What’s a UX Designer? And what’s a Product Designer? What’s the difference? And why should you care?

I’m so glad you asked. If you’re looking to develop a product, build an app, become a designer or even develop a website — understanding the difference may be the most important thing to know.

But trying to figure it out can be frustrating.

Job titles for designers are getting increasingly nuanced and complex. The differences often only understood by people who have been in the industry for a while (and sometimes not even then). Here’s a list, just to name a few:

  • UX Designer
  • UI Designer
  • UX & UI Designer
  • Product Designer
  • Interaction Designer
  • User Researcher
  • Design Rockstar
  • UX Ninja
  • Super Unicorn Business Consultant
  • Multicoloured Power Ranger

I may have made a few of these up, but you get the gist.

It might seem like a mind-boggling range of roles, and it is! Each of these positions offers something unique, and I could probably write a blog on each of them. UX Designer and Product Designer are two of the most common, however. And together they can play a hugely important role in your business.

What’s the difference between UX Design and Product Design?

So let’s get into defining what these roles mean, and why the difference between them is important to your business.

Defining a UX Designer

On Wikipedia, UX Design is defined as…

The process of enhancing user satisfaction with a product by improving the usability, accessibility, and pleasure provided in the interaction with the product.

The key part of this is “user satisfaction”. This means the role of a UX Designer often incorporates activities like customer interviews, user observations and prototyping; which are all bloody great, but probably not enough to build and launch a brand new product or service.

So why does a UX Designer even exist?

The role of UX Designer was created as a response to the old-school thinking that a designer’s role was to deal with colour and typography (the aesthetics), while the app design was up to the software engineers.

Until some brave soul stood up and said… ”isn’t the most important person the user?” To which the answer was: “yes”.

And so UX was born. And us designers started designing out prototypes, talking to the users and actually watching them use what we design. All to make it better for them. To make the user happy.

The Product Designer

Then along came the Product Designer.

(Just to be clear, the role of the Product Designer has been around for decades. However, this is specifically relating to the new trend for designers of apps and websites to call themselves ‘Product Designers’. Essentially it’s shorthand for ‘Digital Product Designer’.)

A few years back, I asked a designer (of websites and apps) why he was calling himself a Product Designer. He told me it “was the current fad and it didn’t really mean much.”

As the years went by, I’ve come to the conclusion that he couldn’t have been more wrong.

The difference between UX Design and Product Design

The business dictionary defines a product as:

A good or service that most closely meets the requirements of a particular market and yields enough profit to justify its continued existence.

I could unpack that for days. But instead, I’ll just highlight that what this really means is that a product exists in a context (requirements and market place) and it exists over time (profit for continued existence).

And that’s what separates a Product Designer from a UX Designer.

A UX Designer can create something that is easy to use. They can build apps and websites that have good usability and accessibility. While a product designer designs for a context.

Or, more simply, a Product Designer designs for a market. They design for long term business goals. They design for branding and positioning. This means they will add value, help you develop the right features and challenge your brief. And without that kind of thinking at the design phase, your product may fall short.

So, if you were to describe the difference between the two it’d be something like this:

UX Designers work to make the product more user-friendly. Product Designers create a user-friendly product that can thrive in the context of a marketplace.   

Build something worthwhile

We’ve covered the difference between Product and UX Designers. But to take us back to another question I asked at the start: why should you care? What could this mean for your business?

Well, put simply, you should care because you need to find the find the right kind of designer if you want your product or service to succeed. Will you ever find yourself in a situation where you are choosing between a UX Designer or a Product Designer? Probably not. But you will find yourself looking for a designer that offers you the right mix of both.

Questions you need to ask

To get the most value out of the design process, you need to set yourself up for success by asking the right questions. Here are a few suggestions that should give you a strong start:

  • Is your product concept refined enough?
  • Do you need someone to build out a great user experience or do you need someone to help develop the product idea?
  • Do you need an app designed or do you need a partner that can help you bring it to market?

Answer those, and you’ll be well on the way to finding the ideal designer.

What’s interesting (and good news), is that most designers have skills they need to suit your needs. You just need to know what to look for, to fine tune your search — and, hopefully, this blog has helped with that.

Of course, if you really want to guarantee success, you can always come and work with a company like ours, and get access to a whole design team with a range of skills and experience.

That’s key to building something that really does “justify its continued existence”.

And after all, isn’t that what we’re trying to do? Build something worthwhile.

Want to find out more about how to launch a new product or service? Take a look at Mark’s blog, which lists the key things you need to consider (than many companies forget). 

If you’re interested in working with Newicon on your next digital project, get in touch now.