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Product Designer vs. UX Designer: What Are The Roles Differences?

Dec 10, 20205 min read

Adam Kozłowski

Head of Design at Ideamotive. More of a craftsman than an artist - with a pragmatic approach to clients' goals.

When it comes to building successful products, nowadays, the design is the core element impacting the dynamic rivalry in the market. With the evolution of the design industry, digital designers have acquired new features; therefore, new positions such as product designers and UX designers, have arisen. Due to the high popularity of digital designers, their responsibilities are confused and blurred. 

 

We know that companies strive to find the best match when it goes about developing the product cheaper and faster. You might ask: what is the difference between these two job titles? If I am launching a new product who do I need to hire: UX designer or product designer? Actually, the next lines of our comparative analysis article will uncover the peculiarities of each role. So let’s shed light on it!

Who Is a Product Designer?

Product designers are highly-skilled full-stack generalists whose responsibility is to elaborate upon the product from start to end. In order to provide an amazing user experience design, product designers aim at identifying not only the customer’s needs, but also validating business goals as well. The role of product designers is quite flexible lying in nurturing the whole design lifespan but with the main focus on business requirements and responsibility to bring a new easy-to-use product to life that will be compatible on the market.

 

They are experts in multiple disciplines focusing on problem-solving and market research ranging from UX/UI designs to project management. Product designers are guardians aiming to create synergy between the brand and the product through the initial design process by arranging effective cross-functional collaboration between developers, sales, and marketing teams.  

 

To put it simply, product designers’ aim is to create solutions to the problems that occur in the launch design process in order to obtain the best design and marketing success in the long run.

What are the Responsibilities and Requirements of a Product Designer?

Among the key requirements for a position in product design (summarizing the above-mentioned information), the candidates need to have extensive experience in UX/UI design, management skills, and, in general, to be tech-savvy and multidisciplined. So for a typical product designer, you need to have the following areas of expertise:

  • Skills working with Invison, Balsamiq, Sketch, AdobeXD, Zeplin, Figma, HTML, CSS
  • Solid knowledge of market trends
  • Strong prototyping skills
  • Aesthetic taste 
  • Excellent eye for customer appeal
  • Perfect communication and technical skills
  • Cross-department collaboration with departments to launch new services/products
  • Ability to elaborate upon complicated applications 
  • Be a problem-solver
  • Project management knowledge
  • Possess business acumen and analytical thinking

The ultimate goal of product designers’ functions is the commercial success of the product. Therefore, the cornerstones for product design are business requirements and compatibility of the product on the market. Let’s outline the main responsibilities of full-fledged product designers:

  • Conduct market research and identify problems offering the best solutions to satisfy users’ needs.
  • Report ideas for decision-makers and other stakeholders
  • Have a holistic view of the design process, including UX/UI, visual design, typography, etc. 
  • Define roadmaps and create and execute product strategies
  • Keep up with industry trends and innovation
  • Sketch initial design ideas
  • Transform product design concepts into functional prototypes, high-level wireframes, and journey maps
  • Arrange cross-department meetings to discuss marketing and development processes
  • Analyze consumers preferences and market needs to enhance product design strategies
  • Spot on product improvement opportunities

Who Is a User Experience Designer?

UX designer is a person responsible for ensuring the logical product flow from one phase to the next one. Basically, UX designers solve specific user problems and make consumers happy. Although at first glance, it may seem there is quite a little difference in comparison with product designers, UX designers focus on evaluating behavioral patterns of users and generating a variety of solutions of how a specific app can fulfill their needs. 

 

The main goal of a user experience designer is to continually measure and improve the product’s usability by analyzing and testing users’ needs and pain points. In order to satisfy a consumer, a UX designer needs to offer an affordable, easy-to-use solution with a seamless user experience. Thus, the main aim of user experience design is the enhancement of product usability and accessibility. 

What are the Responsibilities and Requirements of a UX Designer?

A combination of passion, curiosity, empathy, and time management skills will make the candidate for the UX design position suitable. The common requirements of UX designer include:

  • Relevant experience in UX discipline
  • Deep knowledge of prototyping programs such as Sketch, Adobe Creative Suite, Invision
  • Solid understanding of the UX process
  • Experience in creating user personas and user’s journey
  • Skills in producing user-centric UX deliverables such as wireframes and prototypes, user flows, and sitemaps.

Based on users’ research and identification of user persona, UX designers’ areas of expertise cover three main aspects: Research - Design - Testing.  User experience designers’ main responsibility is interaction with customers to identify their needs, study their behaviors, and, ultimately, collect feedback for further product refinement. The main responsibilities of a UX designer are the following:

  • Conduct user interview and surveys
  • Create user personas and journeys
  • Create information architecture
  • Perform usability tests

In order to enhance user experiences, UX designers come up with ideas how a user will seamlessly navigate through various interfaces and across mobile and desktop endpoints. Based on users’ feedback and market dynamics, UX designers collaborate with developers and project managers to iterate the product before it goes to a large scale. Therefore, nurturing about a user and his experience beforehand empowers UX designers to adjust user flows properly to avoid enormous technical changes.

Which Soft Skills Are Important for UX Designers and Product Designers?

Besides a creative mindset, designs need to acquire many other soft skills in order to satisfy the needs of the user. So both roles need to possess:

  1. Empathy - To be able to truly understand users’ pain points and start working on improving product values, UX or product designer needs to be extremely human-centric with genuine empathy.
  2. Collaboration - Design solutions will be more effective when involving other stakeholders in the process. Therefore, UX/product designers need to be ready to welcome insights from different teams.
  3. Curiosity - Seeking out new perspectives of problem-solving instead of being certain about own vision is a great skill to achieve results.
  4. Critical thinking - When evaluating potential solutions UX/product designers have to be critical in their decisions.

Design Thinking as a Similarity and Main Driver for Both UX Designers and Product Designers 

The core skill for both roles is design thinking. Thanks to design thinking strategies, such business leaders as Nike, Coca-Cola, McDonald's outperformed their goals and revenues. So what is design thinking? It is a set of design methods of successful end-to-end products’ development by analyzing users’ interaction with them and uncovering new ways of UX enhancement. 

 

Perfect product designers as well as UX designers implement design thinking in their strategies in order to understand the UX of a product as a whole, not just silos. Based on the design-thinking framework elaborated by NNGroup, there are 3 main flow stages:

  1. Understand
  2. Explore
  3. Materialize

Hence, we can outline two similarities of UX designers and product designers which affect the confusion between these two concepts:

  1. Both roles are user-centric requiring data from real users and addressing their real problems.
  2. Design thinking is a core element for sharing knowledge and experience between teams. 

Key Differences Between Product Designer and User Experience Designer

Whereas product designers’ work domain is more generalized, UX designers’ goal is focused more on the specific features of the user experience. We put the differences in the comparison table for better visual perception:

When Should You Hire a Product Designer and a UX Designer?

Whereas product designers are involved in the extensive scope of product design process, including validating business ideas and fulfilling business goals, UX designers are focused on user journey ensuring the seamless and intuitive navigation. To be more precise, UX designers’ responsibilities are the ones relating to product design, however, with more focus on user experience. 

 

Let’s give an example. If your business has an e-commerce app or website with many interactive points, aiming to improve the buyer’s experience, then hire a UX designer who will take care of all steps of the user. If you have a startup and need a product design strategy and improvements based on users’ feedback and support on each step of the product development process, product designers will be a good match in this case.

But if you are still not sure who you need to hire, let us know. Our team of specialists will guide you and offer the best UX designers and product designers to hire. 

 

If you want to know more, check out our blog post on the difference between UI and UX designer, and front-end developer.

Adam Kozłowski

Designed the first website around the year 2004 and since then worked in various fields of design like branding, advertisement, and product design. Currently focused on UX/UI and consulting for a robust approach to results-focused applications.

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