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  • 19 December 2019
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So you might have clicked on this article because you are curious. You are curious to know why someone would differentiate a programmer from a coder. You might be thinking “well aren’t they the same thing?” A lot of people do think they are. However in my eyes I see a big difference between a programmer and a coder. Let me explain.

Firstly let me define what a coder is to me. To me a coder is a specialist at, yeah you guessed it, coding. They generally have their own choice of language they know really well. They know it so well that they can almost tell you exactly the ins and outs of how that language works. They know all the available libraries that exist, and how to incorporate them all quickly to build something useful. They are usually seen as high performers to upper management, because they simply “get stuff done”. You can throw programming tasks at them, and they will churn out the code needed to build whatever feature you have in no time.

Sounds great yeah? Well sure. Coders can serve a purpose in your projects, however there is more to software, than just churning out code and putting it on a server to run (or client depending on what you are doing).

In my eyes a coder generally does not see the bigger picture, nor do they care to. They do not care about solving business problems with proper UX. They do not care about system architecture. They don’t concern themselves with what server their code is running on. They are not fussed about availability, scalability, durability, resiliency, delivery, management and so on. In regards to performance they only concern themselves with checking their own code. Basically all they care about is writing code, making sure there are some unit tests around that code, and being able to say they have good test coverage. They will then make a pull request for their code to be merged. End of story.

Now even though it sounds like it, I’m not having a go at coders. Having a handful of people who just code can be good for business. But a coder is not a programmer and programmers also have a special purpose.

So what do I consider a programmer? Well first and foremost a programmer to me solves problems. They generally analyse all options to a technical problem, looking for the most appropriate solution to that problem. This process starts long before they even touch a keyboard to write even one line of code. Each solution they come up with to a problem is assessed by not only themselves, but potentially a handful of other programmers as well.

Programmers do concern themselves with how their solution will work in regards to UX. They will consider how the system architecture will work for their solution. They will also think about how it will be delivered, maintained, and supported going forward. They think clearly about how many servers (or docker containers) they will need, how they are orchestrated, how deploying to these cluster of servers will be performed etc. They do concern themselves with availability, scalability, durability, resiliency etc. They generally are more versed in good design patterns, both code based and architectural ones. Designing the architecture and delivery pipeline needed to get their solution all the way to production is of upmost importance to them. Only when all these things are addressed do they sit down to write code.

Unlike coders, programmers generally are not as fast at writing code, and this makes sense. They invest more of their time into other areas of software delivery. This does not mean they can’t write code. They can and regularly do, it’s just not at the same pace a coder can.

Programmers are generally not seen instantly as “high performers” by upper management, but generally their peers value their time and effort more, and eventually upper management does take notice.

So you are probably wondering, which one do I prefer at my company? A coder or a programmer? Based on reading this a lot of you are probably saying I would think a programmer. But honestly I think you need both. 

In conclusion, in my personal opinion coders and programmers are not the same thing, however they do compliment each other really well.


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