The future of web design vs. web development is being redefined.
Ten years from now, experts in design and coding will still be in high demand. But their actual day-to-day tasks will look different as the no-code movement — a trend of enabling noncoders to build websites and software visually — changes the job landscape.
Designers, marketers, and other professionals will be able to build simpler apps, websites, and other digital tools without writing a line of code. Developers will then have more time for complex projects.
But the long-term effects of this disruption may be even more significant. We’re likely to see an emergence of new roles — hybrids of what were once two separate jobs — as the tools we use to accomplish web building become more efficient.
Web design vs. web development: What’s the difference?
Web design is the visual look of a website and the functionality from a user’s perspective. Web designers often work within design software like Figma or Adobe XD to create visually appealing user experiences. They then hand those designs off to developers. Web application and website design involves ux designers and visual designers using their skill sets to make wireframes, mockups, design systems, color palettes, templates, and more to help developers build the product.
What is the no-code movement?
The no-code movement is a growing trend towards the use of tools that enable teams with little to no programming ability to carry out tasks that require coding. No-code tools are typically visual builders. Users assemble digital assets without seeing any code, but these tools generate code in the background.
No-code benefits users who can't write code but want to build things online. And no-code tools reduce the gap between the demand for apps or websites and the limited availability of engineering resources.
Webflow, for example, enables designers to build websites visually, without programming skills. Webflow produces a professional site in clean, semantic code, but the designer is able to build the site in a visual system.
The no-code movement isn’t exclusive to web design. It fuels innovation in an array of industries. Users with no coding skills can use Zapier to connect multiple apps, Airtable to create databases, Ada to create AI chatbots, Voximplant to deploy cloud contact centers, and much more. The scope of what users can build using drag-and-drop, no-code tools grows rapidly.
No-code tools aren’t a replacement for human expertise
No-code doesn’t mean you don’t need coders. Tools like Webflow or Airtable are meant to empower professionals to focus on the more specialized, complex things they are uniquely qualified to handle. Data engineers and coders, for instance, don’t want to spend days writing API integrations — they want to work on more interesting and rewarding projects. And with employees working on projects they’re uniquely qualified for, “companies are more agile and can unlock new levels of productivity that ultimately give them an edge over their competitors,” says Philipp Seifert, a vice president at the venture capital firm Sapphire Ventures.
With no-code, designers who were once only in charge of coming up with the image of a user interface can now take charge of the front-end development themselves.
Benefits of no-code tools
No-code solutions offer a range of other benefits to companies as well, including:
Faster launches: Marketing, design, and other teams can build various assets independently and launch their initiatives fast. Engineers no longer have to be pulled to create each and every form, app, or dynamic page. Alexey Aylarov, Voximplant’s co-founder and CEO, says he has "seen cases where designers work with front-end developers in different apps that have no-code components, and, at the end of the day, it speeds up the whole process of delivering the end result to production.”
Better tools: No-code empowers functional teams — marketing, sales, HR, operations — to build and maintain their own tools. And these teams “understand their own problems the deepest,” says Justin Gage, head of growth at Retool. “Enabling them to build their own apps means better tools, faster turnaround times, and, ultimately, a more efficient company.”
Cost reduction: Companies save precious funds each time a project can be completed without the involvement of expensive engineering resources and scarce technical talent.
Easier testing: Teams have more freedom to test their ideas now that they can build and modify their tools, websites, and other assets. And once new insights are discovered, teams can act quickly and gain a competitive edge and try out the latest design trends.
Ownership over the asset: “Companies that use no-code tools will own assets they build instead of relying on technical partners and agencies,” says Webflow’s co-founder and CTO Bryant Chou. And owning assets allows companies to experiment and come up with bespoke designs that stand out.
Web designer vs. web developer: Webflow bridges the gap between the two
Webflow bridges the gap between designing and programming by helping designers naturally learn about coding concepts, making the handoff to developers optional and providing front-end developers with high-quality code. Creative teams then get to enjoy better workflows and communication, ultimately creating better products.
Designers learn coding concepts
Webflow enables designers to create visually, their preferred method. And some designers, like David Hoang, director of design at Webflow, have actually learned code by working with no-code tools. From logic to events to conditions, Hoang learned new programming concepts. He says, “Through osmosis, you’re learning programming and code. All too often we teach with the step-by-step in mind, like gears in a cog, but what’s important is the reason why people want to create and build.”
No need for handoff at all
Web designers had to hand off design specs and visual elements to developers who then turn those elements into code. But as Webflow turns designs into code, the designer can be the developer. There need not be handoff at all. Or developers can quickly check the output of the code. Such arrangements enable designers to get more done because they no longer have to wait on developers. And developers get their time back knowing that designers can handle some of the simpler issues.
Turning designs into high-quality code
Webflow benefits developers in different ways. For one, it generates high-quality code. Edward Fastovski, a freelance developer, says, “The biggest problem with site builders is the code they generate is usually garbage. As I’ve recently discovered, this isn’t the case with Webflow.” Having high-quality code allows front-end developers to further customize the layout. They can become “power users of Webflow. We can take its capabilities to the absolute limit,” Fastovski says.
Also, Webflow provides front-end developers with intuitive UI, modern layout tools like flexbox, reusable styles and classes, a powerful CMS, and more. They can also build custom interactions and animations.
Web designer vs. web developer: What lies in the future
As we improve and refine the tools we use to accomplish work, the actual work we do changes, too. So web designers and web developers will surely be doing very different jobs 10 years from now. Even the skills required of a web designer have evolved rapidly over the last decade: from being mostly focused on visual elements (typography, color schemes, graphic design, etc) to more of functional and holistic focus (usability, information architecture, research, etc) that ties a larger experience together. And it stands to reason that these job titles may one day become a hybridized version of both, with overlapping skills.
In fact, some designer/developers are already enjoying a career doing both. Sacha Greif, creator of Sidebar.io, shares insights from his own experience as both a developer and designer in Episode 40 of the podcast UI Breakfast. Anastasia Kas, another successful designer/developer, also noted that, “hybrid jobs are on the rise” in her article Being a designer-developer hybrid in 2019.
There are various tasks that can overlap or be done by either a designer or a developer using no-code tools like Webflow:
- Scoping out a project
- Fixing routine bugs quickly
- Updating static content
- Linking low-level dynamic content together
And what if, eventually, the jobs of designers and developers converge, and we end up with a hybrid role of “builders”? Other disciplines could then be brought to the forefront of projects. For instance, a telepsychiatry app could have a psychiatrist in charge of the build, with builders supporting the plan. Or an economist could lead the development of a lending product with the help of builders.
As no-code technology evolves, so will many professions. Nontechnical users will be able to self-service tasks that previously required specialists. Creating digital experiences will only continue to get easier, which is why curiosity and adaptability will continue to be a distinguishing skill among professionals in all fields. And in such an environment, designers will have to evolve as well.
Keep up with the no-code movement
No-code empowers various nontechnical professionals to create websites, apps, databases, and more without writing a line of code. This trend benefits web designers as well. They get to create sophisticated websites on their own and no longer have to depend on developers for building each and every asset. And while designers may not be writing the code, they code visually. The two roles are converging. Ultimately, everyone benefits as things get shipped faster and the gap between web designers and web developers gets ever smaller.