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UI/UX Design vs Product Design

10
Apr
2023
UI/UX Design vs Product Design

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

As you might know, digital products need an exceptional 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 the target audience is vital. There's no doubt about that. However, 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, a strong understanding of the key differences between Product Designers and UI/UX Designers will help you improve at your job. Recognizing the key (yet subtle) differences will help you make more informed decisions in your design career path. That's what we're going to illustrate in this complete guide. Let's go!

UI/UX Design: Designing for Users

Let's start with the most popular concept: UI/UX Design. These designers focus primarily on users, so that's the keyword here: users. Their 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 focus on user satisfaction, 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, making designs and visual aspects that users love is vital.

As mentioned in another post about UI/UX Design basics, empathy, and understanding are required. Designers focus on gaining meaningful user insights through user research, which is how to deliver stellar products. Exceptional designers even divide 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. They focus on improving customer satisfaction. As you can see, this critical role must deeply understand users. By doing this, they can build optimal User Experiences that users love, making the process much easier. Some of the questions they typically ask to know more about users are:

1. Who are our target users?
2. Which problem needs solving?
3. What are user needs and wants?
4. Is the product accessible to everyone?
5. How can the product be made accessible to all users?
6. What can users expect when using this product?
7. Is the interface appealing and easy to understand?
8. Is the experience intuitive and easy to navigate?

Product Design: Designing for Business Goals

The Product Designer role is a more holistic approach that, among its crucial decisions, considers business requirements and technical feasibility when building products. It makes sense that some people confuse them with industrial design. The reason is that Product Design's varied responsibilities lean more towards the business side and market viability of the product. Product Designers ensure the product is cost-effective and profitable for businesses to grow.

If you thought UI/UX Designers were unbelievably multitasking, you must hear this! Product Designers work closely with a cross-functional team, such as UI/UX, Visual Designers, Project Managers, and Graphic Designers. They also should have familiarity with Software Development. 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. Yet, 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 list what Product Designers must consider.

1. What business problem will the product solve?
2. What features of it will best solve the problem?
3. What functionalities will best solve the problem?
4. What is the desired activation rate?
5. What is the business strategy?
6. What is the market strategy?
7. What are the business value opportunities?
8. What is the product's Value Proposition?
9. What technical constraints must you consider?
10. What is the product expected to achieve for the company?
11. How will we measure the success or failure of the product?

UI/UX Design and Product Design

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, like knowledge of typography, color scheme, and color theory. UI/UX and Product Designers also use some of the same specialized tools. And there's one more thing in common: they rely on the Design Thinking process! But remember, Product Designers focus on businesses' valuable insights, such as client acquisition, customer retention, and competitor analysis, so they will likely use more tools, like Google Analytics. Here is a list of some needed skills for successful Product Designers:

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

Product Design vs UI/UX Design

Finally, let's discuss the critical differences between Product design and UI/UX Design. You may have a profound idea of these two distinct roles by now. But we believe it's still convenient to share some more key insights to help clarify them all. 

We now know that UI/UX Designers strongly focus on users. They primarily consider users' satisfaction and enjoyment throughout the design process, focusing on key aspects like design elements and user-friendly navigation. Their ultimate goal is to ensure users get what they want. 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."

Their job is more demanding since they have a few more responsibilities than UI/UX Designers. 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 when 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 while others take it to the next level. Again, it all comes down to factors like business goals, culture, etc. There are big reasons for the distinction between similar roles.

Conclusion

The roles of Product Designers, User Interface, and User Experience Designers may be almost identical. Their responsibility during the entire design process, tasks, knowledge, expertise, and skills are alike. Nonetheless, the subtle difference between them is that UI/UX Designers are hyper-focused on user flows. On the other hand, 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!