Is there really a difference between programmers and developers? Most of us tend to use the terms interchangeably. Even developers and programmers may not pay too much attention to what word describes their abilities the best.
For the purpose of this article, we will consider the basic definition from Wikipedia and build upon it. A programmer, according to the definition, is someone who write computer software, someone who codes. On the other hand, a developer is someone who is well versed with every facet of the software development process. Now, let’s take a closer look at the two terms.
What’s a Software Programmer?
A programmer is someone who is expert at writing a powerful code. He or she has the ability to understand the requirements that the software needs to fulfil and write code to create solutions that can perform defined tasks. Documentation skills, ability to understand and create algorithms, and proficiency in more than one programming language are the hallmarks of a great programmer.
In the context of offshore development, the term ‘programmer’ is further narrowed down – it refers to the people who will write the code. You will be expected to document and convey the business logic to the coders, and they will write the code for it. The ideas of UI logic, design, extensibility, reusability, etc. won’t be a part of the programmer’s brief. All he’s going to do is write good code.
What’s a Software Developer?
A software developer knows how to write code, but he may not have the in-depth coding skills or understanding of algorithms. But, a developer has other important abilities – he or she may know just enough about a variety of systems and languages, and usually has the ability to communicate ideas well. Most developers tend to rise through the ranks and become project managers or product managers. Most ISVs and software startups are run by developers (who may also be great programmers at the same time).
The terms ‘developers’ and ‘programmers’ are used haphazardly by most offshore companies. Whether you click on ‘Hire a Web Developer’ or ‘Hire an iOS Programmer,’ there is a good chance that you will get coders in both cases.
Back to Square One: Overlapping Abilities
The two terms are used interchangeably – any distinction between the two is almost purely academic when you are hiring from offshore software development companies. But, it serves an important purpose: you now know the two different kinds of skillsets that ‘developers’ or ‘programmers’ may have. Instead of labeling individuals as developers or programmers, it would be a lot more fruitful to test their programming and developing ability.
There is a lot of overlapping: the best developers are also good programmers, even if they don’t spend long hours writing code. Similarly, the best programmers have soft skills, domain expertise, familiarity with different industries, understanding of different system and general management skills – points that make them ideal as developers.
Making a Profitable Hiring Decision
A decade ago, most offshore companies were in the business of leasing coders – pure, efficient programmers. When you have an ongoing project with clearly defined needs and simply need someone to write code according to your instructions, hiring a good coder from offshore location could save you a lot of money.
Today, the situation has changed. Mature IT enterprises at offshore locations like India now have enough firepower and knowhow to develop products from scratch and build software solutions from ground up. So, not only can you save a bit of money by hiring a mobile or web programmer, but you can save a lot by hiring someone who also has the developer skillset. What’s the difference today? You can hire people who don’t just write code, but also:
For example, a good web developer would be more than just a coding expert. In addition to understanding the web framework, he would help with reviewing the design, he would know enough about digital marketing to take care of your SEO and SMO needs, etc.
So, do I need a ‘programmer’ or a ‘developer?’
To make the right hiring decision, you need to think in terms of ‘developing’ and ‘programming.’ The skills associated with both the terms overlap – many programmers may possess great developing skills, and some developers may also be great coders.
Hire a Software Programmer if:
Hire a Software Developer if:
For instance, if you are an enterprise IT manager, trying to use IT to solve business problems, choosing a developer who has faced similar issues may be a good idea. In such a case, it is customary to hire a developer who can coordinate with the programmers to get your work done. As offshore software engineering companies continue to mature, this kind of structure is gaining traction.
On the other hand, if you are an ISV and just need someone to take care of the code, it may be best to hire software programmers. Even in that case, it is best to hire experience programmers who have the ancillary skills required for your project. For instance, a .NET programmer may add more value if he can also help with QA and testing.
Cygnet Infotech has more than 400 programmers and developers. During the last 14 years, we have tackled more than 500 complex projects for Fortune 500 enterprises as well as budding, aggressively-growing ISVs.
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