A product designer is in charge of translating the needs of your target market into a quality user experience. Read about the role and its responsibilities here.
Product designers are the masterminds of any well-functioning product. They are responsible for making sure the product addresses its target market’s needs and preferences. It’s their job to make sure users have an enjoyable, friction-free experience while using the product.
A large part of this responsibility includes having the ability to understand customer problems and finding meaningful and engaging solutions.
In this article, we define what a product designer does and how they fit into product development. We’ll also identify the most important traits to look for in a potential product design hire.
Table of contents
- What is a Product Designer?
- What are the Roles and Responsibilities of a Product Designer?
- What should you look for in a Product Designer?
- Product designers: The creative problem solvers behind every product’s look and feel
What is a Product Designer?
A product designer is responsible for the user experience of a product. They translate your defined product goals into a tangible and interactive product design. Whether during the initial design or proof-of-concept stages, they convert ideas into wireframes and mockups that fulfill the needs and expectations of the product’s intended users.
Product designers take direction from business goals and objectives, but they also make sure that products are visually pleasing to use. They employ their design backgrounds to help improve the aesthetics of the product interface at every turn.
What are the Roles and Responsibilities of a Product Designer?
The product designer uses a wide array of design tools to create UX-related solutions. They have several kinds of deliverables that vary depending on the stage of the product development process in which they’re operating. Some of these include the following:
- User journey maps
- Design Mockups
Let’s go over each and see how they serve your product development process as a whole.
User Journey Maps
A large part of the product designer’s job is to map out the user journey, or the collection of experiences that a user has as they engage with a product. You can think of a user journey map as the high-level version of a story map. The difference is that story maps visualize the specific features that will be included in a product. On the other hand, journey maps describe the emotions, motivations, and needs of a user at each stage.
Product designers build journey maps by coordinating with stakeholders and users through special structured workshops. As a result, the visualization can greatly assist in guiding product development teams in the creation of a high-quality user experience.
Wireframes, sometimes called key screens, are low-fidelity visualizations of the product’s interface. They’re called wireframes because they often consist of nothing more than boxes, fields, text, and simple icons. Product designers might even draft wireframes with nothing more than a pen and piece of paper.
Wireframes are designed to be created and evaluated very quickly by the product development and design team. Because wireframes convey very simple, basic ideas of the interface, bad ideas can easily be identified and separated from good ideas.
As good interface ideas emerge from the mass of generated wireframes, the product designer may transform these into prototypes of varying fidelity. These prototypes might be as simple as cardboard cutouts, or as complex as interactive, clickable designs.
The purpose of these prototypes is to convey a design solution to a test audience, composed of testers or user focus groups, in an interactive way that represents how users would actually interface with the finished product.
Towards the end of the design phase, the product designer delivers high-fidelity design mockups, which represent the final appearance of the product. They illustrate design elements, font and typography use, colors and contrast, and other details. These mockups will serve as directions for your product developers. They then translate the product designer’s mockups into final code.
What should you look for in a Product Designer?
If you’re a product manager, you may already know what to look for in a UI/UX designer. Strong design skills, visual communication, and interaction design chops are among the essential skills you’d want to see in your UI/UX designers.
Similarly, a product designer should have these skills, as well. However, they’re also a leader in the design process for your product. So they must have some additional skills, above and beyond those of a UI/UX expert, in order to excel and create a truly great product.
The ideal skills a product designer should have include:
Product design is an extremely people-oriented field. A product designer must possess empathy and active listening skills in order to effectively uncover user pain points and apply feedback accordingly. Product designers often host focus groups, surveys, and feedback sessions. That means they must also be strong communicators in order to convey ideas and manage the people involved in testing.
Collaboration and Communication
Product designers must also be great collaborators, as the work they do, by its very nature, is collaborative. They must work with users to understand their needs and acquire feedback and collaborate with product teams to implement their design vision.
Good Grasp of Information Architecture
A great product designer isn’t just in charge of the usability of the interface and the visual appearance of the overall product. They must also have a strong understanding of information architecture, or how content is organized in your software product.
A product designer with the skillset of an information architect will be able to maximize the accessibility of information to any user. Through an intimate understanding of the user journey, they’ll know what kind of information and content a user needs at any moment, and arrange the structure of your content accordingly.
Strong Understanding of Accessibility
Accessibility is no longer merely a value-added bonus for users—it’s an essential component of product design. 15% of the entire population has some form of disability, and excluding accessibility from your design philosophy means excluding that 15% from your market share.
An ideal product designer will therefore be fully aware of accessibility standards for products. This will allow them to design for various kinds of users, who may include:
- Color-blind or visually-impaired users who might not be able to read low-contrast text, or text of certain color combinations
- Profoundly visually-impaired users who need screen readers
- Hearing-impaired users who cannot understand audio prompts without closed captions
Product designers: The creative problem solvers behind every product’s look and feel
Above all, a product designer is a problem solver. They’re faced with the problem of a product’s usability, and they come up with creative solutions informed by their design experience, user research and feedback, and their own background.
Choosing the right product designer should then be a matter of selecting a candidate who has the right experience and skillset to realize the best ideas, and who can collaborate effectively with both users and their product team to create truly brilliant user experiences.