Product Designer – Definition, Responsibilities, Skills, and Comparison with UX Designer

What Is a Product Designer?

A product designer works to provide an optimal user experience while maintaining business objectives and product management goals. They use different tools to resolve user experience issues and implement solutions that improve the experience of the customer. 

They play a key role in the developmental stages of the product life cycle. 

When the initial design is being drafted, product designers convey the product’s goals into the functional experience of the user. They provide feedback on key functions that need to be put in place while achieving these product goals. 

Many companies hire a product designer even before they hire a product manager. Others delay having a product designer until later stages of the product life cycle. 

Since product design can be outsourced easily, companies rely on hiring contract-based product designers, consultants, or agencies for the role. 

What Is the Role of a Product Designer? 

The role of a product designer differs from high-level functions such as system architecture to details like CSS templates. 

Irrespective of the work they are assigned, the goal is to have a user-centric approach and improve the user experience. 

There are several tasks that product designers deliver as a part of their job. This includes prototypes, wireframes, mockups, and user journey maps. 

Product designers interact with clients to discuss the design concept, performance criteria, and production criteria. Once in a while, they pay a visit to the client’s manufacturing unit to examine the practicality of production. 

A traditional role of product designers was to give them the product with a set of requirements. These tasks included sketching the design, analyzing the feasibility, and the availability of raw material. However, today product designers work alongside the development team throughout the developmental stage. 

Since they’re involved from the beginning, product designers can influence the ‘whats’ and ‘hows’ of the product’s development. They use design thinking principles and keep the user at the forefront. Along with the team, they develop design concepts using CAD while keeping the budget in mind. They also organize team meetings that could be specific or multidisciplinary by nature. 

The core responsibility of product designers lies within the four stages of designing. Stages include designing, modeling, prototyping, and conducting user testing. 

This could also involve coding, with front-end languages like HTML or CSS, to create logos, animations, buttons, icons, digital products or assets, along with text wherever required. 

Additional responsibilities come in when the product is physical or hardware. These responsibilities include selecting colors, textures, materials, recommending manufacturing methods, and using 3D prints for prototypes. A digital guide of the product suite is maintained by product designers for future reference. 

In case they are outsourced, product designers need to carry out administrative duties as well. 

What Skills Are Needed for a Product Designer? 

Though the job requirements of a product designer may differ from organization to organization, the following are the set of skills that are usually required.

User Research

Decisions that product designers make are based on qualitative and quantitative data. 

As a result, they require skills that concern acquiring this data in the first place. This includes interviewing, observation, and questioning.

The ultimate goal of user research is to understand the end-user which is why mastering analytics is crucial. Knowledge of the user is gathered through interviews, questionnaires, and observation. It’s later transferred into three forms – namely personae, jobs-to-be-done, and experience maps. 

Facilitation

Facilitation is the set of implementations that will be done during and after a meeting with the team. The objective is to ideate the product and design it. 

Along with communication skills, this responsibility requires UX design skills to organize UX workshops

Product designers pick out needed stakeholders for various workshops – whether they’re tech-based, marketing, business, legal, etc. Throughout the workshop, they should guide the participants through either animation or storytelling.

Ideation

User research is often used to come up with product ideas, features for the prototype, or upgrades. Ideas are either acquired by using the user’s insights or through design workshops. 

Product designers are concerned with providing the best user experience. To test the experience, product designers need to master UX assessment skills. 

Product designers have information architecture skills that help set up the company’s mobile application and website. To understand the user’s interaction with the product, it is crucial to trace all user-flows or wireflows, which requires workflow skills. 

UI Design

UI facilitates all the interaction between the product and the user. The product designer must be an expert behind it. Anything from conveying brand identity to making it aesthetically pleasing and coherent. 

The product designer needs to have knowledge of visual design principles such as balance, hierarchy, typography, and proximity to create harmony in the product. 

Interaction design principles are used for understanding different interactions between the product and the user. For instance: scroll animation. 

Soft Skills

Many soft skills are required for product designers. 

One such skill is empathy: to understand the user’s problems and their perspective. 

Collaboration is another skill that is essential because product designers often work with other team members. To work with product managers and more, the product designer needs to be a team player.

Along with collaboration, effective communication is important. It’s hard to organize workshops and present ideas without effective communication. 

Product designing is an extremely fast-evolving field. Thus, your design must keep up with the latest trends. 

It is important for a product designer to be curious and seek out knowledge proactively to keep their work up to date. 

Knowledge of agile frameworks such as scrum and kanban come in handy when working with organizations that have an agile framework. 

What Is the Difference between a Product Designer and a UX Designer? 

Before we start listing the differences, here’s the similarity. 

Product designers and UX  designers both use a user-centered approach and design principles. They also use the same tools such as wireframing tools and user mapping tools. Moreover, both professions rely on market research. 

Now here are the differences between the two. Product designers aim to make the designing process cost-effective while UX designers aim to make it user-friendly. Product designers focus on the value of the product in the current economy while UX designers focus on its ease to use. 

When it comes to priorities, product designers give more importance to branding, process, and the business. UX designers give more importance to the usability of the product. 

Product designers have a wider range of responsibilities compared to UX designers. This is also reflected in their salary where product designers are paid higher than UX designers. Plus, the on-job demand for product designers is also higher than UX designers. 

Can a UX Designer Become a Product Designer? 

Just because there are differences doesn’t mean a UX designer cannot become a product designer. 

There are as many similarities between the two professions. 

Both jobs are very similar which is why it is also interchangeable under many situations. Thus, UX designers can become product designers and vice versa. 

Conclusion

Product designers have some of the most important roles in the business. Hiring a good one can be the make or break of a successful business.

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