of designated UI Developers often results in the insufficient quality of the UI.  

 

„There is a noticeable trend of dividing responsibilities in the IT world, simply because one person can’t take care of everything” 
Weronika Sabiniewicz — Community Lead, Team Leader Senior Software Developer 

 

You also have to remember that the CSS (Cascading Style Sheet) language is a key element in defining the visual layer of applications. And this technology has passed the point where it could be seen as a supplementary activity to HTML a long time ago.  

Having more than 570 properties in the specification, CSS is difficult to learn. Moreover, the skills don’t necessarily come from knowing the syntax, but the awareness of how things work in specific cases, browsers, etc. In the 2020 MDN Browser Compatibility Report, layout and styling were named amongst the top pain points for developers. 

And so we arrive at the point where certain tasks need to be moved from the role of Software Developer to that of UI Developer. Ultimately, the two form a synergistic duo. To illustrate it in a nutshell: let’s take a button within an application, the UI Developer (the front of the front) takes care of its look and feel, while the Software Developer (the back of the front) is responsible for the functionality, ensuring that clicking the button yields the right results. 

 

Delegating the UI issues to someone specialising in interface design frees up the software developers to focus on the business logic without the need to design the look and feel efficiently.  

Rafal Świerkot — Team Leader, Senior Software Developer 

 

Responsibilities

After introducing the role of UI Developer at Objectivity, its competencies have expanded over time. Today, the responsibilities include: 

  • Semantic HTML code — creating appropriate document structure, compliance with W3C standards, ensuring proper rendering and performance, optimising loading time, providing SEO-friendly markup. 
  • CSS / SASS architecture — creating the CSS architecture; from Single Page Applications through native applications to complex services, dealing with various technology stacks (SCSS, CSS-in-JS, functional CSS) and methodologies (BEM, OOCSS, CUBE CSS, TailwindCSS etc.). 
  • UI libraries and frameworks (Bootstrap, Material Design, PrimeNG, Kendo, Chakra UI etc.) — proficient knowledge of libraries and frameworks, the ability to identify their strengths and weaknesses with various technologies. 
  • Responsive Web Design (RWD) — programming interfaces that display correctly on various devices (mobile, tablet, desktop, laptop, high resolution screens), various Internet browsers and operating systems. Optimisation for specific, individual requirements, implementation of Progressive Web Applications (PWA). 
  • Accessibility — creating digital products for people with limitations (e.g. visual or manual), in accordance with WCAG requirements. For example, extending the application with ARIA attributes, taking care of proper document structure, colours, contrasts, typography, functionality of interactive elements (dropdowns, tabs, accordions, datapickers), keyboard operation (avoiding keyboard traps), zoom, implementation of visible focus indicators, support for assistive tools (screen readers), implementing accessibility-focused alternatives (e.g. disabling animation for motion-sensitive people). 
  • Custom components — modifying existing components or building new ones from scratch to satisfy the client’s requirements. If the application is developed using existing libraries or in low-code technology (e.g. Mendix, Power Platform), the UI developer is able to provide a specific HTML/CSS solution that fits into the complex architecture of the system. 
  • User Experience — by working with a range of frameworks, the UI developer is able to select the right component, and recommend the right solution in terms of the UX. 
  • Interaction Design, SVG — smooth animations, attention to small but important details that have an immense impact on the experience of using the application. 
  • Connecting Design and Development — an experienced UI Developer is the link between design and development. On the one hand, they make sure that the graphic design is implemented in the application with the utmost care. On the other hand, they guarantee that the design comes up with implementable solutions, compatible with the library or framework that’s used in the project. 

The UI Developer’s support is often present already in the design phase. The UI Designer should always be able to rely on the UI Developer to check requirements and technical constraints. UI Developers can often deliver simple components or solutions on their own. 

Marta Karbowska Team Leader Senior UI Designer 

 

The Benefits of Having UI Developers in Your Projects 

The role of UI Developer was introduced at Objectivity over 10 years ago. Their responsibilities are constantly expanding. Below, you can find a list of the most important benefits of having this role in our organisation. 

Increased efficiency and working comfort 

Having an UI Developer on board, Software Developers have the freedom to focus on a narrower range of responsibilities. Just by taking over the issues related to Responsive Web Design and Accessibility, UI Developers take a lot of effort away from other devs and let them take care of other things. The two roles complement each other and collaborate well, providing the team with increased working comfort.    

Accelerated development 

An experienced UI Developer is able to identify a robust and proven component library that will make the entire project team deliver faster (fewer bugs lead to less testing and less problem solving). In complex projects, the correct CSS structure makes it easier for developers to find their way around the project. 

 

The advantages of having a UI developer in a team are undoubtedly the distribution of responsibilities and speeding up the development. Like on a production line, something passes from one hand to another, and everyone adds value to it. 

Weronika Sabiniewicz Community Lead, Team Leader Senior Software Developer 

 

Better application performance 

Optimally written CSS results in shorter page load times and faster rendering of views, which is especially important for mobile devices. More and more things previously done in JavaScript can be solved with the new CSS features. 

Attention to detail — excellent quality 

As I mentioned at the beginning, it’s the details that determine whether a user chooses our product or sticks with it when an alternative appears on the horizon. When one person’s responsibilities are too broad, it’s easy to fall short — especially in the visual layer. If you want to compete with the best, it’s better to entrust these details to a dedicated role. 

Sharing knowledge 

At Objectivity, we noticed that our UI Developers switch between projects more often than the other roles. This context switching requires them to be highly organised, while also providing a broader view of the work and setup of different project teams. UI Developer can be the person who transfers good practices across the organisation. 

User Experience 

Usually, this task falls to the UX Specialist, but in the later stages of development, their presence can be sometimes limited. Then the responsibility for the UX falls on the entire team, but the UI Developer can excel in this area. Moving mainly within the User Interface, they have an overview of the solutions and patterns from other projects and frameworks. 

Compliance with the standards 

If other members of the team are involved in the creation of the HTML/CSS code, it’s the UI developer’s task to ensure that it complies with standards and naming conventions, so that it is easy to maintain and develop in the future. 

 

„Any major project will encounter problems that can’t be addressed with templates. This is also true for Mendix projects, despite the fact that they have a higher level of saturation with off-the-shelf solutions. The mindset needed when working with the CSS is so different from that of a programmer that most programmers are unable to solve advanced CSS problems” 

Sergiusz Woźnicki Team Leader Senior Software Developer 

 

„In my experience, the UI developer is better suited to look at the product from the user’s point of view. This helps them make the application user-friendly, clear and enjoyable.” 

Marek Posyniak (Delivery Manager) 

 

The Future of the UI Developer Role 

The UI Developers at Objectivity created an UI Development Community. It’s a place to share knowledge, exchange views and project experience. For us, it’s even more valuable as our position is still not commonplace in the IT industry, although this is slowly changing. 

You can already see several upcoming tech issues that will be much easier to solve with the involvement of UI Devs:  

  • Dark mode support - a feature that allows for energy saving and, depending on the user’s environment, can reduce strain on the eyes. This may coon become a “mandatory” UI element, similarly to RWD.  
  • Design Systems - optimising the Design-Development process has is something that many organisations are currently looking into. Thanks to their unique skill sets, UI Developers are well suited to provide valuable input and find good solutions for design system implementation
  • CSS development - the language is still evolving, many new features are being developed. While this progress will relieve JavaScript of some of the solutions, it’ll make learning CSS even more demanding. 
  • WCAG changes - with the upcoming WCAG 2.3, and version 3.0 on its way, it’ll become nearly impossible for the traditional Software Developer to keep up with all the requirements related to Accessibility. 

Continuous technological advancement, especially in the IT industry, is bringing new professions into existence. UI Developer is an example of that. You should look into this role if you want your team to better distribute responsibilities and deliver solutions faster. The delivered solutions will also be more refined in the areas of User Interface, Accessibility, RWD and other user-centric requirements that the future may bring. 

2988 HC Digital Transformation 476X381
Michał Szymczak Team Leader Senior UI Developer

He has been with Objecitivity for more than 3 years and in the IT industry for about 20 years. Michał remembers the times when Flash was king, and layouts were done on tables. He’s passionate about exploring the intersection between design and development. Michał created the Fluid UI library, which presents an innovative approach to managing typography, space, colours, but also project structure, CSS variables and design tokens. Outside of work, he’s a happily married and a father of three children, music lover, novice gardener and a badminton player. 

See all Michał's posts

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