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The Differences Between a UX Designer and a Product Manager

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Without a doubt, the role of the Product Manager and the UX Designer overlaps. In UI/UX design, both product managers and UX designers take on the responsibility of constructing a vision and strategy for the product. However, there are also distinct differences that make them both important within the same team.

What is the role of a product manager?

The Product Manager is charged with the duty of building a roadmap towards the overall delivery and success of the product. This includes identifying the features necessary to satisfy user needs and understanding the gaps in the needs of users.

Product managers manage the product itself–this means striking good relationships with different departments of sales, business, technology and other functions. In practical terms, this means that the product manager makes decisions based on the best interest of both the business and the customers.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

What is the role of a UX designer?

The UX designer is tasked with the responsibility of UI and UX of products. This requires UX designers to focus on what the company knows about its customers and translate that into usable features in products.

UX designers are focused on creating customer journey maps, flows, sketches and interface design, involving skills like prototyping, wireframing and user testing. While it varies from company to company, the UX design is often required to ensure the company’s brand and style are applied well in product design to maintain consistency in the overall look and feel.

Where do they converge?

Both product managers and UX designers are concerned with solving problems that users face, which means they both are involved in the process of defining the problem.

The product manager sits at the intersection of business, tech and design, which involves defining the problems to solve for customers that will also coordinate UX design for business. UX designers overlap when they are further defining the problem to solve with a deeper understanding of the design and user implications of solving them.

Apart from that both the product manager and the UX designer are also concerned about understanding the users of the products. Be it interviews, user testing or field study observations, each role is critical in understanding customers and creating key insights from user research.

Divergences between a UX designer and product manager

Although the two roles have much in common, the UX designer focuses on the voice of customers while the product manager needs to balance business and user needs while being mindful of technical constraints.

Product managers undertake the role of business advocates who organise the development process in order to achieve business goals. In that regard, they are responsible for other business-related work such as market and competitor analysis. While the product manager would be involved in every stage of product development, just like the UX designer, the product manager’s role is clear in the organisation of tasks while the UX designer is to ensure the quality and integrity of the solution.

Product management involves taking more responsibilities to communicate with other teams in the organisation, such as sales, marketing and customer support. Unlike UX designers, they help to oversee the overall UX management and the eventual delivery of the product. The success of the product comes under their purview.

On the other hand, the UX designer’s primary scope is focused on the user perspective of the product. Their primary function is to ensure that the product offers a solution with the best experience. This involves intimately understanding user needs, pain points and creating solutions that understand user needs.

As such, the UX designer is heavily involved execution of the product, which the product manager does not get involved in. With the end-user in mind, the UX designer carries out test designs, prepares sketches for the blueprint, creates wireframes, researches and comes up with prototypes–in other words, they handle most of the visual design for product development. In that regard, UX is focused on the delivery and execution of the design and is less accountable for the product success.

Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash

Collaboration between the two roles

When roles between the UX designer and the product manager is properly defined, stunning products can be created. In sum, UX Designers work on the expression of the idea, while Product Managers look into the execution of the idea.

UX designers embody the vision of the company in the interface based on knowledge of user behaviour while always bearing in mind business objectives. A UX Designer assesses the experience of users and designs a possible solution to their problems. Where the Product Managers handle the delivery of the product with the perfect timing. They facilitate cooperation between people across different functions and translate user problems into requirements into tasks.

Ultimately, teams will be more successful when both roles are present and complimentary–it helps to cover more ground in the product development phase.

Each situation and every company will be different. The important thing is to establish clear communication and responsibilities between the UX designer and the product manager to ensure that everyone is aligned in their respective roles.