Differences Between Product Designer vs. UX Designer Roles

Updated May 29, 2023

Almost any product's design process can benefit from collaboration between product designers and UX (user experience) designers. These professionals develop features and visuals using design tools and research to provide positive user interactions, maintain brand consistency, generate leads, satisfy market opportunities, and resolve issues. While these professions share some similarities, it's vital to understand their diverging responsibilities and priorities to advance your career. In this article, we examine what a product designer vs. UX designer is, and explore the similarities and differences between these professions to help you determine which one to pursue.

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What is a product designer vs. UX designer?

You might be wondering about the difference in meaning between product designer vs. UX designer. Product design is an all-encompassing profession that involves designing, managing, testing, modifying, and supporting the creation and launch of a product. As a product designer, you're responsible for ensuring a product aligns with a client's specifications and satisfies customer demands. You can achieve this alignment by collaborating with programmers, testers, analysts, marketers, and other designers. An essential component of a product designer's role is developing problem-solving solutions through A/B testing, wireframes, and test plans to mitigate potential issues and gather valuable feedback.

UX design refers to the process of designing a product, such as a website, video game, or application, with users as the primary focus. This branch of design is responsible for developing interactive features, creating visual elements, writing code, and ensuring the interface is user-friendly. As a UX designer, researching a product's intended audience is crucial to determine the type of designs and features that can effectively satisfy customer demand and fulfil a client's guidelines. This research can also help define a product's prototyping and testing.

Related: What Is UX Design? (With Definition, Importance, and FAQs)

Similarities between product designers vs. UX designers

UX designers and product designers are important members of a product's lifecycle. These two branches of design aim to create and maintain conditions that can ensure a positive user impression and client satisfaction. Here are the similarities between product designers and UX designers:

User-centric approach

Product and UX designers understand the importance of a product's users or customers. The first step of the design process is determining your target audience and developing ideas to both resolve a user's problems and improve their experience with a specific product. The customer's needs function as guidelines that inform concept development, features, aesthetics, and usability. With empathy and sufficient research, you may help design a product that users can intuitively use. You can also include easy-to-understand tutorials to teach customers how to interact with the product and make the user experience more rewarding.

Related: What Is a User Story Map, and Why Are They Important?

Brand consistency

Whether you're working in-house or servicing a client, UX and product designers can benefit from maintaining brand consistency when designing a product. Companies or clients typically provide guidelines for designers to follow. These usually allow for some creative freedom, but it's still vital to stay within the parameters set by the client. The product you're helping design is an extension of a company's brand, so aligning it with the brand's previous products can help maintain customer retention and potentially generate leads. Researching a client's or brand's history can also help you define the design process.

Problem-solving capabilities

One of the primary attributes that can help a product and UX designer work more efficiently is understanding the importance of problem-solving. As a designer, you're responsible for identifying user concerns and developing solutions to improve user interaction and business profitability. The problem informs your design decisions and determines the amount of testing you may conduct to ensure a product performs as intended.

Related: How to Become a Product Designer in 5 Steps (With FAQs)

Design tools

Product and UX designers typically use similar design tools during the design process. These tools range from industry-standard prototyping tools, such as Adobe XD and Sketch, to wireframing applications, to mapping software. Knowledge and proficiency in design tools can help you plan the scope of a project, gather valuable user information, and develop the tasks you and your coworkers can complete to deliver a practical and compelling product.

Knowledge of design principles

Design principles help product and UX designers create easy-to-use and visually appealing designs. These principles represent a guideline that encourages you to prioritize user experience, maintain brand standards, develop flexible and intuitive systems, ensure the aesthetics complement user interaction instead of disrupting it, and provide easily searchable troubleshooting tools. While you can learn about design principles through educational courses, job experience can offer valuable knowledge to enhance your understanding of how these principles influence companies and users.

Related: What Is Design Theory? (Importance, Principles, and Tips)

Portfolio development

When searching for a product designer or UX designer job, it's beneficial to have a portfolio. This document allows you to gather your personal and work-related designs you can showcase and explain during your job application and potential interview. Many job postings ask for portfolios to determine whether candidates have the qualifications, skills, and artistry to fulfil a role's requirements. Portfolio development is essential to advancing your career in product or UX design.

Related: Online Portfolio (With Benefits and Steps to Create One)

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Differences between product designers vs. UX designers

Even though product design and UX design share some similarities, it's vital to understand their differences. This knowledge allows you to determine which design branch you can pursue, improving your preparedness when applying for jobs or developing in a specific role. The scope of responsibility of a product designer differs from that of a UX designer. Here are some of the differences to consider between UX designers and product designers:

Diverging priorities

UX designers and product designers typically focus on designing a product that satisfies user demands, but each prioritizes different aspects of the design process. UX designers focus on product usability, developing features and visuals that help users have a positive experience with a product. Usability informs functionality, guiding UX designers to identify potential concerns that product designers can resolve. Product designers have a more extensive list of priorities, focusing on business factors, market opportunities, and developing problem-solving solutions.

Related: What Does a UX Designer Do? (And How to Become One)

Skills proficiency

The diverging priorities between a UX designer and a product designer can help you identify the different skills each role requires. For a UX designer, graphic design, emotional intelligence, creativity, interaction design, prototyping, and data analysis abilities can benefit your career. To excel, product designers can prioritize leadership, team management, and communication skills. As a product designer, you can advance your career by understanding how to plan, manage, and strategize a project from inception to launch. While these professions share some skills, each features skills unique to its specific project design responsibilities.

Related: Differences between UI vs. UX Design (With Skills Required)

Scope of responsibilities

Companies typically assign product designers as project leaders. As a result, product designers can benefit from proven management and leadership skills to oversee every aspect of the design process. Product designers interact with marketing departments to analyze the market and its relation to a project's product. They develop product roadmaps to strategize and develop the most effective methods to satisfy market demands and increase revenue. Product designers also manage a project's budget, ensuring teams can effectively use the available resources and tools.

From assembling teams, to dividing tasks, to interacting with clients, the role of a project designer is more extensive than that of a UX designer. UX designers design information architecture to test and improve product usability, developing plans and storyboards to analyze user experience. They typically collaborate with product teams to prepare features, create wireframes, and design user-friendly interfaces.

Related: A Guide to Project Management Leadership Styles (With Tips)

Data analysis and research

Research and data analysis are essential components of the design process, but product designers and UX designers use these tools differently. UX designers research a product's target audience to analyze customer data and identify points of concern. Through research, UX designers can plan visual elements, design interactive features, and test prototypes to enhance a user's experience. Product designers use research and analytics to inform the development of every component of a project. They explore business opportunities, test existing products for additional context into a brand or company's practices, and use user data to collaborate more efficiently with UX designers.

Different testing protocols

Even though product and UX designers conduct tests to ensure a product works as intended, their testing protocols differ. Product designers typically perform tests before and after a product launch. By testing existing products, product designers gain valuable insight they can apply to future projects to improve client relations, customer experiences, and product revenue. UX designers typically conduct tests before a product's launch, focusing exclusively on usability. Their priority is ensuring that a user can intuitively use a specific product.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions, or organizations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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