In the ever-evolving information technology industry, the position of a product designer is becoming increasingly important, because this profession, in fact, shapes the digital experience of users and customers. Product designers play a critical role in translating ideas into cohesive, attractive and functional projects, ultimately influencing the achievement of business goals through the interactions and perceptions of the product with the audience. The purpose of this article is to delve into the multifaceted field of product design, study its intricacies and differences from related roles, and also understand what hard and soft skills will be relevant for this profession.

Who is a product designer and what is he responsible for in IT?

A product designer is a specialist who takes responsibility for developing the design around the entire product. At its core, product design is about creating digital experiences that resonate with users. These professionals act as a bridge between creative vision and technical execution, carefully considering user needs, business goals, and technology constraints. Their responsibilities include ideation, prototyping, and collaboration with cross-functional teams to ensure the final product meets business requirements and meets user expectations.

Product design includes a large layer of work with customer experience – a specialist must understand the product, the business and its tasks, as well as its audience. An important task is to maintain a constant, consistent visual approach, from the user’s first interaction with the product to the interface and specific actions that the user takes.

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

Although the terms “product designer,” “product manager,” and “UI/UX designer” are often used interchangeably, they represent different aspects of the product development process. Product management involves making strategic decisions, defining roadmaps, and ensuring alignment with business goals. UX designers focus primarily on the user interface and experience, with an emphasis on visual aesthetics and interaction design. The position of a product designer differs from a regular UX designer in that he has an increased level of responsibilities and area of responsibility – he can and must make important decisions for the product development. For example, a UX designer responsible for an application or an ordering website makes sure that certain tasks are completed easily and simply so that the visuals look beautiful. The product designer begins work at the stage when the project is not released to users. He conducts analytics and builds audience interaction with the product from the very beginning. For example, a specialist understands how to correctly lead a user, which advertising will be visually most relevant and meets the business’s messages. He will also be responsible for ensuring that the user has a single correct experience of interacting with the product both offline and online, precisely from the point of view of the visual component.

Main tasks of a product designer

A product designer must be able to plan the subsequent project iterations, analyse user behaviour and feedback, argue what should be included in the next release in terms of new features, and build a strategic development plan. For a product designer, a high CSI (Customer Satisfaction Index) score is important so that the client is happy and his level of satisfaction and commitment to the product increases. For this purpose, various metrics are used: they measure how often people return, how much time they spend on the site, conduct surveys, what they like and what they don’t. Digital indicators and user satisfaction are his area of responsibility. In some cases, he also leads a team of designers, so the specialist must have well-developed skills in this area.

The importance of a product designer on a project

It is important to note that it is the product designer who maintains the consistency of all decisions throughout the entire product development cycle. You need to understand that we are talking about “playing the long game” – the product lives for a long time, and it is the product designer who must accumulate and store all the knowledge about the product, always be in the context of what happened before, what were the good or bad decisions, how the product developed. 

It happens that a client turns to a freelancer, the freelancer designs the site and leaves the project, then time passes, some updates are required, a new specialist is brought in and makes his own changes. As a result, it turns out that the product does not have a consistent approach to its implementation; the design and solutions turn out to be very different, and sometimes even far from the original concept. Ideally, there should be a product designer on the project, who in turn will have a team of designers (illustrator, animator, UX, etc.), and he is the one who makes sure that no matter what work is being done, the product adheres to style and a unified concept – this is, perhaps, the main difference between a product designer and other roles.

How does a product designer develop a product and how does it support it after release?

Usually, before launching, a product designer also takes on market research tasks: researching competitors, doing comparative analysis. A specialist must be able to offer and justify competitive advantages that can be used in further promotion. In addition, he conducts user research – collects a portrait of clients in order to clearly define their needs and goals. In essence, there are similar tasks to business analytics, but specifically from the point of view of user experience and perception. This research phase usually takes about a month.

After launch, it is important to continue to improve the product with each new release. Therefore, the main task for a product designer will be to directly “live with the product” and support its life cycle. As soon as the product is released, various measurements begin – user reaction to the product, what has become worse, what is better, how to improve this or that part, etc. And based on this analytics, the product designer must implement the necessary adjustments to improve the product.

Is a product designer a team player?

For successful product development, interaction both within your team and within related teams – business analysts, architects, product owners, etc. is extremely important. For example, if the product owner decides to change the product or add new features, then the product designer is also responsible for this. He must agree with the product owner so that innovations fall within the expectations of users, the budget, justify investments for changes, or, on the contrary, dissuade the owner from them if he sees that they will not benefit the business. That’s why it’s so important to be able to negotiate and plan together for different iterations of the product.

Necessary skills for the position of product designer and career growth

Starting a career as a product designer requires a good combination of creativity and analytical thinking. In addition to an aesthetic eye, product designers must have a deep understanding of user behaviour, market trends, and technological advancements. Beginner specialists have to go through a difficult but interesting path. From balancing the delicate interplay between creativity and practicality to adapting to rapidly evolving technology, the journey requires resilience and a commitment to continuous learning. In addition, it is important to note the fact that a person in this position must be committed to a long-term relationship with the product/client.

Among the soft skills, the following skills will be necessary: communication, empathy, team management, negotiation skills, presentation skills, since you will have to justify the changes introduced to the product, budget expenditure, etc. In addition, the ability not to burn out on long-term projects is also important – if this is not the case, then this position, in general, will not suit the person.

Among the hard skills, you need experience as a UX designer – at least 5-7 years. Experience in business analytics and strong analytical skills will be good indicators, since this profession is a kind of merging of the profession of a business analyst and a UX designer. Experience with project documentation will also be a plus. For example, the team may not have a business analyst, then the product designer will be responsible for maintaining documentation and describing the user story and project processes.

A product designer is a kind of accumulator of all knowledge about a product; he accumulates a base on the basis of which the product is developed. The position of a product designer is usually approached through experience as a UX designer on projects of varying levels, complexity and duration. In the first stages of a product position, a specialist will most likely focus on studying the product’s audience and competitors, managing the team, gaining experience and maintaining product consistency. Over time, the more a product designer develops, the more he delves into technical and architectural constraints, as well as into the field of business analysis, thereby developing as a professional and expanding his vision for the product.

Pavel Gavrilov, Head of Design Department *instinctools

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