What (the heck) is a UX/Product designer?

April Shin

· 4 min read

It’s been about two years since I decided to become a UX designer and gained experiences from both academia and industry about the field. During this journey, I was asked exactly the same questions more than 100 times, seriously, without exaggeration:

  • What (the heck!!!) is a UX designer?
  • What are the essential skills that UX designers need?
  • How can I prepare to become a UX designer from a non-design background?

So, I’ve decided to start a series of three articles answering them. As for the first article, it will cover “What is a UX/Product designer?” mainly talking about their actual roles in the field. Just to note, everything here is totally coming from my short period of personal experience and learning!

I hope this article will be helpful, especially for readers 1) who want to be UX designers in the near future and 2) who are simply wondering what the roles of UX designers are.

If you’ve ever noticed anything about this industry’s job titles, the following terms are commonly used:

  • UX designer
  • Product designer
  • Experience designer
  • Interaction designer

From my experience, UX designer = Product designer = Experience designer. Interaction designers might be a little bit different as they focus more on the interaction itself, but still interaction designer does a part of what UX designer does.

If you are wondering why they are named differently, I would answer: different companies have various ways of naming the (mostly) same roles. See the image I created below.

UX designers design things that highly focus on “products.” They closely work on cross-functional teams, mainly consisting of project managers, researchers, data scientists, and engineers. They should draw insights to identify user needs and problems with researchers, discuss with a project manager to incorporate business strategies, and talk to engineers to consider technical feasibility. They may also need to work with content strategists, marketers, legal teams, etc. The role requires a lot of interaction with people.

Therefore, they work down from user research to a complete guideline of the design solution.

Many people told me that they are confused about the difference between a graphic designer and a UX designer, or some people assume that they are the same. However, in the real industry, I see a clear difference between these two. Graphic designers often focus more on actual design work. They take charge of the visual design crafting the ideas and proposals, collaborating with UX Designers to elicit the best visual outcomes. It is, of course, common to see graphic designers become UX designers, but what I would like to say here is: there IS a difference between these two roles.

Because we need someone to bridge the gap between technology, business, and end-users. As we are living in a society that’s highly technologized, countless new ideas and technologies come out on a daily basis.

However, technology builders have a hard time bringing such technology to the end-users, which do not do a perfect job in keeping users to consume technology and gain benefits from it. Likewise, unlike the past, as many businesses interact with consumers through apps or the web, business people also need someone who can connect their business ideas to consumers through the great web or app experience.

So back to the question of why UX designer matters these days, it’s because they are the people who actually bridge the gap between technology, business, and user, a.k.a. the consumer.

For me, UX design is a “strategy.” UX designers should design a solution that can both solve the company’s business goals and user problems in the most efficient way, a.k.a. with the most effective strategy. Therefore, in order to become an impactful designer, I believe developing product thinking, and business insight and acumen is crucial while having hard skills is also important.

In the following article, I will address the essential skills that UX designers should have. Stay tuned!

Categorized as UX

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