Product design describes the process of imagining, creating, and iterating products that solve users’ problems or address specific needs in a given market.
The key to successful product design is an understanding of the end-user customer, the person for whom the product is being created. Product designers attempt to solve real problems for real people by using both empathy and knowledge of their prospective customers’ habits, behaviors, frustrations, needs, and wants.
User-experience designers focus on refining a product based on how their research into users behavior suggests people will get the most satisfaction from using the product. UX designers aim to increase users’ happiness.
These designers focus on user research and other data to identify ways to improve a product’s layout, feature set, and visual aesthetic. In other words, their primary role is a scientific one, but they are also designers.
Prototypers are the members of the product team who bring the team’s ideas to a tangible state, to help the company quickly validate with users the product’s features and other characteristics. In a company that makes physical products, prototypers will hand-craft mockups. For digital companies, the prototyping team will develop wireframes or other virtual mockups.
Of course, in many cases a company will hire a person to handle several of the roles above, and others, under a job called Product Designer. In other companies, they’ll handle some of the bigger-picture, strategic elements involved in developing new product ideas. There, other professionals in the organization take responsibility for things like—user research, UX design, information architecture, etc.