Product Manager, What you need to know about UX Design
Design has never been more important than it is today.
Products win or lose, and the (ruthless) market decides, judging the user experience.
The product manager is increasingly influenced by design.
Google has redesigned its entire Product Team by employing UX designers all over the world.
They have applied the values of UX (User Experience) to the whole organisation.
On several occasions, Larry Page (when he was CEO of Google) said that his main task was to make sure that all products had an unprecedented UX.
YouTube, Airbnb, Flipboard, Square, Pinterest, Uber, Slack, Dropbox, all successful products that went through a great User Experience Design process.
Are you really going to ignore this? Probably not.
Either you have the courage to take UX seriously, or you lose everything.
UX Design is not about making products beautiful.
It means making them work well to meet the needs of the people who have to use them.
To achieve this goal, you need the skills of:
The first, UX Designer, has the goal of finding what customers need through research, studies and analysis. (This can often be a separate person, called UX Researcher).
He or she then uses this information to create and test the first workflows by wireframing, which can be interactive or static prototypes.
It is usually at this stage that User Interface Designers start to deliver the most value.
They can help transform the experience into something unique through visual design, colour, typography, layout and branding.
It’s not enough to lock designers in a room and wait for them to come up with the best solution.
It’s likely to happen, and you might even like it.
But remember that the best validation has to come from the market.
Make sure you test it as early as possible with end users.
Running the risk of being convinced that the solution is only right for us, so the product may not work once launched.
There is this general misconception that UX Design is about making the product ‘beautiful’.
But nothing could be further from the truth.
There is actually a lot of science involved in designing a product.
Designers risk being seen as those who “create problems and slow down processes”.
But this is not the case at all.
If you involve a User Experience Design team in time, they can help you identify the main critical points to focus on.
This is very useful when launching a new product, which has to be done in phases starting from an MVP.
Furthermore, a UX Design team allows you to innovate.
It allows you to find new solutions to numerous problems.
Often users can find the same service or product from multiple retailers, and the only way to stand out is to have a great User Experience.
The Product Manager’s main responsibility is to create value to the customer, while generating value for the company.
And to achieve this, it is essential to understand the user and know how to create the best experience.
User Experience offers a framework that is completely focused on this.
There are certainly many other skills that a product manager should have, such as knowledge of data.
But User Experience Design is probably one of the most important.
Of course, you don’t need to be a UX Designer, but you do need to know the principles and methodology to make better decisions.
In fact, when we at Eye Studios talk to product managers, the first thing we want to do is to get in tune with them.
This way we can align our UX Design process with our client’s values and goals.
The difference between ‘today’ and ‘yesterday’ is simple: today the only way to get a great product is through great design.
Did you notice the use of the word ‘through’?
This is because design is a process, not a project.
One of the most common mistakes of software and app developers is to start with development. Often product managers (but also CTOs, CEOs, etc.) think “first we make it, then we think about design”.
Nothing could be more wrong, for two reasons:
Another common mistake is to design only and exclusively for yourself.
As Nielsen Norman Group says “You are not users” can lead to the serious False-Consensus Effect.
That is, when you start thinking that what you are doing is right, just because you think it is.
A UX Design process manages to keep all stakeholders on the same page on real problems to solve.
Again, a good design process benefits both your wallet (because users find what they need, so they buy) and because you don’t have to spend resources later in the project to fix mistakes.
Workshops on personas, customer journey and moodboards at the beginning of the design or development serve to lay the foundations of the design process.
Who should participate?
Everyone who has even a small responsibility for the product, such as product managers, marketers, developers, designers, business and strategy managers.
We usually hold these “workshops” after the kick-off meetings, and this helps a lot to put all stakeholders on the same page.
These weekly meetings serve to analyse together what happened in the previous week and what will happen in the current/following week.
This is one of the best ways for everyone to understand each other, and to analyse challenges and opportunities.
Who should participate?
One player from each area, so one member from the UX Design team, one from the developers team, and one from the business or marketing departments.
At Eye Studios, every week we organise this kind of Weekly Meeting with our clients, showing progress, presenting design choices and analysing insights from UX Research together.
In our experience it is important to always highlight at the beginning of the meeting, what will be the key points to be addressed together. Anything extra that arises can be add to the backlog and discussed elsewhere.
Wireframes and Prototypes are one of the best ways to explain everything to everyone.
Why is it so effective?
It can present features, pages and flows very simply.
A good wireframe not only serves as a great method of communication, but also as a tool for testing and validating what we do.
User research is more than just a communication tool.
Have you ever participated in a meeting where each participant had a different opinion on an important question?
How did you decide? Who decided?
If there is no data, it is often impossible (or wrong) to take design decisions.
Performing some tests with users provides specific data based on the question.
User research can help to put everyone on the same page because it provides an objective picture instead of subjective opinions.
The three most important ingredients a Product Manager should look for in a Design team are:
It doesn’t all have to be done by the same person, although you will find many freelancers doing it.
For example, UX Research takes a lot of time, so one person alone is unlikely to be able to conduct a complete design process and give their best in every are.
At Eye Studios we have different designers who focus on the different phases, in order to be able to give the best in each one.