The user experience design field is constantly evolving. Just like the products and services they design, UX designers understand they must also adapt to meet emerging market trends and user expectations. Increasingly, this means working not just as UX designers but as product designers, too. In this article, we’ll explore what that distinction means and how to master this new role.
What is the difference between a UX designer and a product designer?
While every job description is different, most companies make a distinction between the role of a UX designer and a product designer. In many industries, UX designers focus on improving the “user flow” of a product, service, or design. By contrast, a product designer, in most contexts, is responsible for the entire design lifecycle of a product, which includes:
- Research (traditionally the role of a UX researcher)
- Interaction design (traditionally the role of a UX designer)
- Visual design (traditionally the role of a visual/graphic designer)
Rather than breaking these responsibilities into three different roles, companies are increasingly relying on what they call “end to end” or “full stack” product designers who bring expertise in all three areas.
For established UX designers, this means needing to be fluent in UX research, interaction design, and visual design. While this doesn’t mean that product designers will manage the entire product on their own, they should be confident in their ability to oversee and guide each aspect of this process.
How can UX designers sharpen their research and design skills?
In order to be a successful product designer, UX designers will probably need to sharpen their skills in user research and visual design. Luckily, there are several efficient and cost-effective ways to do this, including:
- Shadowing a colleague for on-the-job experience and training
- Taking employer-sponsored training courses from reputable providers like DesignerUp and the Pratt Institute
- Seeking out free online courses from experts like Xander Pollock and Hack Design
Of course, for most busy UX professionals, simply “learning by doing” will be the most effective method for transitioning into a product design role. Just make sure to measure your progress and track skills that you want to improve along the way.
What does this mean for more specialized roles?
As companies move towards a “full stack” model for product development roles, expectations and opportunities for more specialized roles will change. We expect that demand for UX research and visual design roles will remain steady, but likely won’t increase in the near term. Instead, professionals in these roles will increasingly need to take on additional responsibilities beyond their core specialties. UX researchers, for example, may need to tackle UX design elements while visual designers may be called upon to incorporate UX principles into their work.
The user experience field is shifting, and taking some of the traditional barriers between specialties with it. As a UX professional, preparing yourself for these changes can help you stay ahead of the curve and meet growing demand for “full stack” product design.