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Home Tech Product Designer vs. UX Designer: Who Does What and How to Distinguish?

Product Designer vs. UX Designer: Who Does What and How to Distinguish?

by Intizar Ali
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Apart from product development, design is the area SaaS businesses pay the greatest attention to. The design became one of the most significant factors determining a product’s success and, as a result, business growth. Those responsible for the design at different stages of the product’s lifecycle are known as product designers and UX designers. However, we can hardly name the differences or similarities of a product designer vs UX designer’s specialization.

These two terms passed through a long evolutionary process until they found their current meanings. Starting around 2010, the term “user experience” was gradually getting popular until it transformed into the“UX.” This abbreviation made a part of a new design job title, “UX designer.”

As for a product designer, it was not long ago when this specialization was mainly associated with designers who worked on physical products. However, with the rise of the SaaS industry, product designers and UX designers became engaged in interactive design creation that led to confusion – who does what and what is actually the difference between a product designer and UX designer? Whom do I need to hire if I want to launch a new product or support an existing one?

Let’s try bringing these questions under the light.

Who is a product designer?

A product designer is like a full-stack developer who can lead a project from an idea to delivery. The main goal of this expert is to nurture the whole design process focusing on a product’s business requirements, cost-effectiveness, usability, and market acceptance. To accomplish this task, the product designer should have a diversified skillset and be an expert in multiple areas, including market and competitor analysis, user research, marketing, design, even psychology.

Here is the list of the product designer expected competencies:

  • knowledge of market trends, project management, UX/UI design principles
  • experience of working with tools like Balsamique, Sketch, AdobeXD, Zeplin, Figma
  • sufficient knowledge of HTML and CSS
  • understanding of user flows, customer journey, user personas
  • excellent soft skills – leadership, communication, collaboration, problem-solving, proactivity

In a nutshell, the ultimate goal of the product designer is to make the product brings sales and profit to the company and proves its effectiveness from a business point of view.

Who is a UX designer?

A user experience (or UX) designer is a person who is responsible for making customers happy when using your product. The UX designer must have a deep understanding of the product’s logic to build a user flow smoothly taking a user from one interaction phase to another. If the product designer focuses mainly on business requirements, the UX designer works closely with direct product users investigating their behavior, analyzing needs, and unveiling pain points.

The primary UX designer’s goal is to evaluate the product’s usability by communicating with users, testing, and making necessary adjustments to improve user experience.

Below are the skills a UX designer should possess to build a successful career:

  • excellent knowledge of UX design principles
  • experience of working with prototyping tools like Adobe Creative Suite, Invision, Sketch
  • deep understanding of customer journey, user personas, and user flows concepts
  • experience in creating of sketches, wireframes, and prototypes
  • good research and analytical skills

Basically, the UX designer’s expertise covers research, design, and testing. It’s important to mention that soft skills like empathy, open-mindedness, and curiosity are also a must as conducting user interviews and surveys makes a great part of the UX designers’ job.

Difference between a product designer and a UX designer

It may seem that the main difference between the product designer vs UX designer lies in their professional focus – business for the product designer and customers for the UX designer. Not exactly. The thing is, UX designers always should mind business needs and incorporate them into their designs. Here is what I mean. UX designers investigate customers’ needs not because they purely want users to be happy. They do this to ensure nothing will stop customers from taking actions the business expects from them.

The key difference between these two design specialists isn’t what they do but rather when they do it.

Usually, a UX designer’s job is being done to launch a product, whereas a product designer focuses on updating the product when it’s already live.

It may sound like a not significant difference, but in reality, after the product launch “the life is just beginning.” A product designer ensures the product’s functionality won’t be broken after the next feature release and works on large design changes’ implementation to iteratively incorporate them into the agile development process.

If we look into some “UX designer” and “Product designer” job postings, we will see more differences.

To both specialties refers:

  • Teamwork – collaboration, communication, leadership
  • Research – usability, user testing, user research
  • Design methods – user flows, prototypes, wireframes

However, specifically from product designers is required to be: process- and project-oriented, responsible for product quality, able to work with various design environments to ensure the product’s scalability.

If to characterize product designers vs UX designers with one phrase, it will be “depth vs breadth.” UX designers work on investigating many possibilities to launch a successful product, whereas product designers support the product’s over-time development.

And here are few orientation tips for designers who are considering what path to choose and for business owners who are thinking about which design expert to hire.

I’m a design student. How to choose whom to become – a product designer or a UX designer?

If you like to design brand new products, make a product easy to use for new customers, enjoy communicating with people, and test new design ideas, a UX designer job may be a good fit.

As a product designer, you can find yourself if you prefer improving an existing product, like dive deep into one subject, and tend to long-term projects.

I’m a business owner. When do I need to hire a product designer, and when a UX designer?

The UX designer will become an excellent resource for improving customer experience if you have a website or app with many interaction points. This expert will also be a good fit to conduct user research or usability testing with results’ analysis.

If you need a product design strategy being developed from the ground up, the product designer will be the right choice.

As a conclusion

Even though the UX designer and product designer jobs responsibilities often overlap, significant differences bring unique value to each of these design specialties. However, both of them serve to create the best product and the most outstanding user experience possible.

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