The ‘Product’ is the website, service, application, interactive thing being worked on by the business.
The practice of Product Design is similar in a lot of ways to UX Design. It involves the coming together of many specific design disciplines to help conceive, design, test and deliver features of a product or service.
Product Design is carried out by anyone involved in designing an app, service, website or product, who directly works on the design in a way that will improve the product. Product Design teams may be made up of many disciplines including; user interface designers, information architects, UX designers, developers, engineers, business analysts, project managers, researchers, copywriters and more.
What’s the difference between UX Design and Product Design?
In reality, not a lot. Within the industry these terms can be used interchangeably, or completely distinctly depending on the structure of the organisation in question.
Broadly, User Experience is thought to focus more on the research, planning and wireframing stage of a project, whereas Product Design will extend into UI Design, high-fidelity or technical prototyping, sometimes front-end development and engineering too.
UX is a distinct practice any Product Designer should be proficient in. When you add ‘Design’ after UX it takes on a new meaning (despite technically any part of the practice of UX is part of the design process) – that the designer will be outputting creative, and therefore visual design work. But that’s not always the case.
The three most commonly used labels are UI Designers, UX Designers, and Product Designers. Technically these are all very distinct, but in practice it’s more complicated. Some larger organisations might use the UX and UI labels to hire specialists who work on a distinct part of the Product Design process. Smaller companies and startups tend to need less specialist, more adaptable design people who can wear more hats, and more often than not these are labelled Product Designers. Ultimately it all comes down to what’s expected of you in any given team, and what opportunities you have to get more involved in the strategy and business needs of projects.
You’ll find a lot of conflicting opinions out there. It’s confusing, there’s a lot of overlap and grey space, but this is a mess the industry has created and seems unable to design its way out of.
Ultimately labels don’t matter and don’t get hung up about it. Be confident in your skills and always be pushing the boundaries of what you can learn from the work you’re doing, and you’ll do great, whatever you call yourself.