Product Designer vs. UX Designer: A Complete Guide
Updated 7 September 2023
On most product development teams, there may be a product designer and a UX designer. Both occupations play an essential role in ensuring that the final product meets the needs and expectations of the customers that are going to use them. Knowing about the differences between these two careers can help you make a more informed decision about pursuing the role that most closely aligns with your goals. In this article, we discuss what a product designer is, review what a UX designer is, explore the primary comparisons between a product designer vs. UX designer and examine FAQs.
Product designer vs. UX designer
Here are some of the primary comparisons between a product designer vs. UX designer:
Here are the definitions for these two careers:
A product designer is a creative and business-oriented professional who blends their abilities to develop products that can address unmet needs in the market. Product designers begin by thinking of a product-based solution and then organise the teams necessary to create it. A product designer sometimes performs functions identical to an industrial designer, which was the more common job title before the expansion of digital services and e-commerce.
Product designers brainstorm solutions for problems that arise during development. They experiment with and test multiple versions of their product to identify improvements. Ahead of the launch, they organise production methods by working with suppliers and manufacturers and researching how to best reach customers. After they launch a product, product designers develop strategies to expand consumer bases.
A UX designer, or user experience designer, is an expert at maximising the customer's experience when interacting with a product. They ask if a product is fully and efficiently meeting clients' needs and then try to find areas where they can enhance the user experience. UX designers look for "pain points," or moments when a user might grow frustrated while engaging with the product.
UX designers apply what they learn in user surveys and market research to conceive, design and develop the adjustments that eliminate pain points. Their work is vital to maintaining a brand's positive reputation among consumers, as successful and imaginative design improvements are key to remaining relevant in many markets, especially in technology.
Product designers oversee a wide array of product development objectives. Their duties include:
Market research: Product designers conduct the initial research to determine if an idea is worth pursuing. They then figure out how much funding they may require to develop a product and how many sales to become profitable.
Stakeholder relations: Product designers provide investors with status updates and timelines for completion.
Production efficiency: Product designers consider the most efficient and cost-effective way to produce a good or service and arrange the infrastructure necessary to accomplish it.
Brand development: Product designers consult with brand strategists and marketers to create a public image that reflects the purpose of the product and the company's values.
Product road mapping: Product designers develop strategies for introducing a product to the market and then map out how the product can gain users and earnings.
Team management: Product designers coordinate the efforts of various departments to maximise efficiency and creativity.
UX designers have a slightly more narrow focus that involves:
Research: UX designers conduct research to understand competitors' user experiences. They also survey their own customers to identify urgent pain points and opportunities for growth.
Embodying user perspective: UX designers remove themselves from their expert knowledge of a product and try to imagine how the average user interacts with it. This enables them to realise which features are most important and which are unnecessary.
Design: At the beginning of product development, UX designers conceive of the layout and appearance of a product. After launch, they make improvements without abandoning the success of the initial design language.
Prototype development: UX designers create multiple solutions for each problem and receive feedback from teammates.
Testing: UX designers extensively test promising prototypes to ensure updates function smoothly.
Supporting infrastructure: UX designers help build the information architecture underlying a product.
On average, a product designer earns a higher salary than a UX designer due to the larger scope of their responsibilities. The national average salary for a product designer is $6,107 per month. In contrast, the national average salary for a UX designer is $5,060 per month. This estimate is likely to vary for several reasons, such as the individual's work experience, employer, location, academic qualifications and accreditations. As you gain more experience and knowledge, you may be able to leverage your expertise to negotiate for a higher salary.
Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate’s experience, academic background and location.
Both product designers and UX designers typically perform their duties within an office space or they can work remotely. They usually work full-time during normal business hours, but they may work weekends or overtime to meet deadlines and make prompt changes to the product. As members of a product development team, both professions work independently and with other colleagues. However, the product designer might work more with other relevant departments to ensure the product design is proper. The UX designer focuses more on interacting with customers and clients to ensure the product content meets their needs.
Here are some job opportunities that a product designer can pursue:
product design engineer
director of product management
Here are a few job opportunities a UX designer can explore:
senior UX designer
user experience manager
Working as a product designer usually requires a bachelor's degree, preferably in a major like engineering, industrial design or architecture. Coursework for these aspiring professionals often involves topics like computer-aided design, drafting, sketching, manufacturing methods, design principles and art. During the undergraduate education period, a student is likely to build a portfolio of their work to present to potential employers.
Many employers require UX designers to have a bachelor's degree as well, usually in majors like design, engineering, computer science, programming, IT or another related field. A student pursuing this career can expect typical coursework on subjects like interaction design, design software, information architecture, computer languages, research and project management. A portfolio demonstrating their design projects is usually a necessity as well.
Here are a few certifications you can pursue as a product designer:
Continuous Product Design Foundations (CPD): This is a certification that a product designer can earn to boost their career opportunities and professional development. You can obtain this accreditation after successfully completing six modules.
Product Management Certification in Design: This is a certification from Pragmatic Institute that provides you with the resources to become more customer-focused in your approach to market issues, helping you design innovative products to meet consumer demands. You also learn to optimise design capabilities through a product's entire life cycle.
Here are some certifications you can get as a UX designer:
Specialist Diploma in User Experience & Digital Product Design (NSUPD): This is a diploma that Singapore Polytechnic awards to you after completing the course. There are a wide range of subjects you can expect to become knowledgeable on, including UX design, design sprint, design system and UX research.
UX Design Certificate: This is a qualification you can earn from a variety of institutions. This provides you with UX design foundational information, including wireframe and prototype building, researching, design testing and user empathising.
Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.
FAQs about product designers and UX designers
Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions:
Is UX design the same as product design?
UX design is not the same as product design, despite their similarities. Product design pertains to the product development process on a broader scale and focuses on the look, functional capabilities, and timeline of the process. Additionally, someone managing the product design determines everyone's duties to see the product through its life cycle. UX design is about the user experience of the product, emphasising design responsibilities that meet customer needs.
Can a product designer be a UX designer?
Yes, a product designer can be a UX designer and someone may perform both roles during a product development initiative. This mainly depends on the professional's capabilities and knowledge. However, many product teams are likely to keep the duties of both occupations separate. It's more effective to have a product designer and a UX designer on a team because it's likely to boost the group's productivity and is easier to track their progress.
Should I be a UX designer or a product designer?
Whether you choose to be a UX designer or a product designer ultimately depends on your personal career goals and work style. UX designers focus more on customer satisfaction and computer programming. Product designers concentrate more on administration and project scope. Compare both occupations to help you decide between them.
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