Tech Education for the Gray Area Between Development and Design

December 1, 2016 - 2 minutes read

When an iPhone app development studio quotes a potential client on what it’ll cost to develop their dream app, the reaction is often surprise. What they may not realize is that costs (not to mention time) requirements for app development have actually been dropping steadily for years. What took hundreds of thousands of dollars to accomplish five years ago is possible for San Francisco app developers at a fraction of that currently, and thanks to developer best practices the end result is often a far better app.

What’s driving that drop in price? Part of the answer lies in the most expensive part of the app development process: engineering custom code.

Specifically, tech educators are noticing the rise of the “creative technologist,” tech workers with skills in both graphic design and coding. This is only possible because the tools and frameworks used to develop lean prototypes and MVPs have improved to the point that a “good enough” knowledge of front-end languages really is “good enough,” allowing for startup founders and designers to encounter much less friction as they make their app ideas real.

That said, app engineers and back-end coders aren’t going anywhere — if anything, their skillsets are only becoming more important. What’s important here is how reducing the barrier between designers and front-end developers gets rid of the need for hyper-specialized employees early in a startup’s lifespan. The use of tools like Sketch and InVision don’t just make life easier for teams. They reduce the “communication tax” so effectively that, sometimes, a team isn’t necessary.

App developers have been working with educators to make sure this difference between the back-end and front-end coding environment isn’t lost in the classroom. While it’s important for students in most disciplines to cover the basics of front-end code, learning back-end code is less and less necessary for future app developers who are more interested in design and user experience.

This is good news all around, and hints at a bright future for small, scrappy startups in an app market where iterative releases and lean teams are the norm.

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