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Product Manager and UX Designer-What's the Difference?

career change Jan 25, 2023

Some argue that there are not many differences between a product manager and a UX designer, while others wholeheartedly disagree. In actuality, there are many similarities and differences between the two roles. A product manager and UX designer both focus on different aspects of product development while requiring a basic understanding of UX design.

If you’re new to the field or are looking to switch roles, then it’s important to know the difference between the two roles. Here at the Guac, we will explore the differences and similarities between the product manager and UX designer jobs in the UX field!


Product Manager and UX Designer-What’s the Difference?

 

Product Manager

Product managers in general are more business oriented and strive to organize the overall design process to eventually meet business goals. They are often responsible for a multitude of tasks and must have an understanding of the basic foundations for UX and UI design to be successful in this role. Ultimately, product managers are responsible for the product vision and carrying it to fruition. 

 

A day in the life of a product manager may include the following responsibilities: 

  • Market and competitor analysis
  • Product development
  • Determining priorities and assigning them to team members
  • Roadmap creation
  • Setting strategy
  • Go-to-market release
  • Monitoring the ongoing performance of a product
  • Help the team stay on track
  • Communicating with various departments and stakeholders
  • Product planning, budgeting, building, and selling 
  • Bug triage
  • Writing user stories
  • Building prototypes
  • Creating product demos

 

It’s important to note that the list of responsibilities may differ depending on where you work (i.e. size of the company) and the product or service you’re working on. 

 

The Path to Product Management 

Product managers stay quite busy and are often trying to balance project deadlines with design quality concerns, technology constraints, and limited resources. It may seem like a lot to be a product manager but if you are someone who loves constant variety, and enjoys the business side of things, this role is for you. To become a product manager, there is no particular set educational path to take. Product managers can come from backgrounds with experience in product management, facilities management, industrial and systems engineering, and business management. 

Product managers must have an understanding of UX principles in addition to strong leadership skills. If this is a career path you are interested in pursuing, then it may be helpful to take on additional projects in which you can develop and showcase your leadership skills. Also, take courses on product management and familiarize yourself with Agile terminology and product management. Knowing how to speak to your experience can be helpful because you’re explaining what you’ve done as a product manager.

Other roles to consider that may help you to transition into the role of product manager could be either a business analyst or an associate product manager. These two roles are entry-level positions but will provide you with the necessary skills to eventually become a product manager. Opportunity is key in the field because you never know when a product manager position will open up due to the constant changing of the field. Product managers can make up to and over $100,000 depending on the company, state, work experience of the employee, and related responsibilities. 



UX Designer

UX designers on the other hand focus on creating the product vision which includes design decisions that impact the relationship between a user and the product. UX designers strive to excel in the customer service department by aiding customers in efficiently using and enjoying the product. The goal of a UX designer is to create a product or service that is usable, functional, and reliable. 

 

A day in the life of a UX designer includes the following responsibilities:

  • Satisfying the needs of users and improving the usability and accessibility of the product
  • User testing
  • Identify pain points
  • Control of the design process
  • Prototyping skills
  • User research and competitor analysis
  • Creating wireframes, user stories, personas, sitemaps, and storyboards
  • Interactive and visual design
  • Creating high-fidelity mockups
  • Journey flows and IA
  • Information Architecture
  • UI knowledge

 

Job responsibilities for a UX designer may differ depending on where you work, the project or service you’re working on, and work experience. 


The Path to UX Design

The number one tip or beginning starting point for those who’re considering a career change is research. Do your research in the UX design field and what different roles are available, and know what your strengths and interests are as well. UX design is perfect for those who are good problem solvers, can empathize with others, are creative, and are strong communicators. Becoming a UX designer provides somewhat more flexibility due to the fact that it doesn’t require you to have coding experience or other skills required as a product manager.

 

Many individuals who are now UX designers came from fields such as psychology, social work, teaching, the humanities, copywriting, and marketing. The next step is considering what method of learning UX design works best for you whether it be attending a formal university, learning through a bootcamp, or through self-teaching. If you choose the UX designer path, then it’s important to note that familiarizing yourself with UX design software will benefit you in the long term. Entry-level UX designers can make anywhere from $70,000 and higher depending on your work experience, the state you live in, job title, and UX skills.



How Do the Roles Overlap?

Despite there being some differences between the two roles there are a few similarities too. Both a product manager and UX designer go through the design thinking process and apply a human-centered approach while doing so. Market research tends to play a big role in both roles along with using similar tools in the design process, persona creation, MVPs, problem-solving, customer journey maps, and creating wireframes. Again, both roles require a deep understanding of UX design and its basic foundations in order to create successful products and services. 



Tricks and Tips to Getting Along

The two roles, product manager and UX designer, typically work well together because of consistent interaction and a mutual understanding of each other’s roles. Both roles realize that they need to work together in order to create a successful product or service. Product managers and UX designers keep each other in line, share the same goals, and understand the value of UX design. However, there are times when conflict may arise but that doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing because conflict can lead to growth. 

 

Some additional tricks and tips to getting along may include writing your own copy, getting familiar with ADO/Jira, connecting with the end users, being prepared to change your designs, talking to the developers, and radical acceptance of the ups and downs. It is helpful for any product manager or UX designer to set a clear strategy, has consistent workflows, use similar vocabulary, ask questions, and communicate from the beginning to decrease the chance of conflict or miscommunication. 

 

The Possibilities are Endless 

Overall, it is safe to say that there are several differences and similarities between the product manager and UX designer roles. Product managers tend to lean on the side of the business while UX designers are more involved in the actual design process. Each role is quite fulfilling and many individuals in the UX design field navigate between the two roles. Either way, you’re looking at a bright future whether you choose to be a product manager or a UX designer. 



Ready to Get Started? Schedule a Free UX Mentorship Session!

At Avocademy, we help students decide if UX design is right for them. Schedule a call with us to start your UX career journey today.  

 

Author:

Meggen is a SEO content writer who loves hiking, drinking coffee, and traveling. She loves her avocados on toast with egg and bacon. 

 

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