How to be the Product Manager UX designers love | by Garrett Rysko | Apr, 2023

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Working hand-in-hand with your UX designers is an invaluable PM skill
Ebikes sold in 2009–2021 — Statista (Oct’22)
Ebikes sold in 2009–2021 — Statista (Oct’22)
The Vanmoof S3
VanMoof S3
  1. they released their S3 and X3 bike models at a significantly cheaper price point, with all new features
  2. they created a channel to sell direct-to-consumer so they could own design to production to sales to after-service, and
  3. they put the right people in place to secure funding to scale their business, successfully securing $13.5M in funding in May 2020.
  1. Sit down and shut up! (Stay out of their way)
  2. Understand the design process
  3. Bring UX into the customer meetings and product process EARLY
Paper prototype designs
Photo by Hal Gatewood on Unsplash

Different people own different risks when shipping a product

  1. Business Risk
  2. Value Risk
  3. Feasibility Risk
  4. Usability Risk
Austin Power — “I also like to live dangerously” meme
  • You own the Value risk — or are we delivering something that your customers truly need and will invest time/money/effort into.
  • You also own the Business risk — or are we building something that makes us money/grows the userbase/increases our engagement.
  • The feasibility risk is owned by the engineering team and is all about delivering the product, with high quality, in the time that we have, with the team available (covered in a previous article!)

Usability Risk

  • Ensuring the product is easy for users to discover, navigate, and interact with the product
  • Your Design team is responsible for addressing this risk
  • Your job is to give the UX team time and space to do their best work
  • How can you help? Listen more than you talk in meetings, to support the design team. They are good at their jobs, and it is to handle this risk.
“We hear you” banner
Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Asking Questions & Making the Right Decision

“for the inventory page of our coffee storefront, what research was done to use infinite scroll instead of pagination?”

“what research led us to using a slider bar instead of a numerical input for the number of days a user wants to stay at our bed and breakfast popup?”

“was there a voice of customer session that explained the complexity out of a previous mockup?”

“was A/B testing done to inform this decision?”

“Is there a competitive product that is designed in a way that users are already comfortable with?”

  • Another set of questions I ask is about research logistics — I would ask questions around do we have enough people, time, expertise, and willing victims, er end-users, to gather the information we need to make the best product? The goal here is to set your team up with enough time and resources to do their job, while also time-boxing the work done & setting an expectation for the team.
Picture of a design system and color swatches
Photo by Balázs Kétyi on Unsplash

“this workflow of interrupting their coffee checkout experience with a rewards popup makes no sense, this will annoy customers into skipping checkout entirely!”

“How do you think end customers will like our coffee checkout experience?”

“If you’re not embarrassed by your product. You shipped it too late.” -Reid Hoffman, CEO of LinkedIn
Photo by Krisztian Tabori on Unsplash

Design Framework — Double Diamond Design

Double diamond design, with elements from Alchemy Research & Consultancy
Double diamond design, used to brainstorm then synthesize results
  • In the Discover phase, UX researchers identify real pain points and create use cases for the product.
  • In the Define phase, the team narrows down the use cases and pain points, creating an Experience Outcome or User Story.
  • In the Develop phase, visual designers develop multiple low-fidelity mockups for the selected use cases.
  • The final Deliver phase involves refining the possible mockups down to just one, and creating a pixel-perfect design to be provided to the engineering team.
Double diamond design, with elements from Alchemy Research & Consultancy
Double diamond design, used to brainstorm then synthesize results
More low-fi designs
Photo by Faizur Rehman on Unsplash

What happens when you neglect UX research…

Tesla model S plaid
Photo by SCREEN POST on Unsplash
  • If you haven’t seen Tesla’s reimagining of the steering wheel on their Model S Plaid, at first glance the yoke design looks fantastic — giving a clear sightline of the road, is streamlined, truly different, and lets drivers feel like they’re driving an F1 performance vehicle, which is where it’s yoke design comes from.
  • But as reviewers started to get their hands (quite literally) on this new design, negative review after negative review came out. Reviewers couldn’t quite put their finger (yes pun intended) on why it was bad but they knew it felt weird to drive, wasn’t usable, and felt like an experiment in form over function.
Yoke hand-over-hand of a model S plaid
Criss-cross yoke problem on Model S Plaid — Fred Lambert —
Group meeting with UX, PM, and customers
Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

Negative feedback is not a failure of the product, the team, or the vision of the product.

  • It’s critically important to get over that fear of failure and to get your product in front of customers often, as the best products are forged in fire — used by many customers and iterated on.
  • It’s critical to bring your UX team into as many customer conversations as early as possible so they understand customer needs, pain points, and their reaction to the product.

Usability Testing

  • Typically these interview sessions are structured so you have 2 or 3 people on your team interviewing the end-user, where one person has the role of asking questions, another has the role of facilitating any demos or mockups the end user will see, and the last person will be a dedicated note taker.
  • This type of usability study is very valuable to catch explicit challenges your participants comment on, like “so am I supposed to click this checkout button to see my cart?” or “I’m not sure what happened here, was the next page supposed to load?”
  • Usability studies also capture end-users implicit pain points, like when you see them moving the mouse often over a price label that they thought would have a hover-over, or are struggling to figure out the next step in a confusing 5 step wizard.

Fly on the wall in Engineering Meetings

Development code editor
Photo by Christopher Gower on Unsplash
  1. Give your UX team the space and time they need to build the best thing
  2. Understand the design process, so you can be empathetic and ask intelligent questions, and
  3. Bring your UX team in early and often to get hands on with the customer, as rarely does the product we dream up end up being the thing we ship


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