Product Manager roles vs. UX Director roles

I’m in the process of moving from being a UX Director to being a Product Manager.

Along the way, I found it quite interesting just how similar the two roles often are, at least based on the job description. Others considering switching between the two roles might find this useful – in fact, as soon as I posted that I was making that move, someone messaged me to ask about the difference!

I may write more about the overlap once I actually start as a product manager, but for now, here’s a quick look at some of the similarities and differences in job descriptions between the two, taken from a few different job postings (listed at the end).

Note: both roles are defined fairly differently from company to company, so always read descriptions carefully. And take this with a grain of salt, as these are based on just a handful of examples.

Similarities

Both UX and product management include being customer-focused and working effectively with cross-functional teams.

If I didn’t label these, could you guess which one they came from? 

Product Manager:

  • “Developing a deep knowledge of the Customer. All of their issues, pains, desires—how they think.”
  • “Developing a deep knowledge of the Data. What were the customers doing yesterday?”
  • “Solid understanding of user experience design patterns, web technologies, and the intellectual curiosity to learn more.”
  • “Facilitate a strong partnership with cross-functional team members including Sales, Marketing, Business Development, Engineering, Customer Support and Finance.”
  • “Responsible for external customer requirements gathering – what are the customer needs, requirements, and budgetary limits – and representing the voice of the customer internally.”
  • “Work closely with the Sales Team to understand buyer personas, sales trends, and the competitor landscape”

UX Director (or similar title):

  • “Work closely with Product, Engineering and Designers to craft a design strategy that supports our customer’s growing needs for all web and mobile initiatives.”
  • “Collaborate with stakeholders in digital, product, engineering, marketing and channels to drive product strategy, aid in the development of product roadmaps and forge remarkable digital experiences.”
  • “Be the user-advocate by driving and evangelizing the use of behavioral analytics, voice of customer feedback and usability testing; advocate for the customer in all decisions with product and engineering.”
  • “Lead a research and discovery program that identifies unmet needs and provides the insights, analytics, research and user testing needed to establish the vision, validate the direction and turn strategy into action.”

Differences

There are, of course, many distinctions between the two roles. Depending on the description, product management positions may emphasize ROI and financial commitments more so than UX director positions. The competition and market conditions are also mentioned more often for a product manager.

Product managers may be expected to manage third party relationships in some cases. They also are more likely to be the ones developing business requirements / user stories

Pricing and packaging may fall under the product manager’s purview, as does coordinating activities around product launch and go-to-market strategy.

UX directors, on the other hand, have an emphasis on leading and improving the design team. They also ‘own’ the consistency of the UX experience across products/platforms, as well as being responsible for the quality of the UX deliverables

UX directors are sometimes involved in planning, estimating, and hitting deadlines for various UX activities.

Product Manager:

  • “Lead the creation of the overall product vision, strategy, program backlog, roadmap and ROI to deliver differentiated commercial SaaS solutions based on market, competitive conditions and customer needs.”
  • “Perform competitive, market trend, technology, business model and other external analyses. Assist with business case definition, justification and validation”
  • “Builds product line strategy and execution plan to deliver on financial and customer commitments collaborating cross-functionally at all levels of the organization.”
  • “Independently develops and manages relationships with OEMs, third parties, and other external industry professionals.”
  • “Designs product packaging, pricing, and name to distinguish product line(s) from other [company] products in line with the product’s value proposition.”
  • “Will develop product launch and go-to-market strategy to drive customer adoption, work with appropriate internal groups for marketing collateral, customer education, incentives, internal operations enablement.”
  • “Will develop business requirements documentation and value proposition design based on the customer journey.”
  • “Create and deliver sales enablement content and training to the sales teams to successfully compete and win business”

UX Director (or similar title):

  • “Build, lead and mentor a team of designers and set them on a path for success.”
  • “Build out and lead a multi-disciplinary in-house studio of designers, experience strategists, interface designers and researchers committed to transforming… services with creativity, rigor and data.”
  • “Champion for design thinking… develop and use design thinking tools and frameworks for organizational transformation and to raise the bar for UX/UI design knowledge, expertise and application.”
  • “Model continuous learning mindset and teach new skills/capabilities by monitoring consumer trends, attending workshops, joining professional groups and mentoring others in UX methodologies.”
  • “Deliver compelling UI solutions, UX approaches and patterns for a consistent user experience”
  • “Own the end-to-end UX design process and deliverables from vision and strategy through to delivery including the creation of journey maps, user flows, wireframes, prototypes and development-ready assets.”
  • “Manage multiple projects, allocate resources and meet deadlines in an agile framework.”
  • “Lead and/or contribute to budgets and planning for digital research, discovery, UX and design.”

Job Postings

These quotes came from the following job postings:

Let me know what you think!

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