The main difference between a client-based UI designer and a product-based UI designer boils down to the work environment and the overall product lifecycle they focus on.

Client-based UI designer:

  • Works for agencies or freelance gigs
  • Designs interfaces for various clients across different industries
  • Focuses on translating client needs and brand guidelines into user interfaces
  • May have limited involvement in the user experience (UX) research and testing phases
  • Projects are typically shorter-term

Product-based UI designer:

  • Works for companies that build and sell their own software products
  • Designs interfaces for a specific product or product line
  • Has a bigger role in the entire design process, including UX research, prototyping, and user testing
  • Works closely with product managers, UX designers, and engineers to create a holistic user experience
  • Projects are typically longer-term with a focus on continuous improvement

Here’s a table summarizing the key differences:

FeatureClient-based UI DesignerProduct-based UI Designer
Work environmentAgency or freelanceSoftware product company
ClientsMultiple, across industriesSingle product or product line
FocusClient needs and brandingUser experience (UX)
Involvement in UXLimitedExtensive
Project durationShorter-termLonger-term

So, if you enjoy variety and working on different projects with distinct branding needs, then the client-based route might be a good fit. But if you prefer to delve deeper into a single product, focusing on user research and crafting a seamless user experience, then the product-based path might be more appealing.