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Product Designer vs. UX Designer: Is there a difference?

This article explains what product and UX designers are, and describes their unique skill sets so your startup can decide whether to hire a product designer, a UX designer—or both!

Mikenzi RossDec 2, 2021

Product Designer vs. UX Designer: Is there a difference?

Is there any difference between a product designer and a UX designer, or are they the same? When it’s time for your startup to develop a product, this is a reasonable question to ask—especially because many folks do think  “UX designer” and “product designer” are interchangeable terms.

In actuality, both of these professionals provide distinct skills and expertise that you need to know.

Below we’ll explain what product and UX designers are, describe their unique skill sets, and help you decide whether you need to hire a product designer, a UX designer—or both!

Black background with orange text reading: "To design is to communicate clearly by whatever means you can control or master"

-Milton Glaser

What does a UX designer do?

UX designers are specialists who ensure your customers have the best experience possible using your app. Their professional and educational careers instill them with the best strategies in design, psychology, and customer research.

They apply this expertise by developing and testing designs that elevate navigation, user-friendliness, reliability, responsiveness, accessibility, and so much more. UX designers understand that every product should improve your customer’s experience. The human element is the foundation of every decision they make.

A UX Designer’s superpowers include:

  • Strategizing the best UX for the specific audience
  • Researching, defining, and tapping into your audience’s unique needs
  • Understanding how to apply fundamental principles and the latest psychological insight to create engaging experiences
  • Testing user experiences and knowing how to interpret and apply user feedback to strengthen the product and improve user retention
  • Ensuring the person using the product inspires every design decision

What does a product designer do?

What is a product designer? Product designers sound a lot like UX designers on the surface, but they tend to oversee the entirety of a design or redesign project from beginning to end. They contribute to design strategy and act as the line of communication between the many departments involved with the project, including engineering and graphic design.

Their role as liaisons and leaders often comes with additional skill sets that help them collaborate and lead multiple departments. These skills include coding, project management, and forecasting market performance.

A product designer’s superpowers include:

  • Problem-solving
  • Knowing how to apply UX and UI design principles
  • Understanding marketing strategies and trends
  • Seeing product development from a business-oriented perspective
  • Leading the development process and managing all departments involved
  • Usually knows how to code (but not required to be successful)

Do you need a product designer, a UX designer, or both?

Now that you know what differentiates product designers and UX designers, we’ll offer some scenarios to help you decide which one to hire. It’s essential to recognize what sets these designers apart because many people mistakenly lump them together as one and the same.

The benefits of hiring a product designer

Product designers take on a leadership role, so they’re usually spearheading the app’s creation beyond just UX. They may conduct preliminary market research to figure out if a product is even viable in the current marketplace, as well as manage multiple departments involved with the project.

They can also lend a helping hand with coding, designing, and strategy—wearing many different hats during the design process, especially at an early startup.

The benefits of hiring a UX designer

UX designers strictly focus on brainstorming, building, and testing effective user experiences. Their attention falls entirely on creating a product that puts the user’s needs first. They can work hand-in-hand with product designers, but their expertise primarily focuses on the living, breathing person using the app.

They conduct customer research and help keep projects on track, but the driving force behind their efforts is building compelling user experiences in the most simplified and efficient way possible. Just like product designers, UX designers can also possess UI design skills and adopt leadership roles.

Where product designers are a jack of all trades, UX designers are masters at their specific craft who nurture their expertise by staying ahead of the latest research, UX trends, and technology.

The benefits of hiring both

A significant factor in deciding whether to hire a product designer or UX designer is the size and scope of your project. Depending on your startup’s goals and budget, you may want to hire both a UX and product designer.

Larger projects may require more than one expert to come aboard, and so a skilled UX designer and experienced product designer can come together to take some of the burdens off of your team and enhance your overall product and user experience.

While some of what they do overlaps, both professionals provide different but equally valuable expertise that can help your product succeed.

For example, in early-stage startups, a senior product designer’s responsibilities could run the gamut of design and development functions—but as the product grows, the senior product designer will also build teams of their own to help distribute the many elements required to move the product forward.

Don’t forget to do this before making a decision...

We hope this insight into the differences between product designers and UX designers has given you a boost of confidence, when the time comes, to hire the right professionals—and help you build a phenomenal product that users will love!

But…

Finding the right designer for your startup requires more than just understanding who they are. It also requires a clear understanding of who you are.

  • What product do you want to build?
  • Who do you want to help?
  • How do you want customers to perceive your brand?
  • What is your startup's big picture goal?

When you have answers to those questions, deciding between hiring a UX Designer or a product designer gets easier—and more effective. This insight into your startup also helps the hired designers too because the clarity removes roadblocks, allowing them to work more effectively!

But your startup doesn't have to look any further than right here on our website to find UX experts that turn your product into a revenue-generating machine. If you’re ready to take your product to the next level, click here to schedule a free consultation call with a TDP strategist.

But if you aren't ready for that sort of commitment yet (don’t worry, we’ll be here when you are ready), we’d appreciate it if you could share this post with a friend!

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