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UX vs UI vs product design and other names

Last updated: May 5, 2022 Reading time: 10 min

In a nutshell

The world of digital interface design is full of terms that sometimes describe the same thing, in this article I explain the most common ones.

This article is part of another ⚠️

If this is your first visit here, welcome 👋 . Please note that this article is part of a more global one: Getting started in UX/UI Design, a comprehensive guide. Although it is not essential, I still recommend to start there first if you are new to UX/UI Design.

Table of contents

Welcome to the jungle of terms

As we saw in the previous article (The history and definition of UX/UI Design), UX/UI Design is a rapidly evolving field, and when that’s the case, there is often a profusion of terms to sometimes describe the same thing.

Comic of a hyped designer who describe his job in an endless list of shiny terms

Ultimately, each company or person may have their own definition of a term, and that’s a problem because as there is not necessarily a precise consensus on these, you may define yourself as an experienced UX/UI Designer and come across an offer for a position, which asks for things you don’t know, or not read another one with the title “UX Designer” when in fact for this company “UX Designer” = “UX/UI Designer”.

That said, this festival of terms is of course common to other professions, like developers for example. This means that in UX/UI Design you have to be always ready to learn new things and question yourself.

To make sure I’m giving you the right definitions, I’ve analyzed a lot of job postings by comparing the job titles with the required skills. You can see the raw data here: UX UI Job offers list (you’ll find them in other articles of mine).

UX/UI Designer

Designer who deals with the structure and visual layout of a digital application, we saw the history of the field in the previous article and I describe its skills in the following article.

By the way, do we write “UX/UI” or “UI/UX”? Both are used but I prefer the first one, more info here: Do we write “UI/UX” or “UX/UI”?.

UX Designer

Designer specialized in the user experience of products or services, in the physical or digital world. He must understand the target users in order to structure the product or service accordingly. This term of UX is however confusing because for some UX = only digital products and for others not, I talk about this in the point below (CX Designer).

UI Designer

Designer specialized in the visual rendering of digital interface, his work starts on a structure already defined upstream, often a wireframe or a user flow. As for the UX, there is enough to specialize in, between the rules in the use of colors, fonts, spacing, responsive design, understanding the functioning of different types of screens, rules of accessibility, mastering many tools (Figma, Protopie, Illustrator etc.) and more. The list is long and growing as the field evolves. I list in detail the UX and UI skills in the following article.

Product designer

The difference with the UX/UI Designer is that the product designer is more involved in the product vision and strategy of the company. Where a UX Designer could for example only do scientific research on users without being too interested in the product, with the term “product designer”, it is clear that the Product will have a more important place.

Note that for some, UX/UI Designer = product designer, and it is more logical in an Agile context with the Product Owner to say Product Designer. Moreover, in many job offers it’s often the same skills that are asked, whether the position is called UX/UI Design or product design.

However, in my case, I still prefer the term “UX/UI Designer” because for me, it retains the meaning of two areas combined in one job and ultimately, it is better for a company that can afford it, to have one experienced UX Designer and one UI Designer rather than two product designers who should work on both UX and UI.

Digital product designer

Variant to make it clear that you are not a DIY furniture designer 🇸🇪 .

CX Designer

This term has recently appeared, because for many people, UX Design = digital products. Although originally, UX encompasses all types of products and services.

CX Design (for “Customer eXperience”) then appeared to designate the whole experience of a person with a company, both on interactions and long-term relationships. That said, in this context, the UX Designer is actually also a CX Designer, but specialized in digital. The CX Designer has in common with the UX Designer to, among other things, do research on users and observe them to draw conclusions. That said, the CX Designer can, for example, for a new fast-food restaurant, propose a different layout of the space or a better order taking. The CX Design of a whole company is important, because even if the UX of their digital products is at the top, if for example the customer service is not at the level, the image takes a hit.

This article from the Nielsen Norman Group sums it up well.

UX Researcher

Unlike the UX Designer, the UX Researcher will focus more on collecting and analyzing user data (who are they? What do they want? Why do they want it? Etc.) as well as discovering and experimenting with UX principles, rather than on designing wireframes and other user flows. This is for me a specialization of the UX Designer that is more scientific than design.

Visual designer

Similar to the graphic designer, but more focused on the visual assets of applications and websites (the graphic designer is more into logos, flyers, banners, etc.).

I include this skill in the UI Design although it is often more appropriate, in the context of illustrations, to call upon a professional illustrator for a more qualitative result (you’ve probably already opened a mobile application with beautiful illustrations in the intro and inevitably, it gives a good boost to the UX).

Be careful though, some recruiters include a bit of everything under this term, like graphic designer or UX/UI Designer.

Interaction designer

Another term for UX/UI Design. That said, for some, it is a specialized designer, who makes sure that users’ interactions with the product meet their needs in a fluid way and in a logical order, that transitions between screens are smooth and even with beautiful animations.

Personally I include it in the know-how of a UX/UI Designer and it is so in most of the positions, but it seems that there are designers who only do that (it is not very common in my opinion).

Information architect

Specialized in the distribution of information of an application or a site for example. I include it in the know-how of a UX Designer or a UX/UI Designer.

Graphic designer

As a UX/UI Designer, you should not (in theory) do pure graphic design, that is: no design of brochures, signage, logos, packaging, web banners, etc.

But the border can be blurred, especially if you are a UI Designer, knowing how to make logos is a plus and not too far from your skills, especially since you share some of them with the graphic designer like the choice of typography or colors and use the same software (Illustrator for example). That said, a logo is most often part of a graphic charter. A serious company will then rather call upon a graphic designer experienced in this field rather than its UX/UI Designer.

UX/UI graphic designer digital marketer (and enthusiastic developer) 🦄

So in an ideal world, recruiters know what UX/UI Design is and ask for realistic skills. But that’s not the case and you’ll come across many offers that will ask you to do development and marketing on top of that (and hopefully it will be an internship #awesome). I’ll talk more about this in this article: How to recognize a good UX/UI Design job offer?

To keep the momentum going

Now that we’ve got the various terms cleared up, it’s time to dig into the subject and look in detail at what is done in UX and UI, i.e. the tasks of a UX/UI Designer. It’s this way:

Doko Zero avatar

Doko Zero
UI Designer with UX and web development skills

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