20 Essential Software Skills for Designers & Developers to Learn in 2022

Today’s interconnected world requires advanced software, created by skilled designers and developers. Think about it for a moment. With artificial intelligence and machine learning on the rise, virtual experiences becoming the new norm, and dynamic user-centered technology being developed; the demand for designers and developers is high! And it will continue to increase.

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But that should come as no surprise since every day our world is becoming digital in more and more ways. Stop to consider that fact. Just a few years ago, video conference calls, TikTok, and augment reality filters weren’t the popular sensations they are today. Things are changing rapidly and tech is entering a very interesting space – one that will undoubtedly require the assistance of the design and development community.

Are you a designer or developer working to forge the future of software for our society? Do you want to enhance your problem-solving skills to become an invaluable asset to the industry?

In this article, we’ll review the top 20 essential skills for those who thrive in the world of design and development. And, we’ll share a few suggestions for online courses that can help you take your talents to the next level. Keep reading!

In the article:

  1. What is a software designer?
  2. What does a software developer actually do?
  3. 20 Must-Have Software Skills for Designers and Developers
  4. 8 Essential Software Skills for Designers
  5. 12 Essential Software Skills for Developers
  6. Online Courses for Software Designers & Developers
  7. Conclusion
  8. Related Articles

What is a Software Designer?

A software designer uses design research and planning techniques to create foundations for software solutions. Their responsibilities include designing a software’s overall structure and enhancing its visual design. Software designers are also tasked with facilitating user testing; a practice that helps designers hone in on their product’s end-users.

What does a Software Developer actually do?

Software developers, sometimes referred to as computer programmers, software engineers or coders; are specialists who code software. In a nutshell, these are the people who take software and computer programs from concept to market. They are responsible for knowing programming languages, debugging software, and every other aspect of the software development life cycle.

20 Must-Have Software Skills for Designers & Developers

It should be no surprise that to make it in this industry, you have to be skilled. But, which skills should you have if you’re a designer? What about if you’re a programmer?

The truth is those skill requirements will vary across the design and development industries. Some positions will require that you are knowledgeable about data structures and integration testing, others may require you to know what object-oriented programming is.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to becoming a skilled designer or developer. Every job will demand something slightly different. But, there are some skills you can acquire to make yourself attractive as an applicant – no matter where you want to work.

Let’s explore the top 20 software skills for developers and designers!

8 Essential Software Skills for Designers

In this section, we’ll explore a few software skills that designers should consider adding to their toolkit. From UX to Photoshop, it’s important that designers keep their skills up to date. So, let’s dive in.

  • User Interface & User Experience Design (UI/UX)
  • Figma
  • Sketch
  • Webflow
  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Adobe Illustrator
  • Bootstrap

UI/UX Design

When it comes to good design, the user needs to be a focal point but you already know that!

UI/UX design is one of many core skills a designer needs to have in this rapidly changing world.

Not sure where to start on your user interface design or user experience design journey? We suggest surveying a certification course or attending a UI/UX workshop. The technical skills you can acquire will undoubtedly add value to your career.


When it comes to web-based interface design tools, Figma is a go-to. So, it’s important that designers take time to familiarize themselves with it.

Why? Well, it’s a free-to-use vector graphics editor that is becoming a design industry staple. So, if you want to make your resume stand out from the pile of applicants, consider getting to know Figma a little better than you currently do.


As a designer, you’ll likely collaborate with software developers at some point in your career. Designing user experiences that you need help developing? You should get to know Sketch – software created with collaboration in mind.

Let us explain. If you work in digital design in any capacity, Sketch can come in handy because it allows you to prototype and handoff designs to developers seamlessly.


Looking to learn more about online visual editors? We suggest becoming familiar with Webflow.

It is a platform that allows designers to create, build, and launch websites – making it an essential tool for designers working across sectors.

Adobe Photoshop

Who hasn’t heard of Photoshop? Likely, you have. But, do you know why it is important to master this software program? Simply put, the Adobe Creative Suite is pretty standard, so many employers will expect you to have some experience working with Photoshop.

That being said, you don’t have to pressure yourself into becoming a Photoshop master! However, you can take time to get familiar with the tools that it offers and explore different ways to integrate Photoshop into your design process.

Adobe Illustrator

If you’re a designer or anyone working with vector graphics, you may already use Adobe Illustrator. And, that’s fantastic! Experience working in Illustrator is one of the design industry’s most common skills! So, if you’re a wizard at Illustrator; you may be a highly sought-after candidate.

Not super familiar with all that Adobe Illustrator has to offer? That’s okay. There are plenty of online tutorials and courses you can review to sharpen your skills.


You may be thinking, does a designer really need to know a coding language? The answer is a bit complicated.

For some design jobs, knowing hypertext markup language or programming languages (like CSS or JavaScript) is not required. For many others, designers who can code are highly-favored.

While the choice to learn one or more coding languages is up to the individual designer; there surely are some benefits to acquiring this skill.


Have you heard of Bootstrap? Surely you have! It is an open-source software created to help designers and developers build responsible, mobile-first websites.

Within the platform, Bootstrap houses JavaScript and CSS-based templates for typography, navigation, buttons, and other user interface design components.

There are two ways of constructing a software design. One way is to make it so simple that there are obviously no deficiencies. And the other way is to make it so complicated that there are no obvious deficiencies. — C.A.R. Hoare

12 Essential Software Skills for Developers

In this section, you’ll find 12 essential software skills for front and backend developers. From object-oriented programming languages to software testing, it’s important for developers to keep their skills sharp. So, let’s explore a few.

  • React
  • TypeScript
  • Express
  • Vue
  • Ruby
  • PHP
  • Python
  • GraphQL
  • MySQL
  • GitHub
  • AWS
  • Heroku


If you’re a developer who works with UI designers, you’ll want to know what React is all about. Essentially, React is a free JavaScript-based library that was created to assist developers in building dynamic user-friendly interfaces.

And, it is cropping up on more and more job listings each day. So, as far as open-source front-end development tools go, React is a skill worth mastering.


Are you familiar with TypeScript? If you’re a JavaScript developer, chances are you might know all about this programming language. If not, let us explain.

TypeScript is a syntactical programming language that builds on JavaScript, with the goal of streamlining the software development process. It was developed and is maintained by the tech giant, Microsoft, and used by software developers across the world.

So, if you want to speak the language of the programming pros – learn a little about TypeScript.


What’s Express? We’re happy you asked. Express is a Node.js web application framework built with developers in mind.

While it can be used for a variety of development projects; it is primarily used to provide server-side logic for mobile and web applications.


Want to expand your knowledge around simple UI solutions? Get to know Vue. It is a user interface development tool that is known for its simple drag and drop builder – making it one of many must-know dev tools!


Have you heard of Ruby? What about Ruby on Rails? Do you know the difference between the two?

Let’s discuss it briefly. Ruby, is an object-oriented programming language. It is open-source and commonly thought of as a general-purpose programming language.

Ruby on Rails (or simply Rails as it is sometimes referred to) is a web development framework. Much like Ruby, it is also open-source. While Ruby on Rails uses scripts written by developers, as many web application frameworks do; it is NOT a programming language like Ruby.

Does that make sense? Hopefully, our brief explanation inspires you to learn more about Ruby or Ruby on Rails. Adding either to your repertoire of skills is sure to open up new job opportunities for you.

PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor

Are you familiar with PHP? It is a popular programming language that was created by Danish-Canadian programmer Ramus Lerdorf in the early 1990s.

Currently produced by The PHP group, this open-source scripting language is known throughout the development industry for its flexibility and pragmaticism.

Source: StockVault


Surely you’ve heard of Python. This high-level programming language has been around for over 30 years – designed by Guido van Rossom and released in 1991.

Over the years, it has gained extreme popularity, with many software development jobs requesting Python Developers (aka folks who know the ins and outs of the Python programming language).

But, we’re not pressuring you to become a Python master. Instead, we’re encouraging you to learn a bit about this object-oriented development tool – it couldn’t hurt!


When is the last time you brushed up on query languages? How well do you know GraphQL?

Originally developed by social media giant Facebook (for internal use in 2012 and later released in 2015), GraphQL is now an open-source data query language for APIs.

So, what’s the end goal of GraphQL? In a nutshell, it was created to make APIs fast and developer-friendly; as it is capable of pulling data from multiple sources and compiling them into a single API call.


What is MySQL and why should you bother learning more about it?

We’re glad you asked. MySQL is a database management system based on structured query language (SQL).

It is written in C, C++ and can be used on Linux, Solaris, macOS, and Windows operating systems; making it a flexible tool for developers and their multitude of projects.

From online inventory storage to recording smaller volumes of information, MySQL is a very handy dev tool.


GitHub touts itself as the place “where the world builds software” and it just might be. After all, it is an open-source hosting platform that is used by over 70 million developers worldwide!

Designed with collaboration in mind, GitHub offers developers a community through its code hosting platform – which enables developers to collaborate on projects with others from across the world.

And it gets even better! Github grants its users access to GitHub pages – a place to build online portfolios.


AWS or Amazon Web Services is a subsidiary of Amazon; the world’s most well-known conglomerate.

If it could be summarized in a single sentence; AWS is Amazon’s IT service management company that provides on-demand cloud computing to individuals, companies, and even world governments.

It is wildly popular, just like its parent company, so if you are a developer or development-enthusiast it is definitely worth getting familiar with AWS.


Have you heard of Heroku? It is a cloud platform as a service (PaaS) company whose service supports several programming languages and enables developers to operate mobile and web applications in the cloud.

A subsidiary of Salesforce, Heroku aims to be the go-to solution for building and maintaining applications in a cloud-based container.

But, why should you bother with it? Well, as a competitor to AWS, its key selling point is its ability to meet low computational demands – making it suitable for start-ups, medium-sized companies, and freelance software developers.

Object-oriented programming languages support encapsulation, thereby improving the ability of software to be reused, refined, tested, maintained, and extended. The full benefit of this support can only be realized if encapsulation is maximized during the design process. – Rebecca Wires-Brock

Online Courses for Designers & Developers

Now that you know the top 20 essential software skills for designers and developers, what are you going to do with that knowledge?

Are you going to sharpen your design or development skills by taking an online course or seeking mentorship? Either option is great! If you’re choosing to go back to the classroom, we have a few suggestions for places to learn more about software development and hone your technical skills in design:

University of Alberta’s Software Design and Architecture Course (Coursera)

Duke University’s Java Programming: Principles of Software Design (Coursera)

UPenn’s Software Development Fundamentals (edX)


With technology advancing at a rate almost faster than the speed of light; it seems that Designers and Developers will be in high demand for many years to come. So, whether you’re one of the seasoned software developers, a professional designer, or someone new to the design and development scene; it’s clear that you’ll benefit from sharpening your technical skills from time to time!

The ideal engineer is a composite … he is not a scientist, he is not a mathematician, he is not a sociologist, or a writer; but he may use the knowledge and techniques of any or all of these disciplines in solving engineering problems. – N.W. Dougherty