Product design VS UX design

Understanding the difference between Product Design and UX Design is quite challenging since many of their features overlap. However, there are slight differences that should be considered.

Imagine some ketchup packaging. Whereas the product designer creates the general idea of how the product should be in accordance to business expectations (in this case, a bottle), the UX designer focuses on adapting that initial product to users’ wants and needs with the aim of providing them a better experience. For example, a UX designer would think of modifying the shape of the bottle to make it more comfortable to hold.

Product design

What is it all about?

This term has been around a lot longer than UX design, although the latter has recently had a peak in popularity due to the rapid emergence of digital products over the last decade.

The work of product designers consists of working on a product from problem to solution while taking into consideration both business objectives and the user needs.

Main responsibilities:

User needs

As a product designer, you must be aware of what the needs and wants of your potential users are. You should analyse how a product fits in with user preferences, gathering feedback from these, and using research to challenge and validate design decisions.

Identifying opportunities

You should be capable of identifying opportunities for new products as well as transforming them into something real. In order to do this, you must know how to create prototypes, wireframes, sketches, journey maps and other digital tools.

Industry & business knowledge

It’s essential to be up to date on current industry trends, market conditions, materials and techniques to take advantage of any opportunities and respond to potential threats. You should also be aware of business goals to make sure they’re taken into consideration.

Collaboration

You should actively collaborate with the rest of your team, suggesting improvements to product engineers and coordinating with designers to ensure accurate communication and efficiency in the design phase.

Main skills required:

- Verbal & written communication skills

- Excellent eye for aesthetics design and customer appeal

- Good understanding of visual design

- Creative and innovative flair

- Attention to detail

- Strong knowledge of the industry and market trends

- Be able to use drawings, 3D models and computer designs to express creative ideas

- Have strong IT skills

- Being able to work within deadlines and budget constraints

UX design

What is it all about?

UX design is aimed at measuring and improving the usability of a product, most of the time leveraging different research methods before starting the design process. These include looking at the target market, understanding their behaviour and needs, and creating something that matches those needs.

Main responsibilities:

User interaction

To provide the best possible experience, a UX designer must understand the product specifications and user psychology. What’s more, you should conduct concept and usability testing and gather feedback. This is the best way to define the right interaction model and evaluate success before launching the final product.

Creative problem-solving

A UX designer will be faced with many challenging situations in which using creative skills will be needed. In most of these cases, you’ll have to be able to find creative solutions through brainstorming, conceptual models, use cases and scenarios, personas, wireframes, mock-ups, and interaction flows among other tools and processes.

Collaboration

You must be in constant contact with your team in order to implement attractive designs.

Main skills required:

- Proficient in design software

- Problem-solving aptitude

- Wireframing and UI prototyping

- UX research

- User empathy

- Communication skills

So… Which are the tools and technologies that both product and UX designers use?

Both roles use similar design software to prototype and design. These are some examples of the most common tools:

Prototyping tools: InVision / InVision Studio, Figma, Sketch, Adobe XD, Pen+Paper, and Balsamiq

UI Design: Adobe XD, Figma, Sketch and InVision Studio

What does thinking like a designer involve?

Design thinking is a non-linear and repetitive process that helps companies and individuals understand users, challenge assumptions, redefine problems, and come up with innovative solutions. Therefore, the six stages belonging to the design process are not always sequential - they don’t have to follow an order in particular and they can occur in parallel.

1. Empathise. This stage is meant to gain an empathetic understanding of the problem you’re trying to solve, mainly through user research.

2. Define. During the second step you will analyse all data collected in the previous phase to define the core problems you and your team have defined so far.

3. Ideate. Here, design thinkers must use all previous information to challenge assumptions and generate logical and ‘out of the box’ ideas. There are many alternative ideation techniques to take advantage of such as Brainstorming, Brainwriting or the Scamper technique (Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to other uses, Eliminate and Reverse).

4. Prototype. Now you arrive at an experimental phase in which you must build real and tactile representations of the ideas generated. Teams build inexpensive versions of the product to investigate the problem solutions generated in the previous phase.

5. Test. This is when designers ask potential users to try the prototype and provide feedback. Through user testing companies and individuals to ensure product success. This implies returning to your model as many times as needed and changing it in view of criticism.

6. Launch. Introduce your idea to markets! And remember, this is not a linear process, you can come back to any of the stages when needed!

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Martin Sandhu
Founder – martin@nuom.co.uk