Full-Stack Designers Will Take Over the World

Should we fear that front-end developers will be kicked off the job market by full-stack designers in the near future?

Intro

If we are talking about making web products and features in a modern IT-company, it would probably require the workforce of product designers and front-end developers. Both of them are responsible for the final look and feel of the result.

But a few years ago the full-stack designers started to appear due to trend towards multidisciplinary IT professionals. If you have never heard about full-stack designers, you can find some detailed articles such as this one. Full-stack designer is a new type of specialists who solve both design and front-end problems. It is an established profession already, but it is not is quite common yet due to a very rich skillset: they not only can create design systems, create mockups and prototypes, perform some UX researches, but they also can write code using HTML, CSS and JavaScript. Sound promising, isn’t it?

Should we fear that front-end developers will be kicked off the job market in the near future? I want to reflect on that and try to answer this question.

Why do we need full-stack designers?

Designers and front-end developers have their own unique responsibilities and concerns. However, designers should accompany the development process from start to finish to be sure that nothing is missing from the original concept. Yes, we do have QA that can find some kind of inconsistency of design and throw it back to developers. But only designer can confirm that the result interface corresponds to the original mockup without any issues. So the best option is avoid this “juggling” of responsibilities.

Also, thinking of labor costs for product development, it sounds tempting to optimise the roles on a project. It is hard to imagine any company management refusing such an opportunity to cut development costs without sacrificing the quality of the result.

That's why the introduction of a new specialization at the intersection of design and frontend could simplify development flow. But how can this be achieved?

My vision

Even though designers and front-end developers are both “problem-solvers” and focus exclusively on the user experience, they have their own perspectives and approaches that require specific knowledge and skills. It means that it is unlikely that you can be a good designer and developer at the same time. To become a really great expert, you need to devote yourself only to one area. Therefore, to evolve into a full-stack designer, industry needs to blur the lines between design and frontend.

Designer’s craft is more creative and is really hard to be automated, so I believe that frontend part should be shrank. We need frontend to become more simple. There should be some sort of a high-level tool like Figma or Sketch with some user-friendly interface. This kind of tool should be able to create real front-end applications out of prototypes and mockups. I think none of us can imagine what it would look like, but there is already a bunch of smart tools like low-code platforms and chat bots that can solve some problems requiring intellectual impact. These tools are still not perfect and are limited in their functionality, but if these technologies will continue to improve, then it is only a matter of time when we will get some automated intelligent tool that will be able to produce software products without actual programming. It will make solving software problems no longer be so difficult, as it would not require in-depth engineering knowledge. The only key requirement is a good base of UX/UI design. That’s why “full-stack designer” is the correct name for this specialty.

However, pure front-end engineers won’t disappear. The way I see it, they would work with the platform: the core of the frontend project, so that the full-stack designers would be able to produce new features on top of it. Probably, there will be some user-friendly frameworks for building appications, and it will be the developers who will customize them. But they will have nothing to do with solving product problems.

Also, the “identity” designers will not disappear either. The look and appearance of the brand should be developed by highly-qualified design specialists who’s attention should not be diluted by other tasks.

As a result, companies save money on the number of employees, while achieving acceptable results in product development.

Conclusion

As for now, this kind of professionals can be most useful in small companies and startups, where in-depth expertise in design and development is not always required. Thus, this job can be handled by an average developer with a basic understanding and skills in design. But this aproach will probably not work in large companies with big and complex products.

However, I believe, that full-stack designers is the only type of experts that should work on visuals of any web product. The key idea is to make only one specialist responsible for the result of the appearance of the product. I don't think that front-end developers will ever be replaced by full-stack designers, as there will always be technical infrastructure tasks that only true front-end engineers can solve.

Anyway, we are still too far from this kind of the perfect world. So I'm looking forward to seeing if this change in the industry ever happens. Until then, it is important to have a mix of both designers and front-end developers in a web development team to ensure that all aspects of a project are of high quality.

Subscribe to my RSS feed if you don't want to miss new posts.