The role of a product designer has developed hugely over the years and the scope of what we do has broadened dramatically. We’re now responsible not just for aesthetics and interaction but the overall user experience and potential success of our products.

Our roles have naturally developed to be far more business-oriented, using analysis and research to inform and validate our design and business decisions.

The skills and techniques required in the design process are more advanced than ever, making it increasingly more difficult for designers to keep up with and excel at everything.

There are many talented design specialists out there, leading new ways of thinking and working, but the reality is that many designers are still stretched across multiple disciplines.

This post aims to outline the various roles and responsibilities within product design to help businesses understand what they need and designers to decide what they want.


Analysing the customer experience using qualitative (user interviews and usability testing) and quantitative (data and analytics) research methods to form a realistic understanding of the current product offering is an essential part of the product development.

This type of structured analysis allows companies to make informed decisions about how to provide user value, and in turn, grow their business.


  • Recruitment - Creating participant screeners, communication & logistics
  • Customer interviews - Defining goals, planning and running the session
  • Analysis & identification of user needs
  • Persona creation
  • Customer journey mapping
  • Creation of data analysis specifications
  • Stakeholder presentation of research findings & prioritised recommendations

Product planning

Working closely with stakeholders and product owners, providing insight into customer behaviour, guiding focus and planning product features.


  • A strong understanding of the business and customer behaviour
  • Information architecture
  • Feature definition & prioritisation
  • User story creation
  • Workshop coordination

Design thinking

Design thinking is the term used to describe the practical, creative processes of designers during problem solving, reignited by IBM’s recent introduction to IBM Design Thinking. At Novoda, we tend to use this term to describe the tasks that take place between feature planning and visual design, further defining user stories and sketching storyboards and screens that satisfy the user stories.


  • User story definition: Data variations & edge-cases
  • Storyboard creation
  • Interface sketching


Creating prototypes is a great way to quickly get a feel for how users will interact with your product and to highlight any usability problems early in the process. It presents a low-cost opportunity to test your prototype with users prior to development. With the introduction of great tools such as Invision, POP, Pixate and Principle, prototyping for mobile couldn’t get much easier.


  • User journey prototyping
  • Interaction and transition prototyping

Usability testing

Usability testing allows us to challenge and validate our design decisions prior to public release. Testing regularly throughout the development process allows us to surface and react to any usability issues early and release our products with confidence.


  • Recruitment - Creating participant screeners, communication & logistics
  • Forming hypotheses and testing goals
  • Creation of test plans
  • Session moderation
  • Session analysis
  • Stakeholder presentation of research findings & prioritised recommendations based on the severity of usability issues

Interaction design

Meaningful transitions and reactive interfaces guide the user's attention and communicate hierarchy, progress and achievement. Motion and interaction are now recognised as leading principles in product design. Google’s Material Design Guidelines and Apple's Human Interface Guidelines offer some very helpful guidance on how motion should be used to enhance the user experience of our products.


  • Knowledge of platform design patterns
  • Motion design
  • Creation of view states

Visual design

Visual design plays an intrinsic role in the creation of our products. We use colour, hierarchy, iconography and typography to communicate and provide feedback to the user, enhancing usability, brand perception and the overall emotional response of our users.


  • Knowledge of platform design patterns
  • Layout: Colour, imagery, typography, elevation & hierarchy
  • Iconography
  • Illustration
  • Effective design implementation handover and development review (graphic assets, design specs/exports, communication and design-developer pairing)


The art of crafting effective communication through type is one of the most challenging jobs in product design. Especially when designing for small devices, there is a necessity to communicate effectively with fewer words.


  • Effective communication
  • Consideration of layout constraints
  • Consideration of language variation

Now, of course, we require more than these practical skills to be a successful product designer. We need the ‘soft skills’ too; empathy, curiosity, fearlessness and self-awareness will all help us to understand our users, put our ideas to the test and drive us to create exceptional products. We also need the ability to be methodical and pragmatic in our ways of working and analytical in our ways of thinking.

We all have individual strengths and disciplines of design where our personalities are most suited, whether that’s research, creativity or process. Our roles are determined by individual skillsets and interests, the size and workload of our design teams and the skills required by the business. It’s important for us to recognise our individual skillsets and work within an environment that can nurture and benefit us and the business.