Software Designer Vs. Software Architect

Software designers develop the look and feel of software applications while software architects determine underlying structures and constraints. Readers will learn there are many more differences between these two professionals, including their salaries.

Comparing Software Designers to Software Architects

Software designers and software architects work with software engineers, programmers, and other information technology professionals to develop software applications. The architect weighs business and stakeholder needs to develop overall concepts and structures for software which the designer brings to life using programming and development skills.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2018)* Job Growth (2016-2026)**
Software Designers Bachelor's Degree $78,134 24% (software developers)
Software Architects Bachelor's Degree $119,894 9% (computer occupations, all other)

Sources: *Payscale, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Software Designers vs. Software Architects

The software architect is a higher-level position compared to the software designer. The architect plays a big role in early software development, connecting business and stakeholder needs to method selection, framework development and overall software conceptualization. The designer focuses on detailed implementation and must translate the architect's global constraints and structural requirements into design plans and oversee actual development. This involves working with code, troubleshooting, and changing design plans as needed. The architect's decisions involve system structures and are therefore unlikely to change once set.

Both aim to create applications that users can easily interact with, and both work on teams that aim to achieve budget constraints, meet timetables, and readily adapt to change.

Software Designers

Software designers lead the development of the user experience, visual elements, and detailed components of a software application. They begin by researching user needs and similar software. This allows designers to build a product plan with the user's experience in mind, including how they will interact with buttons, menus, and multimedia. Software designers determine the overall look of the program, including the layout of text, graphics and typography. They manage the design of the software components (such as size and scalability) within the architectural constraints and consider the different types of devices the software will be used on.

Job responsibilities of a software designer include:

  • Drafting design blueprints and documents for programmers
  • Debugging and maintaining existing software
  • Building security into design plans to safeguard information
  • Creating prototypes or models of the software

Software Architects

Software architects create a global blueprint that defines the general software, including how its structural elements will work together. They study a company's business goals and work practices to tailor architecture plans to fit operations. Software architects may reverse-engineer current architecture to learn more about the company processes. A key aspect of their job is ensuring that new software will be compatible with current and future business needs.

These architects are also charged with ensuring the new software fits the established architecture systems within the company. Another challenge is offering users a chance to personalize their experience simply by giving them options.

Job responsibilities of a software architect include:

  • Suggesting updates and upgrades that will sync with the new software
  • Deploying the software in stages according to organizational needs
  • Communicating with management and shareholders
  • Setting quantifiable goals to measure architecture fitness

Related Careers

If a career as a software designer excites you, you might enjoy working as a computer programmer, since both develop code. If, however, a position as a software architect interests you more, a future as an IT manager may be for you, as both consider a company's wider goals while implementing technology.

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