UX/UI and Product Design Differences

Written by
Manuel Aparicio

You can't blame yourself if you don't deeply understand the differences between UX/UI and Product Design! Both concepts are, in fact, remarkably similar. Moreover, job descriptions of both roles can be almost identical. This approach leads many to believe that Product Design is just a term encompassing UI and UX design.

As you might know, digital products need a great user experience to succeed. Yet, they also need to reach business goals. These need to be sustainable, cost-effective, profitable, and generate conversions. As a result, when launching a new product, focusing on users is vital. There's no doubt about that. But ensuring the product helps the business grow is also crucial.

That's why focusing on one specific side (business or user) of the design process is more effective. Thus, understanding the essence of these roles will help you become a better designer. Also, recognizing their key (yet subtle) differences will make you a better professional. That's what we're going to illustrate in this article. Let's go!

UX/UI Design vs. Product Design

UI/UX Design: Designing for Users

Let's start with the most popular concept, UI/UX design. UI/UX design has a primary focus on users. So, that's the keyword here, users. Its main goal is to deliver products that are pleasant to use and have stunning designs. This idea might sound (relatively) simple, but it involves a profound understanding of users. UI/UX designers consider users' needs, pain points, weaknesses, behavior, preferences, etc.

They must put themselves in users' shoes to ponder all they must overcome. That's the best way to create a successful digital product. You might think that's only limited to creating a seamless user experience design. However, it's also vital to make designs that users love.

"Want your users to fall in love with your designs? Fall in love with your users." — Dana Chisnell, Leader at Civic Design.

As we mentioned in another post about UI/UX design basics, it takes a lot of empathy and understanding. Designers focus on getting meaningful insights from users through user research. That's how they can deliver stellar products. Exceptional designers even split user research into two approaches: attitudinal and behavioral.

In other words, UI/UX designers compare what users say and what they do through different studies. As you can see, designers must have a deep connection with users. Once they have done that, building products users love is much easier, and the process is much more enjoyable for them. Some of the questions they typically ask to know more about users are:

● Who are our target users?
● Which problem needs solving?
● What are their needs and wants?
● How to make the product accessible to all users?
● What can users expect when using this product?
● Is the interface appealing and easy to understand?
● Is the experience intuitive and easy to navigate?

Do you need clarification on the differences between UI and UX design? Take a look at our posts about both topics to get more profound knowledge!

UX/UI Design vs. Product Design

Product Design: Designing for Business Goals

Product designers build products keeping business goals in mind. In one way, it makes sense that some people confuse the term with industrial design. The reason is that product design leans more towards the business side of the product. Product designers ensure the product is cost-effective and profitable for businesses to grow.

And if you thought UI/UX designers were unbelievably multitasking, you must hear this! Product designers must have all the skills to be stellar UI/UX designers. And besides that, they need a sharp business mind to ensure the product will drive enough revenue!

I'm not saying product designers are better professionals than UI/UX designers. However, becoming a successful product designer requires a few more skills. Plus, job descriptions can often require more years of experience in the field. We'll get to the extra skills they need to master in a second. But first, let's exemplify the reasoning behind Product Design work.

● What business problem will the product solve?
● What features of it will best solve the problem?
● What functionalities will best solve the problem?
● What is the desired activation rate?
● What is the business model?
● What are the acquisition channels?
● What is the product's value proposition?
● What are the technical constraints we must consider?
● What is the product expected to achieve for the company?
● How will we measure the success or failure of the product? 

UX/UI Design vs. Product Design: What are their Similarities?

At this point, spotting what they have in common shouldn't be difficult. Product designers must have all the expertise and experience of UI/UX designers. That goes from hard to soft skills.

Soft Skills Hard Skills Tech Skills
Communication Brainstorming Business Acumen
Feedback User Research Product Management
Empathy Wireframing Features and Functions
Critical Thinking Prototyping Product Strategy
Attention to Detail Graphic Design Design Sprints
User Testing Usability Testing

UI/UX and Product designers also use some of the same specialized tools. That's one more thing in common! But remember, product designers also focus on client acquisition and retention, so they will likely use more tools. An example of it can be Google Analytics.

UX/UI Design vs. Product Design: What are the Differences?

Finally, let's discuss the critical differences between UI/UX design and product design. You may have a profound idea of their differences by now. But we believe it's still convenient to share some more facts to help solidify them all. 

We now know that UI/UX designers strongly focus on users. Throughout the design process, they primarily consider users' satisfaction and enjoyment. Making sure users get what they want is their ultimate goal. Conversely, product designers strongly focus on the company's business end. When improving an existing product, they also strive to ensure it is profitable. As the Interaction Design Foundation states, product designers "help their brands by making products sustainable for longer-term business needs."

Since they have a few more responsibilities than UI/UX designers, their job is more demanding. While this difference often appears strongly in each position's salaries, these roles don't have massive discrepancies. Nonetheless, some experts argue that the difference lies in when they start working on a project. These specialists mention that UI/UX designers are the ones who build the product from scratch. On the other hand, product designers go deeper and make it more user-friendly and profitable. However, it's also common for UI/UX to refine and improve existing products. If so, the difference between the two often lies in the working environment.

Having some staff focus on users and others on business goals may be more convenient. Similarly, it may be best to have part of the team build a product from scratch as others take it to the next level. Again, it all goes down to factors like business goals, culture, etc. They're big reasons there has been a distinction between similar roles.

Conclusion and Key Takeaways

UI/UX and product designers' work may be almost identical. Their responsibility during the entire process, tasks, knowledge, expertise, and skills are alike. Nonetheless, the subtle difference between them is that UI/UX designers are hyper-focused on users. And product designers are more concerned about business goals and the product's sustainability. 

Yet, UI/UX designers take business goals seriously when designing a product. In this way, product designers don't forget about users during the product design process. So, to make the long story short, one role leans more to one side. We cannot overstate that your company will broadly define the roles. So, job descriptions are much more relevant than the minor differences we explained. Consider that if you are applying for one of those two roles!

Our human-centered approach and hard-earned reputation make us able to deliver successful, top-notch, and stunning products. Whether you're looking to move from an idea into a business or thinking of new iterations for your product, our UX-focused Custom Software Development company is here to help. Feel free to reach out, and let's shape the future together!
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