UX designer jobs: User experience vs Interaction vs UI vs Product Designer
What are the role and responsibilities of a UX designer, and how does it differ from other similar titles? Let's find out.
So what is the difference between these designer roles and which UX role should I apply to?
It can be overwhelming to sort out various job titles for designers. Titles change often as the field evolves. I can say this with confidence, as I’ve had most of these titles throughout my career.
The roles and responsibilities of all of these roles typically include the following:
- Responsible for the end to end experience for users
- Craft wireframes, flows or any other deliverables that support the experience
- Translate business and technical requirements into a usable design
- Create prototypes to bring design visions to life
- Align cross functional partners around a design solution
To understand the roles better, let’s talk a bit about the history of Visual and Interaction Design.
Visual Designer and Interaction Designer
Before design systems, Interaction Designers and Visual Designers were two different people working in the same interface, but with a different focus.
Interaction designers produced wireframes, flows and schematics, while visual designers focused on branding, color, layouts and iconography to enhance the information on the page.
This approach was a bit waterfall, in that the design would be started by the interaction designer, and handed off to the visual designer, but usually the two designers would sit together to discuss the design and what information was needed to be emphasized with color.
Here’s a real life example of what that looked like. The image on the left is the wireframe which had the general layout and actions from the interaction designer. The image on the right was after a visual designer added color, and tidied up the space to give more prominence to certain elements. Note the spacing and alignment is cleaned up in the visual version.
UX Wireframe example, no visual design
Visual designed UX wireframe
The maturity of design systems collapsed the roles into a single role of UX Designer or Product Designer, since most design systems have visuals embedded within the components (ie: padding and color). However, in some companies these roles are still separated if projects require specialized skill sets. (Especially in agency environments)
The Interaction Designer title is common and has been around for awhile. Interaction in the title refers to the interaction between the user and the system. If you’ve encountered the term Human Computer Interaction, this encompasses how interaction designers think about designing for people in various contexts and environments.
The interaction is captured through a wireframe and translating business and user requirements into an interface design.
Modern day interaction designers go deep in interaction, but are still expected to work within a design system, or compose layouts that make the experience usable.
Their skill set is best used in technical spaces- like a complex mobile app, rather than a marketing website which relies on strong branding and visual elements. Interaction Designer is a common title used at larger companies like Google and Apple.
UI designer or UI/UX designer
This might get confusing, but UI designer (User Interface Designer) was an older title that was an alternate title for interaction designer. Somewhere along the way, the title referred to the visual aspect of the user interface, what you would consider the ‘visual’ or ‘branding’ layer of the user interface. The UI designer title was very common before the UX designer title really became commonplace.
A newer variant is the UI/UX or UX/UI title. The focus on the UI part of the title is to signal that the person applying should have strong visual design skills.
Some reasons for this, is that the role might require more than just working with typical design system components, and you might be creating different visual layouts, or need to work with non-standard grids or develop new layouts or scaling typography across different scenarios.
Designers have different skill sets, and sometimes people really excel at the underlying system and IA design, but aren’t as strong on the visual side.
The tricky part here is that in most cases, the role will still do most of the same things as you would expect from a UX designer, in that you’ll be translating business requirements into interfaces.
Depending on the industry, the role might have a different focus. For example, in gaming, UI designers are more akin to an artist, but in tech roles, it’s more like an interaction designer, UX designer, or product designer.
UX Designer or User Experience Designer is the same as an Interaction Designer, which is the same as a Product Designer. Noticing a theme ;)?
Although there’s no difference in responsibilities between Interaction Designer and UX Designer, the UX Designer title, in my opinion, better expresses the larger role designers have in shaping the end-to-end system.
In practice, as a UX Designer, you are responsible for the entire experience beyond just user interface elements, from how the user onboards onto the product, to their customer support experience. User experience designer (UX Designer) is a common title, and is used at companies like SAP, Apple, and Adobe.
Core responsibilities for UX designers are to develop wireframes, and translate business requirements into usable interfaces working with engineers and product managers to deliver designs.
Product Designer is a new-ish title for user experience, rooted from traditional product design or industrial design. The product designer title reflects modern practices in tech, in that designers should handle all aspects of design, including visual design and interaction design as a generic skill set rather than a specialization.
Design systems cover most use cases, but for cases they don’t cover all of them, the product designer should be able to craft a visually usable design to fill the gaps.
However, In some organizations, product designer titles reflect the visual design side, and are responsible for design systems.
Developing and creating design systems is a different skill set, so you’ll want to check the role responsibilities for the job requirements. The product designer title is used at companies like Meta, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.
The field is adopting this title more, but since product designers have traditionally focused on industrial product design, for example Jony Ive’s role as an industrial designer for Apple’s physical products, it might be slower to get fully adopted.
Which UX job should you apply to?
Apply to all of these UX related job titles.
I’ve had every job title on this list. I’ve been a UI designer, a UX designer, a Product designer, and an Interaction designer.
I had exactly the same core responsibilities: produce wireframes using user centered design methodologies. I’ve even worked on design systems and created design system components and patterns, and I didn’t have an ‘official’ design system title.
I’ve also been a manager, but still had a “Lead” title, rather than “Manager”.
Titles are highly dependent on the company and where the industry is.
Companies have slightly different needs in the kind of skills they’re looking for in their designers. For example, Meta requires a stronger visual design skill set, and candidates are assessed on their visual detail, whereas other companies won’t focus on technical abilities.
The team and project will also dictate the type of skills that are needed. For example, if the company is hiring someone to design a database builder, its possible that the emphasis would be more on the interaction design rather than visual design.
If you’re looking to get into UX, you should feel comfortable applying to any of these job titles. The job requirements should list out anything specific you need to know that’s out of the scope of general responsibilities.
Generally speaking, all of these roles will be similar in the day to day to work, with the exception of highly visual design focused responsibilities like design systems.
I hope that helps! Let me know how your job finding process is going.
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