The work can be demanding, but the opportunities for personal growth are tremendous. You may find that this direction will be invigorating for anyone who loves to learn about how technology works. Human/computer interaction models are constantly changing, and they have a lot of influence on our behavior, so that you might feel like the intersection between business needs is also an area where your skills would make a difference.
UX design jobs tend to spend time meeting with users or customers and conducting research into their behaviors, wants, and needs as related to products or services. This information helps them create prototypes and wireframes that showcase new designs before they’re implemented, providing insight into what could improve customer conversion rates or increase revenue streams down the line.
I talked with three people from the industry and asked them what they think is needed to make a great career in either field.
Lindsey Allard, CEO and Co-Founder of PlaybookUX told me:
You might be cut out for UX design if: you have experience in user research or user testing processes; creating persons and getting in the mind of the user; someone who can think objectively and critically; and (essential) you need to understand the UX process.
You might be cut out for product design if: qualified with tools like Adobe, Sketch, and more; a strong desire for design, what looks good, and how to tie in branding across multiple platforms; able to keep up with trends; being able to turn a vision into a design.
While they are similar — and many UX designers can thrive as product designers (and vice versa) — there are distinct differences, especially regarding how you will operate within the company.
UX has been a passion of mine for some time, and I’m deep into my career in UX design, but there was a time when I could have crossed over to the product design side of things. Most of the difference has come from the approach we take to our projects and our goal for when we feel we are completed.
Nolan Perkins, the Senior Experienced Designer at RadCollab, told me:
It’s my opinion that newcomers shouldn’t specialize in either Product Design or UX Design because both are higher-level positions. Instead, avoid specialization and gain demonstrable foundations in UI and UX design so that they can find a hybrid role to build on before deciding which specialization they prefer.
Viputheshwar Sitaraman, a Digital Consultant, told me:
Being a UX designer requires the ability to predict user behavior through interaction design. Designers with a keen sense of user behavior, UI flows, accessibility & more will thrive in UX design roles, driving growth by identifying friction points & new opportunities to enhance the customer experience.
On the other hand, product designers are expected to identify new opportunities to expand the value proposition as a whole. As such, business & marketing-minded individuals with a good understanding of the broader market (i.e., competition, trends) can thrive in product design roles by unlocking revenue opportunities through incremental product improvements & new features.
Nevertheless, both product & UX design roles require a deep & up-to-date understanding of modern trends (whether of business & markets or user behavior and interaction, respectively) — which is why it’s so important to find which you care about/enjoy most!
Great question. UX designers and product designers have very different skill sets, with the responsibilities of each being unique. To give you a general idea of the distinctions, I’ll outline what is typically assumed by either in relation to the people they are serving.
How to become a UX Designer
First, if you haven’t learned any technical experience and have only studied design, then the path to becoming a UX designer is going to be a little more complicated. User research methods are heavily rooted in UX techniques, so I would say the first step is to gain some technical skills to help you explore user needs through different means like prototypes and other activities that will take some time to study.
- Start an online Bootcamp for UX
- Enroll in a bachelors or masters in the field of UX
- Pivot your skills from the perspective you are today: If you’re a designer, learn user psychology
- Be willing to learn from UX designers you know.
How to become a Product Designer
You have two primary routes to becoming a product designer. The first is through professional design schools that offer product design degrees for aspiring designers. The other is getting an engineering degree and then working your way up the corporate ladder to a position of responsibility. Many people initially enter their profession with experience in different areas, but deciding on which route you will take can change your entire career trajectory!
- Identify what you want to design and where. A product designer does not design an item. They are a specialist who builds or designs products, which is why product designers must be versatile with many subjects to address the different aspects of guiding a project from idea through development and production like engineering, industrial design, and user interface design (UI) and even entrepreneurship skills.
- The types of products vary significantly from consumer goods like apparel or automobiles to 3D printing equipment or software packages for nanorobots, so try to find a field you want to be good at. You can’t master everything!
- Explore your interests — it starts with exploring your interests by reading blogs about this field or articles/videos on new discoveries on technology and then how it can directly translate into the industry you are focusing on
I hope your face looked like this when you started reading, but not anymore. (And yes, I love Real Housewives, it’s my guilty pleasure)
Product designers create the design for a product. UX designers use research and data to make informed decisions about what is best for their user’s experience with that particular product. Product designers will often work in conjunction with UX designers, but it varies depending on how large or small the company may be. A senior-level UX Designer could do both jobs if needed!
Additionally, some people think of UI Designers as the same thing as Product/UX Designers because they are typically involved early in the development process (either at the concept phase or when wireframes are being developed). However, this isn’t always true; there are plenty of instances where an organization has a separate team dedicated solely to UI Design. In short:
Sorry — you just can’t define a UX designer or a product designer by one single thing!
What are your thoughts on the difference between the roles? I would love to hear your opinion in the comments of the article. You can also send me an email to be featured in my next article!
Please also check out my website for more of my work, and I also have a look coming out soon! You can also find me on Twitter and Instagram.