It is common for designers to be asked – or required – to switch from designing products to designing with users in mind. Designers often interchangeably use the terms “product design” and “user experience (UX) design” as if they mean the same thing. Still, there are significant differences between product design and user experience design that product designers should know. Then is product design UX?
The first thing that comes to mind for most people when they hear ‘UX’ is user experience. The way a user interacts with your product can determine whether or not they keep using it. Designing for digital products is very different from creating physical products. Many designers confuse the two and think UX design and product design are the same. Still, they’re actually distinct, separate practices.
Since digital products are about interaction – you use them through your computer, phone, etc., designers need to get everything right on the screen. You can’t find out what people want by simply analyzing article comments and social media posts. You need to know what they’re thinking – why people like certain features, how they think a product should work, etc. To do that, you have to talk to your users directly.
Designers must understand the right questions to ask so as not only to get the user feedback but also to collect information specific to their target audience(s). Most importantly, they must keep this information separate from their own ideas and preferences. When answering is product design UX, we have to look at the two.
What product design is
Is product design UX? No, product design is the process of creating new product offerings. It focuses on products made, starting from an idea down to implementing features and their details. This could be a website, app, or something else entirely. Product designers are responsible for the product’s form behavior and ensuring it works functionally.
This designer also pays attention to product branding, packaging, product strategy, product safety, and manufacturability. Prototyping technologies are used to create product mockups or prototypes (potentially including 3D printing or product modeling), design for manufacturability, product warranty, product safety testing requirements, and regulatory standards.
Product designers also need to be aware of product sustainability issues such as material selection, product longevity, and re-usability.
What user experience design is
User experience design focuses on enhancing the user’s emotional and psychological response to a product to make it more desirable and increase its perceived value. User experience is about satisfying product users’ needs and wants. It is about product usability, product psychology, and user emotions. User experience designers work by understanding who the product will be used by, how it will be used, when it will be used, under what circumstances, and what purpose.
What does a Product designer do?
A product designer may also need to understand product design, product development, product development process, product production (including 3D modeling, product rendering, and product prototyping), product testing standards (such as UL safety standards), product manufacturability. Product designers need to know how to use tools like Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop for product mockups; they might also need to see some form of 3D modeling.
UX design uses research and analysis to understand an existing product’s issues and how they can be improved. It takes a more holistic approach than just the product’s look; instead, UX designers examine how users interact with products to improve that experience. They pay particular attention to how changes would impact user behavior and the effectiveness of certain features.
Some tips for transitioning
When you know how to code, use your coding skills as a product designer to make product prototypes. You can also use prototyping tools like Balsamiq or InVision to create mockups and product wireframes. Product design is not the same as user experience design. UX focuses more on product usability (how easy it is to use) and product delight (which makes the product fun, meaningful and memorable).
Identify the target market for your next design project and reflect on your experiences in that market. If you need help identifying a target market, consider involving potential customers early in the design process (such as user research studies). Think about creating something exceptional for your end-users to solve their problems. What kinds of things do you enjoy making? How can you incorporate that into your next design project?
Product design tools
Product designers must learn product design software like Figma and InVision, product prototyping tools like Figma or Justinmind for wireframes. Product designers should also understand product 3D modeling and rendering software. Depends on the type of environment you’re working in.
Great product designers know product management, including product strategy, product roadmap, product pricing, and product profitability. Designers can help product managers with product design, but they must also know when to focus. Good product designers are also skilled at user experience design, pushing product innovation, differentiation, and manufacturability.
Good UX design plays a significant role in customer loyalty and how high your web site’s search engines are. Google now uses UX factors like speed and content load time etc., instead of just keywords. If you gain user trust through good UX, they’ll keep returning to your website/app and promoting it to other users.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much information on what makes a good UX designer and how they practice their trade. It seems like everyone is still trying to figure out exactly what goes into designing for digital products and what the difference between product and user experience design is (and should be).
Good luck! And remember that becoming a great product experience designer is not easy. It’s worth the effort if it’s what you want to do. I hope I answered your question: “Is product design UX?” Here are some more articles about being a good designer.
How to Build Habit-Forming Products
Every Designer Needs to Know About People
Susan M. Weinschenk, Ph.D.
Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience