Product Design vs. UX Design: Who to Hire?

While UX designers handle everything regarding the user experience, product designers have a much broader role. Learn about each to determine whether you need to hire just one or both. 

 

Product design and user experience (UX) design are very similar but they’re completely different disciplines in the broader design industry. Sounds complicated, right? 

While UX designers handle everything regarding the user experience, product designers have much broader roles and responsibilities. 

If you’re running a startup or small business, it can be hard to identify which expert you need. Don’t worry though; even some professionals often mistake one for the other. 

This topic is hotly debated in the industry; after all, they’re not just job titles. Knowing how to define both design processes can help you hire the right talents for your project.

In this piece, we’ll break down what is product design vs. UX design. Read on as we discuss more of their differences and similarities, and give you invaluable tips to help you decide who to hire for your digital products. 

Product Design vs UX Design Venn Diagram

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What is Product Design?

By definition, product design is the tedious process of thinking, crafting, and iterating products. Its main aim is to solve specific problems that users have or answer the demand in a particular market. 

Product design originally branched off from a close discipline called industrial design. This came from the rise of industrial manufacturing that allowed businesses to mass-produce their products. Today, industrial design is more associated with creating physical products.

That said, product design is much more vast. It can refer to any type of product — digital, software, and physical. There are product managers or designers who have knowledge of coding, UX, UI, and project management. Because of that, their job fits the jack-of-all-trades archetype. 

Good product designers are involved throughout the entire product life-cycle. This role requires them to be present from the initial stages of conception to its time in the market. 

Additional reading, ‘A Complete Guide to Digital Product Design.

What is UX Design?

This part is where some may start getting confused. User experience (UX) design refers to the process used by design teams to create products that are user-friendly and provide great user journeys. No, it’s not the same with user interface (UI) design, though they are closely intertwined.

Simply put, UX designers have the power to influence how customers enjoy or feel about a product. They craft meaningful user experiences, conduct thorough user testing, and sometimes even help with user research.

UX design encompasses the entire process of conceptualizing, prototyping, and integrating a project. It involves focusing on various elements such as branding, usability, and functionality.

Efficiency, great customer journey, and satisfaction are traits that make up a product with great user experience. With countless products on the shelf nowadays, UX design has rapidly grown into one of the most crucial roles for companies.

Common Misconceptions

There are a ton of myths about the two disciplines. If you’re just starting to understand UX and product design, you may come across some of these sentiments. The internet can be helpful to you as you venture into the industry but it can also feed a lot of misconceptions that can throw you off. 

Here’s a list of the common misconceptions about product design and user experience:

Misconception Reality
UX is all about/focuses more on research. No, UX goes beyond research as it also requires observation and execution.
Product designers' and UX designers’ skills must lean toward analytics and data. It’s true that you need analytics and data for both disciplines but they also require you to be empathic and great at storytelling. It’s a balancing act.
You need to be artistic to succeed in product and user experience design. Having “designer” on your job title doesn’t mean you need to be great at visual design or be an artist. Both disciplines are massive umbrellas that require different elements — visuals are just the tip of the iceberg.
You can hire one person to take on product design, UX, and even UI design since they are all related. While cost efficiency is always part of a business owner’s priorities, hiring one person alone for the job won't cut it. These disciplines demand distinct focuses or skill sets that one person alone can’t fully oversee or fulfill.
Release the product and just adjust after you receive customer feedback.

Release the product and just adjust after you receive customer feedback.
Conduct tests and make sure the product is perfect first! There are a lot of competitors and making a great impression right off the bat is crucial if you want your product to succeed. 

The design tool makes all the difference. No, you can use simple tools or software to make your design. What makes the difference is your problem-solving and design skills.

Product Design vs. UX Design: Differences

While the two disciplines seem similar, they have specific differences that are crucial to know before hiring one.

The questions asked during the processes differentiate a product designer and a UX designer.

UX designers lean more towards

  • how to make the product easier to use
  • how to make a positive customer impression
  • and how to reduce friction in the process.

On the other hand, product designers think about 

  • how the product will perform given the current economic situation
  • Does it aligns with the business goals
  • and how to make it cost-effective.

Simply put, product design is more business-oriented and UX design is more about hands-on design.

Product Design vs. UX Design: Similarities

Now that you understand their key differences, we can talk more about their similarities. From the definition alone, you can already tell where they line up. 

Both product design and UX design consider human-centric designs, market research, and the product’s performance. The two roles can help you launch new products, add new features, and create mockups.

Another area where both have similarities is with the tools they use. Product designers and UX designers have impressive arsenals of wireframes, user mapping, and design tools to support their workflows. Examples of this are:

  • Balsamiq
  • Sketch
  • Lucid Chart
  • Overflow
  • InVision
  • Adobe tools

Who to Hire for Your Business

Ultimately, once you know their duties, you can assess who you need for your business. Job descriptions should be able to guide you but if you’re struggling to identify who you need for your business, here are some aspects you should consider when deciding who to hire:

  • Objective
  • Focus
  • Skill set

Objective

When opening a role, you need to have clear objectives that can guide you when finding the right candidate. When considering this factor, look at what your business needs. 
If the goal of your project is to enhance the user experience, you should think about employing a UX designer. On the flip side, you should engage a product designer if you believe your product will need regular updates and enhancements.

Focus

As mentioned above, UX design and product design have very different focuses. This second factor reaffirms your objective. Think of what area your business currently struggles with and hire the corresponding expert who can help you with that.

Skill set

Aside from their difference in design skills and design thinking, both roles offer varying skill sets. When searching for experts on LinkedIn and Glassdoor, you’ll see what kind of skills they have. 

A product designer is a flexible specialist, while a UX designer's duties are more focused. 

Product designers have more commercial experience and industrial process knowledge. UX designers have knowledge of information architecture, sitemap creation, and interaction design principles.

Product Design vs. UX Design: Which Provides the Most Value?

Undoubtedly, both positions require a high level of design proficiency. The users will be happy and satisfied with an outstanding UX and product design, thus the designer must be aware of the best and most recent design trends. 

It can be said that the topic of which one provides more value is debatable as it’s always on a case-per-case basis. We can go on and on about one or the other. The main takeaway here is that it’s crucial for you to know what you require for your business.

The advice in this article may hopefully help you understand product design vs. UX design. Use the knowledge you’ve gained here to assess which expert you need for your project.

Additional reading: