Design 101 for Developers

Mariel Lettier

Sometimes, devs may believe design is less important than functionality. But these fields go hand in hand! Even if you do not intend to explore design, knowing its basics is vital as a dev! It allows for optimizing relations with designers while enhancing a better knowledge of final users!

This article will review basic design concepts applied to development. We’ll cover the significance of design for developers, and we'll move on to its fundamental principles and patterns. Let's overcome the hypothetical dispute and discuss its worth!

Application Design and Development

As a developer, we’re confident you know the difference between these two areas. Yet, it seems to be a running question, so we thought it was an excellent place to start. Let's unfold the differences between design and development. In broad terms, design involves creating an app or site's look and feel. Moreover, it addresses solutions for users' or clients' needs. Often, this work goes through software like Fireworks or Photoshop. Application development entails programming, testing, and implementing the application design. Development also adds functions to an app or site and creates interactive features.  To do so, it applies programming languages and tools.

Why Should Developers know about Design?

Design and development are separate disciplines, but many professionals have mastered both. As we’ve mentioned, having some knowledge of this field as a developer will be helpful. Here are the top reasons why you should learn design as a developer:


Coding is a creative activity in itself. You have to think creatively to solve the problems you come across as a developer. But designing also involves creativity and problem-solving skills. You can also pour this creative energy into coding if you handle its basics.


Some developers can't afford a designer, while others want to be in charge of every inch of a project. There are also small development teams that may not have a dedicated designer. In every case, having design knowledge comes handy, at least until being able to get help.


Another huge reason is to improve work relations with the team's designers. When knowing design basics, devs are less likely to make changes able to make or break a UX/UI design. This collaboration leads to fewer corrections, saving time and fostering teamwork.

User Experience

Knowing design basics also helps developers to understand potential users. As a result, it's vital to develop successful products to solve real users' needs.

Career Prospects

Whether you work for a company or freelancer, adding skills to your resume is a great asset. As a result, you can keep your career moving forward. Learning design adds a selling point and can open doors to new and exciting roles or projects.

Design 101 for Developers

What are the Basic Principles of Product Design?

Now that we’ve covered the reasons to learn design, we’ll start our journey into Design 101 for Developers. First, we'll review some basic design principles that you should follow.


Here, the most important thing to consider is usability. It does not matter how stunning the visuals may be. The product will likely fail if it's challenging to use or understand. In this scenario, consistency comes in! Design must be consistent enough for users to understand it intuitively. For instance, this step includes fonts, colors, and sizes. Further, there is alignment, spacing, effects, styles, and elements. A typical example is the blue underlined text for clickable links. 


Hierarchy helps users focus on essential information. You can use order to draw users to where you want them to go and draw their interest. In general, type, size, and style are enough to establish it, but you can also use, for instance, color.

White Space

White space makes the reading experience more enjoyable for users. When we say “white space,” we mean any space without images or writing. This facet encompasses margins, line spacing, and the length above or below paragraphs. Besides improving readability, it's also helpful for drawing users to specific areas.


Proper alignment of text and different elements is quite essential. While body text is often left-aligned, headings and subheadings are usually centered. Yet, you should avoid center alignment for big chunks of text, making reading a bit trickier. Using columns can simplify matters about the elements on your website or app. Designers often use grid systems to structure a page or app transparently. As a result, the design process gets simpler. Also, it means that users can navigate through content with ease.

Color Theory

Understanding color theory is essential in the context of visual design. But it’s also one of its most complex aspects. Different shades of color can change visual impact and emotional effects. Here are a couple of color tips to help you get started:

Warm, Cool, and Neutral Colors

Warm colors like red, orange, and yellow are vibrant and energizing. Cool colors—like green, blue, and purple—are calm and relaxing. Finally, neutral colors—white, black, gray, and beige—can alter the meaning of warm and cool colors.

Work with HSL Color Values

Many designers may be prone to work with hex values on colors. Yet, HSL colors make more sense in the correlation between similar shades of one color. As a result, it's easier for developers to manipulate colors via code.


There are a few things to consider in the context of typography. For instance, fonts, sizing text and headers, line height, and shadows. Let’s look at some pointers below:

● You should have at least three typography levels of hierarchy. These apply to the title, subtitles, and body font.
● Use different fonts to create a visual hierarchy. If you are afraid of combining different fonts, you can always look within the same font family.
● The font you choose should be easily read in design and size. This edge is particularly relevant when it comes to the body copy.
● You can use the em function to define text sizes for responsive web design.
● Keep line height and letter spacing in mind.
● Be careful when using types on a colored or busy background. Try changing colors or adding shadowing if it poses a problem.


Linguistic clarity is vital for good content. Because of it, you should go for a language familiar to most readers. Yet, you also need to consider that attention spans tend to be short. So, it's best to avoid long texts. Let's see some tips:

● Remove unnecessary words or phrases.
● User stories can be a great way to think about your content.
● Keep SEO and ASO best practices in mind when writing copy.
● Get the point across in as few words as possible. Don’t be afraid to cut your text!
● Simplify your language and your structures to make your content more approachable.
● Make sure all content is proofread to avoid spelling and grammar errors. 
● Take advantage of bold and italics to draw the user to specific sections.

Design 101 for Developers

What are Design Patterns for Developers?

Design Patterns are standard reusable architecture or design solutions for recurring problems. Instead of being in code format, these describe how to tackle specific issues. Also, patterns can speed up the development process. There are three main categories of design patterns that developers should know. These are creational, structural, and behavioral.

Creational Design Patterns

Creational design patterns are those designed for class instantiation. These get divided into class-creation and object-creation patterns. For example, some creational design patterns are singleton, builder, and abstract factory.

Structural Design Patterns

These patterns relate to class and object composition. Also, they help improve code's readability and maintainability. For instance, structural design patterns include bridge, facade, decorator, flyweight, and adapter.

Behavioral Design Patterns

In design patterns, behavioral refers to how class objects communicate. Some types of behavioral design patterns include iterator, observer, and visitor.

Design Tools and Resources for Developers

This article wouldn’t be complete without reviewing design tools and resources. Take a look at the most popular ones below.


The cloud-based platform focuses on UI design. It combines design with real-time collaborative editing and prototyping. Also, it runs on any platform with a web browser. Some of Figma’s features include a modern pen tool, a wide array of plugins, and easy export. Uber, Microsoft, Slack, and Braintree are some companies that use Figma.


Sketch is a collaborative UI and UX design tool for mobile apps and the web, mainly for macOS. It is simple, easy to use, and compatible with ProtoPie (for prototyping) and Maze (for user testing). Also, it's great for prototyping and wireframing and has powerful export options. Companies using Sketch include Google, Apple, Stripe, and Nintendo.


This prototyping and workflow tool has a basis on the web. InVision helps to create interactive mockups which can share with your clients. It offers intelligent widgets, Kanban boards, and Loom and Zoom integrations. Some companies using InVision include Netflix, Slack, Amazon, and HBO. is a prototyping solution for mobile UX. To name a few, it has over 250 UI components, hundreds of templates, and thousands of digital assets. For instance, it has easy-to-use and drag-and-drop building blocks. gets usage by ventures like Nordstrom, Paypal, Amazon, and Amplify. 


Another excellent design tool when it comes to collaboration IS Marvel. It offers rapid prototyping, testing, and handoff. Also, it has over 2 million users worldwide. Moreover, Marvel offers user testing features, support for every screen, and different integrations. Among businesses, Marvel users include Deliveroo, Cookpad, Cabify, and Buzzfeed.  


Instead of thinking about Design vs. Development, handling both areas is beneficial. This match applies to both designers and developers. With basic design knowledge, devs can foster better teamwork and smooth processes. Moreover, it can be vital to creating superior results. We hope our article gave you an overview of Design 101 for developers. Also, we trust it gets you driven to learn more about this field!