A designer is a designer, right? Wrong. Just like an interior designer is not the same as a fashion designer, there are many kinds of designers in the technology world too: UI designer, UX designer, interaction designer, design researcher, industrial designer and so on. However, aspirants most often confuse the product designer with the UX designer. In this blog post, we’ll discuss product designer vs UX designer — what are their roles, what skills do they have, how much they earn and what the future holds for them. 

Product Designer vs UX Designer: What do They do?

The reason product designers and UX designers are often mistaken for one another is that they have a lot of similarities and perform overlapping roles. Especially in smaller companies and startups, where the team is small and everyone is a generalist, one person might be playing the role of both. However, there are subtle differences. 

What is a Product Designer?

A product designer is someone who identifies the user problem, understands market opportunity, and designs the right solution. And the important point to note here is — the product designer looks at it from a perspective of business value. They will look at a market opportunity and design a product to leverage it. For instance, let’s say you have a project management tool. A product designer might learn from the market that users need the capability to track their timesheet within the same tool. And decide whether they would like to build this feature or integrate an external tool for this purpose. In essence, the product designer shapes the future roadmap of a product. 

What is a UX Designer?

A user experience designer is responsible for ensuring a smooth and enjoyable experience for the user on the application. They approach it from the perspective of a user. They conduct user research, explore their pain points and build solutions on the app. Take the same example from above, once the product designer decides to integrate an external tool, a UX designer will work on making it feel native to the app, simple to navigate and easy to use. 

Product Designer vs UX Designer: What are the Similarities?

  • They are both problem solvers. They look for opportunities and build digital products to solve them.
  • Depending on the structure of the organisation, both might build prototypes, wireframes, etc.
  • Both conduct research — user research as well as competitor analysis.
  • They both collect and analyse data to inform their decisions.

Product Designer vs UX Designer: What are the Differences?

The differences are subtle, but specific. Product designer jobs primarily revolve around shaping the future of the product. So, they are more concerned with business goals and outcomes. A UX designer works to shape the experience of the user. So, they are more concerned with the user’s perspective and tend to be strong advocates for the user.

A product designer thinks about the larger picture. “Will the user want this feature now?” or “Is this the most cost-effective way to do this” are important questions for the product designer. A UX designer thinks of a user’s journey. They would ask questions like, “what can we change to make this experience more enjoyable?” This doesn’t mean they don’t look at the larger picture, it just means that their picture is limited to good user experience.

Product designers also play the role of project managers and people leaders to achieve larger organisational goals. Whereas, UX designer jobs are more specialised role, concerning themselves only with the design of the experience. 

You also have to note that the kind of organisation you work in, plays a key role. Larger organisations are more likely to have specialist product designers, UX designers, UI designers, visual designers, etc. A startup or small organisation is more likely to have one person performing all roles. Now that we understand how they contribute to the product development ecosystem, let’s explore their skill sets.

Product Designer vs UX Designer: What Skill Sets do They Have?

Because the roles are significantly overlapping and sometimes one person doubles up as both, they possess some very similar skills.

  • Both of them tend to have experience with design thinking and human-centric design. 
  • They also have curiosity, observational empathy, problem solving and communication skills. 
  • They need to be good storytellers and able to persuade people across the organisations. 
  • They both use prototyping and wireframing tools like Sketch, Adobe XD, Balsamiq, Figma etc. 
  • Experience with HTML, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, etc. are also extremely helpful.

However, both of them also have a unique set of skills.

A product designer has market research skills, including identifying an opportunity, building minimum viable product, beta testing, etc. A UX designer has UX research skills such as guerilla testing, A/B testing, etc. A product designer has business analytical skills. Experience in managing user growth, profitability, multi-functional teams, complex projects etc. come in handy. A UX designer also has analytical skills, but they are more specialised in web/mobile analytics, interaction analysis, etc.

Product Designer vs UX Designer: How Much do They Earn?

Product designer jobs are more specialised with fewer opportunities. But UX designer jobs are generalised with far more opportunities and the salaries reflect that. 

Product Designer Salary

"Product Designer vs UX Designer" Product Designer Salary
Source: Glassdoor

Product designer salary in India is an average of Rs. 700,000 per annum. But this grows significantly with experience. Those with 6-14 years of experience have reported nearly Rs. 30,00,000 as their annual salary. 

UX Designer Salary

"Product Designer vs UX Designer" UX Designer Salary
Source: Glassdoor

UX designer salary, on the other hand, is an average of Rs. 600,000 per annum, with experienced candidates earning up to Rs. 22,00,000. The opportunity to grow into a UX lead offers a salary of up to Rs. 26,00,000. Currently, big multinational conglomerates like Amazon, Accenture, Microsoft and TCS are all hiring for UX designer roles.

What Does the Future Hold?

As the digital economy grows, opportunities for product designers as well as UX designers are bound to grow. In fact, product design and UX design will intertwine more closely in areas such as augmented reality, virtual reality, etc., opening up more opportunities. In small startup teams, UX designers will stretch on both sides of the spectrum, playing roles of both product designer at one end as well as the UI designer on the other. 

Today, though, the UX designer role is more popular. There are more opportunities for UX designers than product designers — LinkedIn lists over 1000 product designer vacancies, but 2400+ UX designer roles. This is perhaps because product design is an emerging line of work. Professionals who start their careers as UX designers grow to take on product design roles after gaining experience.

In essence, the starting point for designing digital products is UI/UX design. Someone with a strong foundation in UI/UX design can effortlessly transition into a product designer role in the future, even growing to be product managers/leaders. If you’re looking for a jumpstart to such a career, check out Springboard’s UI/UX design career track. It offers industry-ready curriculum, 1:1 mentorship, career coaching and a job guarantee.