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Product Designer vs UX Designer: How Do They Differ?

Ashley Trotsky
•  08.06.2023
Are you an aspiring product or UX designer, product manager, or looking to gain more information about the differences between product design vs UX design? If so, you are in the right place!

This article will take you through the similarities, differences, and responsibilities of a product designer vs a UX designer.  Sometimes these two job titles are used interchangeably; however, there are key differences between the two roles and they are not fully synonymous. 

Keep reading to find out a more thorough explanation of UX vs Product Design ⬇️

What is the difference between a product designer and a UX designer?

The main difference between product design and a UX design is that product designers focus on a broader scope of product development, while UX designers focus mainly on optimizing the user experience of a product.  For example, product designers use techniques such as design strategy, design systems, and cross-functional collaboration, while UX designers focus on user research, information architecture, and usability testing.

Below is a short summary of UX design vs product design:

Product Designer

UX Designer

Main objectives

Equally consider user experience, design strategy, business goals

Be an advocate for a user’s experience

Scope

Full design process

Narrow in on the user experiences

Responsibilities

Stakeholder communication, cross-functional collaboration, business strategy, design systems, prototypes

User research, information architecture, wireframing, prototypes, usability testing

Total average compensation (salary + additional pay)

US:  $60k-$141k  

Germany:  €44k-80k 

(non senior-level)

US:  $76k-183k 

Germany:  €41k-80k 

(non senior-level)

Skills

Business-oriented, intensive research skills, interpret data and make decisions based on it, marketing, development, analytics, design skills, knowledge of UX tools, prototyping, research

Communication, empathy, curiosity, collaboration, psychology of human brain, information architecture, wireframing, prototyping, research skills and analytics, visual design, working with UX research tools

Product vs UX Designer responsibilities

Product designer vs UX designer

What does a UX designer do?

To give a high-level overview, a UX designer’s role is to focus on optimizing the user experience.  They specifically look at user satisfaction and the usefulness, usability, and enjoyability of a digital product.  Essentially, a UX designer is the user’s advocate in the design process, keeping in mind accessibility and ease of use. 

Let’s take a step back and break down what a UX designer does step by step in order to inform design decisions that facilitate positive user experiences.

Firstly, a UX designer focuses on conducting user research. Some methods that are used throughout the research process are: user interviews, user surveys, personas, comparative/competitive analysis, usability testing.  Next, the UX designers focus on organizing a website or mobile app’s information architecture to make sure a user can easily navigate through the pages and access the information they are looking for. 

A UX designer also creates wireframes and prototypes (learn more about why UX designers should prototype) in order to visualize the product before the development process. Learn   Finally, they are responsible for conducting usability testing on the product to evaluate it’s functionality, identify pain points/issues, gather product feedback and provide next steps.

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What does a product designer do?

Though UX designers and product designers often work together and/or on similar tasks, a product designer focuses on a broader scope of the design process.  Similar to UX designers, product designers will consider the overall user experience of a product, but will also factor in equal parts of design strategy and business goals.

Additionally, product designers will often have more communication with cross-functional teams, which can include stakeholders, product managers, engineers, and marketers.  Product designers are also involved in the development of design systems.

💡Pro Tip

Learn more in our article about 5 Benefits of Becoming a Product Designer

Product Design vs UX Design, what skills do you need?

There are subtle differences between the roles and responsibilities of product designers vs UX designers but also a ton of overlapping skills needed for each. 

As mentioned above, UX designers narrow on the user experience in their design decisions.  Therefore, they require more empathy and curiosity than a product designer.  Since a product designer’s scope is broader than a UX designer, they require more knowledge about business operations and functions. 

Skills such as wireframing, prototyping, and research skills are necessary for both product designers and UX designers. 

Below is a thorough breakdown of the necessary skills for each of these job titles:

UX Designer skills

  • Communication
  • Empathy
  • Curiosity
  • Collaboration
  • The psychology of the human brain
  • Information Architecture
  • Wireframing and prototyping
  • Research skills and analytics
  • Visual design
  • Working with UX design and UX research tools

Product Designer skills

  • Knowledge about how a business operates and functions
  • User research
  • The ability to interpret data and make decisions based on it
  • UX Design
  • Interaction design
  • Wireframing and prototyping
  • Working with UX tools
  • Collaboration and communication

Product Designer vs UX Designer salary

Product designer vs UX designer salary

In the United States, the total pay for a UX designer averages to be around $117,159/year with the salary coming out to be an average of $95,592/year and an estimated additional pay of $21,567/year (including a cash bonus, commission, tips, profit sharing, etc.). 

Senior-level UX designer roles bring home a larger total pay, averaging out around $147,187/yearA product designer’s pay tends to be slightly lower, averaging around $91,446/year total pay with their salaries coming out to be an average of $76,440/year and the estimated additional pay averaging $15,006/year.  Senior-level product designers make a total pay closer to $141,562/year.

In the EU, both UX designers and product designers have been reported to make less than in the United States. 

For example, the total pay (salary + additional pay) for a UX designer in Germany, according to data from May 2023, was estimated to be €53,089/year ($57,422/year).  Senior-level UX designers made closer to €72,574/year ($78,484/year)

Contrary to the United States, product designers actually made more than UX designers in Germany.  However, their rates were still less than UX designers in the US.  According to May 2023 data from Germany, product designers made an average total pay of €60,650/year ($65,589/year), and senior level product designers made an average total pay of €73,555/year ($79,544/year).

*all the salary data in this article is based on information from Glassdoor.

Below is a chart to represent the total average pay/year for these positions:

UX Designer

Senior UX Designer

Product Designer

Senior Product Designer

US

$117,159

$147,187

$91,446

$141,562

EU

€53,089 ($57,422)

€72,574 ($78,484)

€60,650 ($65,589)

€73,555 ($79,544)

UX Design vs Product Design vs UI Design?

Product designer vs UX designer

Just when we have cleared up the differences between a UX designer vs. product designer for you, we are here to remind you that UI (user interface) designers exist too!  You might be wondering about the role of a UI designer and how they work with UX designers and product designers, and we are here to help. 

UI designers focus more on the aesthetics and physical look of a digital product, working to create visually appealing interfaces.  Specifically, UI design is defined as “the process of creating a visually appealing interface for digital products, working on their looks, style, and interactivity.” 

Examples of elements UI designers usually work on are: spacing, color palettes, typography, layout, UI element (buttons, icons, menu items, etc.), responsiveness and accessibility, transitions, and animations.

While UI designers focus more on how the product looks, UX designers focus more on the usability of a product.  Oftentimes, UX designers get started on the product designing process by gathering research and taking note of UX metrics in order to inform their design decisions.  From there, UX designers then work to create wireframes and prototypes.  Then, finally, UI designers can get to work on making the physical appearance of the product. 

These two roles together help create a perfect digital product– one that is not only easy to use, but visually appealing as well.  

Now that we have discussed UX vs. UI designers, it is time to explain where product designers fit into the equation.  Often, a product designer’s role combines both the usability (UX design) of a product and the way it looks (UI design), but on a much broader scale than the other two roles.  Additionally, product designers consider business goals and oversee the full design process.  

Which career path is right for you? 

Do you have a business mindset with an interest in design strategy? Become a product designer!

Do you lead with an empathetic mindset and have a natural curiosity for learning about user behaviors?  Become a UX designer!

Can’t decide? Get experience in one domain and then easily transfer your skills to the other if needed! There are a lot of overlapping responsibilities between the roles of a product designer vs UX designer and people are often able to easily transfer between the two positions. Either way, user research skills play a big role in both of them.

Why wait until you land your dream job? Get a step ahead of the competition and read one of our UX research guides today! And while you’re at it, test your designs with our free UX research tools!

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FAQ: Product Designer vs. UX Designer

What does a product designer do?

Product designers focus on a broad scope of the design process. They consider the overall user experience of a product, in addition to design strategy and business goals.

Product designers will often communicate on cross-functional teams, which can include stakeholders, product managers, engineers, and marketers. They might also be involved in the development of a design system.

What is the salary of a UX designer or product designer?

According to Glassdoor, in the US, UX designers make a total pay range of $76k-183k (salary + additional pay) and product designers make a total pay range of $60k-$141k.  Those in senior-level UX design and product design roles made even more.

Does product design require coding?

Nope! It certainly can’t hurt to learn coding to more effectively communicate and work with software engineers, but it is not an expectation of this role. Product designers who know coding are called design unicorns because they are extremely rare and hard to find.

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