Coding vs programming: what’s the difference?

web designer drawing wireframe website development

It seems that the whole world has decided to start developing applications, web pages and web applications. Apple’s App Store and Google Play Store are home to millions of apps, and the number keeps growing. In addition to that, more than 250,000 new websites go online every day.

Each new page, application or web application can involve developers, designers, programmers and coders. Although many people quickly switch between terms to describe the same functions, they actually have distinct differences.

So what is the difference between coding and programming? Between the work of web developers and web designers? By very simple analogy, consider the construction of a new office building. Coders, programmers, developers and designers ensure that the “building” is well designed and functions as intended.

Understand key tasks in app and website development

Designers: The architects

The designers are the people who have the idea for the project. Just as an architect determines what a building will look like and its overall purpose, designers are responsible for the overall user interface and user experience of an application or web page, including its look and function.

But the designer’s responsibilities go far beyond the surface appearance and general functionality of an application. They are intimately involved in selecting features and clarifying how different parts of an application work together. Think of this as the interior layout of the building: how do people and services move between different areas?

Designers also work closely with other members of the development team to ensure that the final product meets specifications. Along with others, they make sure the app’s “point list” is completed.

Designers may or may not be responsible for the more practical aspects of building apps, including creating workflows and coding. Although designers usually do not code, they can create websites and web applications using low-code or no-code web development tools, even with little programming or coding knowledge or experience. .

Developers: System engineers

The word developer encompasses a wide range of responsibilities, not least because it is often not used alone. For example, there are system developers, software developers, application developers, web developers, frontend developers, backend developers, etc. Each profession has its own set of skills and specialties. And there is an equally wide range of definitions for these different developers.

Take into account definition of web developer from Techopedia, which ties web development to backend development: “A web developer is generally concerned with the back-end or programming aspect of building a website or web application and should not be confused with a web designer, who only deals with the aesthetics of a website or app, although many professionals have both skill sets.”

In contrast, Upwork, a well-known independent provider of design, development, and coding services, bind web developers for frontend and backend development. Some go even further and merge web design and development, making developers responsible for an end-to-end application.

Back-end developers work as building system engineers, but instead of designing electrical, plumbing, and HVAC systems, they create the internal structures that make the application work. In the same way, frontend developers take visual mockups and transform them into functional specifications. Developers also have post-build responsibilities, updating apps as needed.

Developers should have a broad skill base which includes knowledge of major web programming languages ​​(HTML, CSS, JavaScript, etc.), fundamentals of graphic design, programming and database management, and use of libraries and frameworks.

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Programmers: General contractors

Now we’re getting to the point where the lines between functions really start to blur (i.e., the common question, What’s the difference between coding and programming?) Programmers have many of the same functions as developers, and programmers are also often skilled coders with a broad knowledge of programming languages. Programming and coding are probably our most fluent terms. But programming is less about coding details and more about logical flows. As such, it sits at a higher level in the development process than coding.

From the 30,000 foot view, programmers build the decision trees and logic structures that coders then implement. They know the full spectrum of how logic translates into program structures, whether in object-oriented programming regimes or other programming schemes. Programmers are problem solvers who act as functional intermediaries between high-level design and detailed code.

Programmers need the same skills as developers and coders, although programmers don’t need to know how to code from a purely academic perspective. However, from a more practical point of view, the programmers are invariably skilled coders and are often the same in the development process.

Coders: skilled tradespeople

In our analogy, coders perform the function of skilled trades people. Like electricians, plumbers, and HVAC specialists who take blueprints and designs for systems and install all the services needed to run the building, coders turn specifications into a working product.

However, coders don’t just write code, hand it over, and walk away. Instead, they work diligently to optimize the code. For example, rather than building code from scratch, coders will figure out what existing libraries and modules they can use to minimize the time they have to spend on a given project.

Effective coders also know that an app’s size and speed can be critical factors in determining whether consumers will use it. To cite just one example, Internet users are obsessed with website loading speed: if a mobile site takes more than three seconds to load, more than half of visitors will abandon it. Application size can affect application speed, which is why coders work hard to optimize their code structure.

Coders are also the main quality control personnel in application development. They debug and test code as they write, making sure the app works as expected. Therefore, they should be familiar with black box (outer focus) and white box (inner focus) testing processes and tools such as SAST, DAST, and IAST.

Coders may also be responsible for implementing important compliance features (eg, data privacy and cybersecurity) in an application. They should familiarize themselves with privacy by design and security by design principles, which are increasingly important concepts for application development.

Use the right people for the right jobs

Just as general contractors can also be skilled electricians and architects can be systems engineers, web development duties overlap. So, when people wonder what is the difference between coding and programming, for example, the truth is that developers and programmers can also be designers or coders and vice versa. Although developers generally have skills that cover all functions, this does not mean that these terms should be used interchangeably.

Language accuracy is important, as is coding, programming, and development accuracy. The more precisely you define the functions, the better you will understand the overall application development process.

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