What Is the Difference Between UI/UX Design and Product Design?

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“UI/UX” and “Product Design” are probably one of the most mentioned words in tech nowadays with a lot of people venturing into the career path, while some others even transition from an existing career into it. This is because of its relevance and applicability in almost everything; digital and tangible products.

Questions about UI/UX and product design are everywhere in search engines as people are curious to know and understand what it entails. Moreso, there are confusions and misconceptions people, however, have about this tech career path.

This article is geared at tackling every confusion and misconception about UI/UX and product design as well as simplifying what it really entails. this is what we’ll discuss;

  1. What is UI Design?

What Is UI (User Interface) Design?

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User Interface applies to digital products, any product that appears on screens (big or small), could be mobile apps or websites. It is basically how a digital product looks and probably feels, it is the display of elements (shapes, texts, colors, etc.) and how they respond on different screens.

UI designs are done with a specific audience (users) in mind. A UI designer carefully considers Who would be using his product, as it will play a huge role in choosing which element to display on their screens and even how to display them. For example, a book site/app should have different “looks” and “feels” from a podcast app because users of both products may/will not relate to the same things.

What Is UX (User Experience) Design?

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The concept of “User Experience” is all about the useability of a product (whether digital or not). During the design process of a product, a UX designer asks the question of HOW; how can the product be used, how can the features of the product be easily accessed without confusion and asking too many questions. Answers to these questions will enable the UX designer to reduce or completely eliminate the useability complexity of a product, thereby making life easy for the users, as they are most likely to have the best experience; they will enjoy using the product.

Meanwhile, a UX designer is also a UI designer, this is to say that they are interdependent. Both designers are trained to function in each other’s shoes (A UI designer possesses the skill of a UX designer and vice versa).

What is Product Design?

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“Product design is the process designers use to blend user needs with business goals, to help brands make consistently successful products”. This definition is very common on the internet and yes, it is very true.

Moreso, in simpler terms; design (with user needs in mind) plus business (designer/company monetary reward) equals Product design.

As much as product designers are very much interested in the user needs and how best to satisfy or proffer the most suitable solution to them, they do not, however, ignore or pay less attention to their reward (monetary) for solving these problems. Except in a rare cases of charity projects, product designers consider and consistently review the market value and relevance of their product (whether digital or tangible). This is to enable them to keep up with the trend and competition in the marketplace.

Take, for instance, Facebook of Meta. There has been almost a constant update on the app’s features over the years, from different “emoji reactions” on posts to the 24-hour-long stories (status, in the case of WhatsApp), then to the “marketplace”. All of these features were not implemented to only enhance the user experience on the app but also to help the product stay in business. That is what product design is all about; it is a wider scope of design as product designers are trained to possess other skills, especially commercial skills.

Distinctions and/or Similarities

At this point of this article, you are probably able to identify the distinction and similarities already but no worries if you haven’t identified any. let’s get to it.

The question as to whether the above three (could be narrowed to just two) design skills are distinct or similar can only be answered according to their job roles, as different companies have different job descriptions for different roles.

However, it is best to generally say that UI/UX and Product design are similar if not the same. They both design to solve users' needs, give users the best experience of a product and simplify the usability of the product but product designers take it to the next level, commercially.

“but product designers take it to the next level, commercially”

As much as this sounds like a distinction, it is not necessarily one. The reason is that UI/UX designers always aspire to get to the “commercially minded product designer” level. It is a design ladder; you cannot be a product designer if you’re not first, a UI/UX designer.

Conclusion

This article has cleared doubts and given clarity to questions and arguments about UI/UX vs Product design.

Further, read;

Difference between a UX designer and a product designer

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