Choosing between Product Design vs UX Design in 2023
UX design or product design? Who to consider hiring or contracting for your next hire.
Mar 15, 2023
Jul 27, 2023
5 mins read
When someone tells you that they are a designer, it may not be immediately apparent what their actual job titles mean.
Design-related jobs and roles comprise several different responsibilities, whether relating to industrial design, print, or technology.
With the rapid advancement of technology, the fundamental concepts of design products and development have been evolving day-by-day. While innovation has always been a rather broad and vague term, we can transform expertise into multiple specialized roles.
There has been an influx of tech companies focused on creating and improving interfaces for websites or mobile apps, leading to the emergence of new design roles.
Even for those in the design industry, these new roles may not immediately be familiar to the uninitiated. These fields are closely related and have a lot in common, making it more difficult to distinguish between them.
Even experienced professionals with many years in the industry often blur the lines between (UX) design and product design. They often share several common skills, like using a human centered approach and understanding how to use the right prototyping tools for visual design to solve problems well.
Today, we're taking some time to navigate between these two roles of product design vs. UX design and identifying the specific roles and responsibilities for each.
We aim to help non-design tech startup companies identify the right designers to hire for their needs with this blog post.
Let's start with the essential feature; defining the role of product design vs. UX design.
Part 1: Defining Product Designer vs UX Designer
"I am looking for a designer." is one of the most common phrases used by companies in their search for someone who can handle the company's design role. Some companies use both "UX designer" or "product designer" interchangeably to fulfill their business goals.
They're not wrong most of the time, as the boundaries between UX and product design rules can be very fluid.
Companies are usually looking for someone who can design icons, create A/B tested landing sites, build a logical UI interface and even do some actual front-end development work.
Companies, especially smaller ones, often treat this job description as a catch-all cross-functional role rather than be more specific in their needs.
However, while a product designer and UX designer's job titles can be confused, the job responsibilities are very different.
Because the boundaries between these two roles are blurred, the best way to define a position is to describe the designer's expectations in terms of the company's process and then assign a title that best represents that person's primary task. This also applies when hiring UX designer internships for these roles.
We can define the difference between these two with below:
i. Product designers are involved in handling the overall function and working process of the product. They focus on the users, project management and business needs.
ii. UX designers are responsible for the operation of the prototyping tools, easy to use UX design, user interface and solving usability problems by creating a user-friendly experience.
In the following sections in this article, we will be looking individually at product designers and UX designers and the differences between product design vs UX design.
Part 2: Defining the term 'Product Designer.'
To start, let's take a look at product design and product designers.
The term "product design" has been around for a long time. Until a few years ago, most often associate product designers with designing physical products or hardware.
However, with the rise of digital products like Software As A Service (SaaS) and the importance of the website and mobile apps taking hold, the term product designer began to also apply to those working in the interactive design industry.
A product designer is used to describe a designer who is generally involved in creating a product's look and feel.
Today, product designers are often considered a highly skilled jack of all trades, especially with their design skills to understand and implement visual, UX, and front-end design principles.
Their key responsibility is to look at a product design from the problem to the solution while also balancing both the business objectives and end-user needs.
Product designers usually conduct extensive research on market trends and user behavior, as they need to identify market opportunities and create product ideas matching their findings.
They are then responsible for the overall design of new products and often work to draw up a design plan and supervise new products.
Product designers work with a host of different teams within a company, from the marketing team to software engineers, to ensure that its delivery meets brand expectations.
They also analyze the product operation data used to optimize products and suggest reasonable operational procedures to improve the product based on user experience. And responsible for reporting their ideas to key decision-makers and stakeholders within the company.
To summarize, a product designer's leading role in the process is to:
Find a market opportunity.
Define a specific problem to solve for individual users.
Iterate on design concepts.
Validate those solutions by testing on real users.
Align with the business goals of the company and stakeholders.
Part 3: Defining' UX Designer'
Now, we shift our focus to look at UX design and UX designers.
We can describe UX design as to how design teams create highly usable and relevant products for the user. Including various design skills, from product conception to branding, design, and finally integration.
The main concern for a good UX design is how the product feels to a user, but since a product's strategy might not have a single correct method of interpreting the solution,
UX design aims to continually adapt and refine the product through testing to create a product with the best user experience overall.
To this end, a UX designer's primary goal is to continually measure and improve a product's usability by using various research methods to understand their users and their needs better.
A UX designer use design thinking or a very needs-centered approach to product design. They are also heavily reliant on divergent and convergent thinking, which helps identify those needs and provides a way to ideate and test the best ways to serve those particular needs.
UX Designers focus on three key aspects: Research, Design, and Testing. While these are similar to the focus area of a product designer, UX designers have different responsibilities. They are also responsible to get user experience research, collecting and analyzing customer feedback, and studying user behavior.
The ultimate goal for UX designers is to create an all-encompassing user experience. UX designers explore many different approaches to get answers for specific user problem.
A UX designer's broad responsibility is to ensure that the product logically flows from one step to the next. By going through the user experience and testing process, they can identify issues with the product, using the data collected to refine and create a better user experience continually.
To summarize, a UX designer's leading role in the process is to:
conduct user interviews and surveys.
Develop user-profiles and personas.
Create an information architecture.
Use card sorting, wireframing, and perform usability tests.
Next, we'll be taking a look at some of the key differences between product design vs UX design.
Part 4: Differences Between Product Design vs. UX Design
One of the most hotly debated topics is the differences between product design vs. UX design.
There is still no clear consensus to differentiate these roles, as different companies have different interpretations, with many even using the terms interchangeably.
However, as the industry continues to mature, we're getting a better understanding of distinguishing the fine line between these two.
On the surface, the main difference between product design and UX design is that product designers act as the link between human users and the product. In contrast, UX designers focus on meeting the exact user needs.
To understand this better, we need to dive in to see what makes these two roles different from each other.
Product Design vs UX Design: Key Differences
A UX designer places the utmost priority on the overall user experience of the product above everything else. The end goal is to provide the users with a product or service streamlined for the best experience.
To achieve this, UX designers often study how users engage with the product, and evaluate the user's experience on ease of use, performance, and customer fulfillment and prioritize the overall user experience of a product above everything else.
On the other hand, a product designer holds a broader role in the overall product design, involving everything from the vision, planning, project roadmap, design, development, testing, and improvement.
Some companies also encourage their product designers to have a more fluid collaboration within the various design role to collectively own the user experience, user research, and visual design elements.
Product designers also have to contend with the business side of things, balancing the company's needs and stakeholders with that of the end-user.
However, the fact is that up until the initial release of a product, UX designers and product designers have an almost identical role.
Both UX designers and product designers follow the same design thinking process; Define, Discover, Ideate, Validate and Test.
In this case, the main difference doesn't involve WHAT they do as much as WHEN they do it.
UX designers spend most of their time developing products before launch.
After the launch, UX designers typically move on to other projects and rarely revisit previous projects during the redesign phase. In contrast, product designers spend most of their time updating launched products.
They continue to work on the product, continuing to evolve it over time and improving it with each subsequent release. Now that you know about the critical differences between a product designer vs. a UX designer.
Part 5: So, Who Should You Hire?
To make the final decision on who you should hire for your company, you should consider someone or UX design agency who can meet your project's needs.
However, we'll take a look at some of the critical points between a product designer vs. a UX designer to help you make up your mind.
A product designer is indispensable if you focus on providing the highest possible quality from start to finish.
Product designers will be responsible for the conception of your product and the entire development process, including making critical decisions during the design process, problem-solving as a crucial person for communication between various departments and the stakeholders, among other solutions.
You should consider hiring a UX designer if your project focuses mainly on improving the user experience.
For example, suppose you're running an online store with many points of interaction. In that case, you will need the unwavering focus of a UX designer to provide you with solutions designed to reduce bounce rates, including abandoned carts and abandoned payments.
If your user's experience is your foremost concern, you won't go wrong with hiring a UX designer. Ultimately, if you feel that your product, whether it is an online service or an app, will frequently require improvements and changes, you should hire a product designer.
For such projects, a high-quality design approach is essential. A product designer's expertise and skills are broader and necessary at every step of the product development process.
In a nutshell, a product designer and a UX designer's role may fundamentally be similar but are different in the execution and mindset.
You can also look at it because UX designers are focused on exploring a range of possibilities for the best user experience. In contrast, product designers deep dive into the evolution of the product over some time.
We hope that this article has helped you to understand the differences between a UX designer and a product designer (sometimes product managers). We hope that you'll have the information you need to choose your next hire.
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About our author
David is the founder of Zensite, a product design agency based in Singapore. Since 2016, David have been involved in many UI UX related topics covering user experience, product design, digital experience and also founded Friends of Figma, a Figma Community in Malaysia.
Fiha is a passionate product designer hailing from Indonesia. With a background as a Frontend developer, Fiha transitioned my career into the dynamic world of product design. Fiha is dedicated to translating conceptual visions into user-friendly interfaces that resonate with users. In meantime, Fiha serve as a mentor, guiding aspiring individuals who seek to delve deeper into the realms of UI/UX.