The high number of professionals that work on the product design and their ever-changing role in the whole process brings up the confusion when it comes to distinguishing who is who, notably in the case of the product designer vs. UX designer. Therefore, in this article, we’re going to understand what is product design and UX design and outline the differences and similarities between those two. This will help us to understand their involvement in the process and which one your team needs.
There is a thin line between UX Design vs. product design as they’re both concerned about the user but have a different approach towards the product design process. There are some aspects where those two are similar. For example, both rely on the application of design thinking to product creation and are focused on building a better product. They both are required to conduct research and analyze the data gathered from it. Also, they are aimed at enhancing the functionality of the product to serve the user’s needs.
The differences as stated before are defined by the aim they’re after. For example, product design is approaching the design process with the business requirements in mind. Is not only working on making users happy but is also concerned about how to make the product profitable for the company. The product design has a wider perspective on the design. It has to consider various factors (not only user experience) to make sure that design fulfills a range of requirements.
Therefore, the differences between those two are defined by the final problem they’re aiming to solve. Also, they differ by the questions they try to find the answer for to build a perfect design. But, at the end, they’re united by one goal – to create a functioning, high-quality product, that will satisfy the end-user.
The different approaches to the design process created different roles for each position – UX designer and Product designer. So, to understand the differences between them, let’s break down who is responsible for what.
UX Designers are the best friends of users when it comes to product design. They are familiar with how the users behave, the psychology behind those actions, and understand their needs. Their main responsibilities are:
The UX designer’s role in the product design process relies on constant measurement and improvement of product usability. They conduct research with the user in mind to identify their needs and to find the best design solutions to satisfy those needs.
You might wonder then what does a Product Designer do? Basically, they are the highly-skilled generalists that have their focus more on the business and commercial side. It doesn’t’ mean that they don’t care about the users. They just analyze how the product can not only serve their needs but also be commercially successful. Their main responsibilities are:
As you can see, the Product Designer has more on their agenda than UX Designer and their role is to work on the end-to-end product. Find the solution to all problems while having in mind both business objectives and the users’ needs.
Another thing that differs a Product Designer from a UX Designer is the tools and skills they apply to design the best version of a product. A lot of them are similar, like Interaction and UI design, Visual design, UX design, user research, and user testing; but the different approach each of role use requires some different range of the skills and tools, so let’s focus on them.
The UX Designer’s knowledge and skills which are defined by a narrower perspective on design and are focused on more specific design problems are the following:
The skills required for the Product Designer to contribute to the product creation process reflect their ultimate goal – to make both profitable and user-friendly product; and include:
Concerning the tools, they both apply, there are plenty of similarities as they use the same design software and prototyping tools but some of them are still different. For example, the Product Designer relies on mind mapping and sketch tools. While UX designer applies wireframes and interactive design tools.
The smaller-scale company usually hires only one of two – either UX designer or Product designer, depending on which skills and approach it needs. If you want to choose only one, you should remember that in the early stages of the product development you can manage without a product designer but never without a UX designer. The UX designers can take on the role and responsibilities of product designers if they have appropriate knowledge and experience. But the product designers don’t necessarily have to cover the UX and visual design.
If the team size allows hiring both, a UX designer will be responsible for user research and testing. While the product designer will handle market research and product strategy to achieve the business objectives and serve user needs in the best way.
In general, it’s better to staff both UX designer and Product designer for your team as their collaboration enhances the process efficiency and brings better results. For example, UX designers can guide the product designers for a better understanding of the users and their needs as they are the closest to them.
To sum up, defining the difference between product design and UX design can be challenging as they seem very similar. However, their different approach and vision on design make their expertise, not drastically, but dissimilar. Therefore, when choosing the professional for your product design team, think of the problem you want to solve, your ultimate goal, and who your team misses to achieve that goal. But if it’s possible, you can choose both – product designer and UX designer— to have a complete perspective on your product’s design and on how to make it successful.
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