A smooth and well-functioning relationship between Product Managers and UX Designers is essential for the product, the users, and the business.
While product management and UX design are not the same thing, they are complementary. An alignment of the two is inevitable for those who want to ship an excellent product on both the user-side and the business side. Product managers who ignore their users will never deliver great products and UXers who neglect the business side of their mission will find themselves creating experiences without users.
Although Product Managers and UXers have different responsibilities, with product managers being in charge of organising and optimising the product life cycle and UXers living and breathing for the users, the two roles have important overlaps and common points. Ultimately, they share a common goal of solving a problem for their users based on knowledge about what drives them and why a particular solution would be good for business. However, while product managers are interested in why a certain product should be built (based not only on user research but also on market research), UXers’s top focus is on the how.
Top 7 tips on how to keep Product Management and UX aligned!
1) Be two-in-one. This does not mean that the Product Manager and the UXer need to be the same person, or that one of the roles is redundant. Far from it. However, if Product Managers can learn and incorporate a UX mindset they have half the job done. It will make the product strategy easier to align with UX since a user perspective has been included from the beginning and it will make it easier to communicate and give feedback to UXers during sprints and meetings.
2) Invest in setting a solid strategy for your product and use UX to implement solutions that align with that strategy. When the goal is defined, clear and well explained, you won’t need to micromanage UXers. No one likes to leave their brain at the office door, and the last thing you want is a UXer who doesn’t dare to innovate and try new solutions. Also, giving mockups do designers before they have had a chance to give it a go themselves can result in uncreative, biased designs.
3) Own your product strategy. For example, as a Product Manager you might not want to solve every single problem experienced by your users. Some might be vital for your product to thrive, but others might be trivial and experienced only by a small segment of your users. In these cases, the product strategy is the guideline.
4) Get to know your users from both product and UX side. One of the most important common points between Product Managers and UXers is the need for solid user research. Although the perspective might differ, both have to keep their eyes on the prize here. Common issues like an overload of CTAs, prototyping without personas, and a neglect of the motion aesthetics, can be avoided if you integrate UX into product management. Enter the discovery phase together, set up research goals, and plan the user study in collaboration.
5) Accept (and embrace) the overlap between roles. Whether it is personas, identifying needs, MVPs, validating features, experiments or customer problems, there will be many areas where the Product Manager and the UXer stir the same pot. This is not a problem if you focus on skills, rather than roles. A Product Manager with great wireframe skills might not need this from a UXer, but perhaps there is a different area that needs to be strengthened? Don’t let roles get in the way of the best person for the job actually doing it.
6) Keep the relationship happy. When you are collaborating with a UX team, give well-considered and constructive feedback. Learn the UX language and communicate in a way they understand. There will inevitably be iterations needed on both sides and the communication channels have to be kept neat and clear for the product not to suffer.
7) Be data-driven. No matter how ugly you think a design or a solution is, you are not (necessarily) the target audience and, as such, your opinion should not matter. Use UX to detect what your real target users like and dislike and find solutions that make them, not you, happy. Also, never assume, think or believe. Do your UX research well, prototype and test, and let the data generated lead you in the right direction.
Why Does this Matter?
Great product managers are master project leaders. They are knowledgeable about the market, they set clear strategies with both business and users in mind, they communicate these strategies clearly to all relevant stakeholders (including UX designers), they create a good culture where feedback and failing fast is allowed and encouraged, they respect deadlines and they deliver great quality on time. Great UXers understand Product Managers, respect their vision and design products that solve issues for users while still keeping alignment with the overall product strategy. UXers are to the expression of an idea what Product Managers are to its execution.
Ultimately, the surest way to establish a good relationship – in life and in product management – is taking in the perspective of the other person. This can only be done by learning the language of the other and keeping an open mind. If Product Managers learn to speak UX, they will already have come far along the road to creating amazing products.