What is a Product Designer?

Giff Constable technology, UI/UX

Ross Popoff-Walker asked me on Twitter, “What do you feel is the key difference between a UX Designer and a Product Designer?”. The answer, of course, depends on whom you ask.

I use a very expansive definition of the word “design”. Pretty much everything is a design decision.

UX, like “product management”, is loosely defined in our industry, but to me the term implies things like application flow, motivation loops, interactivity, core layout or visualizations, information hierarchy and structure, and usability. Product design, however, is even more sweeping.

If we’re thinking holistically, every software product needs (in no particular order):

  • Front-end development
  • Back-end development
  • Words / content
  • Product management
  • UX design
  • Visual design
  • Customer acquisition
  • Metrics analysis
  • Sys ops

Those roles can be spread out or combined in multi-functional people. I really like multi-functional people.

No matter what, every product needs a single “product owner” who feels an acute responsibility for the success of the whole. They can be anchored in any of the above categories (i.e. can be a designer, dev, PM, whatever), but it is important for them to be able to relate to others, prioritize ¬†things objectively and not just favor their speciality, and effectively communicate ¬†about issues that fall outside of their areas of expertise.

Everyone on the team is hopefully acting as a “product designer”, but the more they are thinking holistically, as well as doing their specific tasks with excellence, the more they deserve that description.