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Product management

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A talk I gave on the intersection between user experience and product management at the London ProductTank meet-up in November 2010.

A talk I gave on the intersection between user experience and product management at the London ProductTank meet-up in November 2010.

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  • 1. Product managers are from Mars, User Experience designers are from Venus: Learning how we can all get along
  • 2. Digital Products 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 In an attempt to legitimise and professionalise the digital space, and gain the resources (and respect) we need, we’ve co-opted the language of the physical world. So at larger companies we no longer build websites or web apps. We build digital products. I think this is generally a good thing.
  • 3. Digital Product Managers As such we’ve taken on the roles of our physical product cousins and created the concept of digital product managers. So it’s your job to establish the products requirements, develop the product strategy, implement the strategy to the best of your abilities and then ensure the product meets the business objective and is a success in the market In short you own the product. You champion the product. It’s your head on the block if it doesn’t work. However Product managers have a bit of an identity crisis.
  • 4. Identity Crisis Like any good designer doing a new project, I started by researching my audience. Product managers coming from a business background tend to focus on the financial aspects of a product. So if your product manager used to oversee a portfolio of financial products, they will be focused on setting the business development strategy and overseeing profit and loss. Product managers from a sales and marketing background typically focus on the marketability of the product. What the product looks like and what features are needed for it to sell. They also tend to focus heavily on sales. Product managers from a project management background are all about delivery. Shipping the product on time, on budget and to a minimum acceptable level of quality. Product managers from creative or development background tend to focus on how the product looks and functions.
  • 5. Huge task ahead Business Product Manager Design Technology Good project managers therefore act as a facilitator between different business units. However as they often sit between business units they may not have agency in any of them.
  • 6. But don’t panic. Product managers have a perfect ally in the shape of...
  • 7. Product Designers In the world of physical products we don’t just have a product manager. We also have a product designer. Their job isn’t to make the product look pretty. Their job is to design the whole experience of owning and using that product. As such, products designers are multidisciplinary. Understanding ergonomics, graphic design, branding, electronics, manufacturing techniques. As such, if we’re going to co-opt the term product manager, I think the best way for you to see your UXD team is as the product design team. IDEO are a product design company in the traditional sense. Clearleft and a digital product company.
  • 8. Build better products h5p://www.flickr.com/photos/jurvetson/3275235423/sizes/l/ We need to build better products - like the iPod, like the Flip, like Etsy - which sells itself. In fact Seth Godin recommends that companies spend a large portion of the money they would have normally spent on marketing the product on the product themselves. How much are you guys spending on Marketing each year as opposed to product development? Is that a fair balance? Are you sending boat loads of qualified leads to a highly optimised site, or lots of random leads to a less than stella product?
  • 9. Are we really designing products? However is it fair to see a digital product in the same light as a physical product? Physical products tend, on the whole, to be fairly simple devices, at least in terms of functionality. So if you’re the product manager at Hotpoint lets say, there are a limit to the number of features you can add or control interfaces you can design. Often in the physical world, product managers will inherit a product. And the way they are tasked with “developing” the product usually involved talking to the marketing department to find out what new features they need added in order to sell the product, and then facilitating the inclusion of those features. In the new world of web 2.0, good products sell themselves and bad products sell despite themselves.
  • 10. “ We’re shifting to an experience economy where an experience is becoming the primary economic offering” Joseph Pine In his book, “the experience economy” Joseph Pine explained that we’re moving away from selling commodities and products and towards selling services and experiences. This is because there’s actually more margin in selling an experience than there is in selling a product.
  • 11. Differentiation Experience Service Product Commodity Value So what Joseph Pine was talking about when he said we were moving to an experience economy was this. As you move from being a commodity to a product then a service then finally an experience, you’re able to differentiate yourself in the minds of your customers by providing them with greater value. Value that they are willing to pay extra for.
  • 12. Service Industry In many ways developing a digital product is more like delivering a service than it is delivering a product. After all you can’t merchandise, wrap and ship Gumtree! In the service industry they have the equivalent of the Product Manager role. It’s called Program Director. They also have the equivalent of user experience designers. They’re called service designers.
  • 13. More like movie making At UX London this year we were very lucky to have somebody from Pixar talk about their process and corporate culture. At dConstruct we also had the legendary blogger and designer John Gruber, discuss the similarities between product design and film making. If we use the film analogy, I would say that Product Managers sit somewhere between the role of the producer and the director. As a producer, they are responsible for the safe delivery and commercial success of the product. They represent the interests of the studio, the marketing department and the audience at large. As Director, they own the creative vision for the project. They don’t design the sets or do the filming, but they do direct the action and ensure consistency.
  • 14. Domain Overlap h5p://www.flickr.com/photos/toffehoff/244870161/sizes/z/ Now this can cause problems, as there is some domain overlap here. Why? Well because the UX designer also (somewhat legitimately) sees themselves in the directors role as well. The UX designer generally has much more experience designing digital products than the product manager. They also have a creative vision. However this vision is less about the commercial or marketing success of the product. Instead it’s almost an artistic vision of the perfect online experience. So much like Directors, UX designers (and creative directors) are often in tension with the product managers and studios.
  • 15. 2012, Eyes Wide Shut, or Toy Story? Films created by studio executives are often a big commercial success due to the marketing budget thrown behind them. However they are very rarely fulfilling and never get critical acclaim. (their strategy is to build a lowest common denominator product and market the hell out of it) Conversely, films created by directors are beautiful works of art but often fail to recoup their budgets. The best films are films like toy story. Where you have a multi-disciplinary team with a shared vision working on the project together. Their goal isn’t to build the biggest grossing film or the most artistically interesting films. It’s to design the best film they can. (their strategy is to focus on emotional storytelling) By designing the best film, commercial success will come.
  • 16. The experience gap Companies Customers 80% 8% Gulf of Execution h5p://www.flickr.com/photos/miguel77/2352476288/ So if a focus on user experience is so obvious, why aren’t more companies doing this? Well it turns out that most companies think that they already are!!! In a 2005 survey, the research company Bain and Co asked 362 firms if they felt that they were giving a “superior experience” to customers. 80% of companies agreed. Then they asked their customers and only 8% agreed. However there is also an irony. Facebook is one of the highest trafficked sites in the world but was recently ranked with the lowest 5% customer satisfaction of any business. So it is possible to build a hugely successful business that everybody hates. My question is, is that what you really aspire to? One of the biggest reasons for this Gap is a companies marketing messaged being out of step with what they deliver. So you either need to change your marketing message or improve your product so that it matches what you’re selling.
  • 17. The gap between strategy and execution h5p://www.flickr.com/photos/miguel77/2352476288/ Currently there is a gap between strategy and execution. We spend ages coming up with clever product strategies, thinking this time it must work. However what we end up with in another marginally undifferentiated product. Why is this? Simply, it’s because the strategy isn’t adhered to and executed on. As soon as we move out of the strategy phase and into the delivery phase, all that good thinking is wasted. Instead we start to focus on building the thing. On time and on budget. Rarely do we cycle back to check that what we’re building actually maps to the strategy we set out. This is where good UX and good product management can help.
  • 18. Good product managers h5p://sethgodin.com/sg/books.asp Good product managers are able to motivate their product design team by setting the product vision and facilitating the successful implementation. It’s a cross disciplinary role that bridges the gap between business and design. As such they need to translate the design requirements up-wards as well as just transmitting the business objectives downwards. As such they are often the linchpin in making the product work. Good product managers understand the need for good design and provide the space for that to happen. As such, when a good product manager works with a good product designer, it’s the same as a good producer working with a good director.
  • 19. Great teams build great products So the most crucial part of a product manager’s role is to build a good, cross-disciplinary team. To do this you first need to understand what good and bad looks like.
  • 20. 10,000 hours h5p://www.flickr.com/photos/carbonnyc/64581364/sizes/o/ To be a master craftsman, Malcom Gladwell posited that you need 10,000 hours of experience. That roughly equates to 10 years on the job. With that amount of experience you will have had time to internalise all the on the job learning you’ve done and will have become an expert. As such, you’re lead designer, lead developer and lead UX person needs to have as close to 10 years experience in the industry.
  • 21. Hiring UX The UX landscape is incredibly difficult at the moment. The US have been focused on product for the last 5 years. In the UK and Europe we're a good 2-3 years behind them, but we are catching up. However because of this there is a real lack of resources. There are only around half a dozen ux companies in the UK I'd trust to do a good job. There are many more design companies who have added the "ux" label to their offering without really getting it. Like good product managers, good ux people are very thin on the ground and are commanding somewhat inflated prices at the moment. I also see lots of really inexperienced people getting mid to senior jobs at large organizations. If you hire a head of ux with 3-4 years of experience, don't be surprised If you end up with a crappy product. The problem is at the moment, we’re in a sellers market in the UK. There are a very small number of experienced people who are in high demand. There are also a lot of junior people with 2-3 years experience filling senior roles at £60-70k. This inflation is a problem for the UX industry and for people looking to hire. The only way to get these senior people is to motivate them with a good challenge. Otherwise the lure of cash will soon wear off and they will get frustrated.
  • 22. How to get the best from your UX team h5p://userexperienceproject.blogspot.com/2007/04/user‐experience‐wheel.html As user experience designers we spend time trying to understand the users needs and build digital products that meet those needs in an easy to use, satisfying and elegant way. This is a large part of the product managers goal, so your UX manager/designer makes the perfect ally. User research, information architecture, interaction design, usability testing and interface design play a crucial role in defining and shaping a digital product.
  • 23. Focus on Strategy not Tactics h5p://www.flickr.com/photos/dlkinney/357134468/sizes/o/ Before coming to this session I asked people what they wanted to hear. Most responses revolved around new trends in UX or your top 3 UX mistakes. This is looking at UX in a purely tactical way which is helpful for novice UX practitioners, but isn’t helpful to Product Managers. Instead you should be asking how to embed a culture of UX into your product or organisation, how you can make UX a key product strategy and how you can hire the right staff or agencies for this role. After all it’s not your job to do the UX, it’s your job to manage the result.
  • 24. Bring in your UX person at the product definition phase h5p://www.flickr.com/photos/jakecapNve/49915119/sizes/l/ UX people are great at understanding the needs of people. They also have lots of techniques for idea creation and synthesis. Therefore you should bring them in at the start of a projects when the product requirements are being defined. One of the biggest frustrations for a UX person is enacting a plan which has been poorly researched or which doesn’t map to their world view.
  • 25. Don’t just gather requirements h5p://www.flickr.com/photos/geekcalendar/4683130187/ I’ve met some project managers in very development focused organisations that act more like a BA. They gather project requirements from stakeholders and immediately turn these into features on the product roadmap. Instead, use your UX team to help you uncover user motivations, behaviours and unmet needs. Some times you can’t rely on the customer telling you what they want. You need to tell them what they need.
  • 26. Work with your UX team to set vision h5p://www.flickr.com/photos/byrnsey/4160802433/sizes/l/
  • 27. You’re not the designer Design is fun. Especially visual design. As UX people we often find product managers trying to take over the design process and use us simply as implementers. This is understandable if you have bad staff. However this is a really bad use of trained professionals with years of UX knowledge and experience. Remember that you’re Steve Jobs in this equation, not Jonathan Ives. Visual design is just one part of the over all experience, and generally not the most important part. However it’s easy to start tweaking the design without understanding the effect it’s going to have on a carefully crafted user experience. If I’m honest this was the biggest frustration when working on Gumtree. Not being allowed to do our job properly.
  • 28. Product  should not be subordinate to MarkeNng or IT h5p://userexperienceproject.blogspot.com/2007/04/user‐experience‐wheel.html If the UX team is just in service to the product, marketing or IT departments it can make it very difficult them to represent the best interests of the user. As such the needs of marketing or IT overshadow UX. Instead the head of UX should have parity with the head of marketing, the head of IT and the head of Product.
  • 29. Need real power h5p://www.flickr.com/photos/mypoorbrain/4047408251/ As a product manager you need to have support from the organisation and your superiors. You need to have authority and the ability to make product decisions autonomously. You must also have control over your budget. You’re not just a co-ordinator and your opinions should not be bypassed when important decisions are made.
  • 30. Design from the outside in Your Users Your Team Design your system around the needs of the user, not the desires of the business or the abilities of the tech team. All the best tech products solve hard problems for users by moving the effort from them to the system. All the worst products take the effort away from the dev team and force it on the users. Don’t take “it can’t be done” as an answer from your tech team. Ask them how it could theoretically be done, what resources they would need to do it, or if they can’t do it, who can.
  • 31. Quality In an attempt to reduce costs and time to market, quality is often left out of the equation. So time frames are unrealistically short, budgets aren’t enough to hire a good team, and the quality suffers. Lost of small, easy to ignore problems turn into one big problem for users. Death by a thousand paper cuts. Good is the enemy of great So most projects are doomed from the start.
  • 32. Create a culture of quality h5p://www.flickr.com/photos/jdhancock/3661816298/sizes/o/ As such you need to instil a culture of quality throughout your team. No cutting corners (unless absolutely necessary). And even then, make a promise to go back and fix the issues in a later iteration. As such you need to include quality and satisfaction aspects into the way you measure success, rather than focussing primarily on economic indicators like profits and sales. If you have a culture of sloppy implementation and quick-fixes, no good designer or UX person is going to want to work with you!
  • 33. UX people are perfectionists One of the frustrations you’ll probably encounter is UX people being perfectionists. Often when time and budget doesn’t allow. This is a good thing as it’s their jobs to be perfectionists. However it can be frustrating. You need to explain to them what the core problem is, not just the solution. That way, they may be able to come up with a better solution. One you may not have thought of. “Thinking that one’s own discipline is the most important of all gets in the way of teamwork.” — Don Norman It’s very rare to find organisations where UX culture dominates. It’s much more common to find marketing or engineering culture in dominance.
  • 34. Great products don’t just happen They can happen despite the product manager or because of them.
  • 35. The myth of best practice h5p://www.flickr.com/photos/myklrovenNne/557095352/sizes/l/ A couple of years ago we worked with a pan-European publishing and classifieds company. They were incredibly risk averse and believed in the idea of best practice. What this actually meant was that rather than investing in design, they would wait till their competitors came out with a new design or feature and copy it. However rather than best practice, this ended up being least worst practice. When everybody copies everybody else, you end up with the grey goo of mediocrity. This is exactly what happened in the mobile phone industry until Apple were brave enough to launch the iPhone. In truth the "best practice" people talk about is rarely ever the way industry professionals and researchers think is the optimal solution to a complex problem. This is based on the really flawed assumption that the competition is smarter than you so must know best. However in my experience the competition are often under resources and copy of somebody else as well. Copying rarely if ever works. With major redesigns taking up to a year, all this does Is place you 18 months behind your best competitors nearest thinking. Do you really want to be 18 months behind? Wouldn’t you prefer to be 18 months ahead?
  • 36. Cargo Cult Thinking h5p://www.flickr.com/photos/krikit/2880756271/sizes/l/ Quick intro to cargo cults
  • 37. Don’t copy Amazon Product designers spend so much time fixating on the trappings on success, they forget to explore the root cause. I see plenty of companies, including prospective customers of ours, wanting to emulate the features on Amazon in a hope of devising the secret of their success. However their secret isn’t a particular set of features like commenting. We know this because when Target used exactly the same engine as Amazon to power their shop, nobody commented. This is because you don’t go to Target to rate and review products, you go to Amazon. A friend of mine tells a story of consulting with a client who insisted on the inclusion of a specific feature because Amazon had it. And if Amazon has it (with all the research and testing they must do) it has to be good. Several years later this friend was consulting with Amazon. When asked about this feature they said, “Oh, we just saw that on another website”. Don’t ascribe to good product design what could easier be ascribed to lazyness.
  • 38. Featuritis The other cousin of cargo cult thinking is featuritis. The idea of adding more and more features to the product in the hope that some will stick, purely because the addition of new features in the past has worked. Features is my experience rarely improve customer satisfaction. So you'd be wise to reduce the number of fearer and increase the quality of the product. People always ask for new features (because that’s the way marketing has trained them to think) but then complain about the usability. Don’t build ten rubbish features. Build one good feature and make sure it’s the right one! It is possible to cate short (or even medium) term gain at the expense of quality and good ux. However this will usually come round and bite you on the arse in the end.
  • 39. Feature curve This product does everything I want Minimum Viable product User Happiness Sweet spot Wow, this is really I need to check the manual easy to use Good, but I wish this did more This is really tricky It doesn’t even have the basics I can’t do the one thing I bought it for Number of features So what does this mean. Well, if you focus on moving up the value chain and improving the experience, you can charge more and hence make more profit. I’ll give you some examples.
  • 40. As product managers you’re responsible for the UX of the product h5p://www.flickr.com/photos/kaibara/3485925929/sizes/o/ If the UX is a failure, you’re a failure
  • 41. How much UX knowledge do you need? h5p://www.flickr.com/photos/ausNnevan/1225274637/sizes/o/ As the product manager you’re ultimately responsible for the usability and user experience of a product. So how much knowledge about UX do you need? You need enough knowledge to be able to understand the recommendations your UX team are making, weigh up the trade-offs and make a decision.
  • 42. UX London Discount Code: Inspirational Learning for “ProductTank” User Experience Designers UX London is a unique SPEAKERS INCLUDE: three-day event combining inspirational talks with in-depth workshops presented by some of the industry’s biggest names. Alan Cooper Lou Rosenfeld Kim Goodwin Robert Fabricant Author, About Face & The Author, Information Author, Designing for the Creative Director, Frog Inmates Are Running the Architecture for the World Digital Age Design Whether you’re beginning your Asylum Wide Web career, or a seasoned professional, UX London is your chance to add core skills, absorb strategic thinking and learn advanced techniques from pioneers in the field. Kate Rutter Matt Jones Todd Zaki Warfel Sunni Brown Experience Designer, Design Director, Berg Author, Prototyping: Author, Gamestorming: Adaptive Path A Practitioner’s Guide A Playbook for Rule- breakers, Innovators and Changemakers REGISTER NOW for 3 days of UX design inspiration at uxlondon.com Product Tank
  • 43. Current trends in UX I’m speaking at another product managers event in a week and one of the things they’re asked is for me to tell them what the current trends and best practices are. Sadly this is missing the point. People want to distil 10,000 hours of experience into a few simple checklists. That’s not possible, which is why the common refrain of the UX professional is, it depends. Good UX isn’t about knowledge, it’s about experience. So I’m going to talk about Macro trends rather than micro trends.
  • 44. Guerrilla UX Undercover UX UX as practised in large companies like the BBC used to be very formal. However reducing budgets and timelines has meant the UX industry has had to get creative. So we’re all about guerrilla research and design. We want less documentation and bureaucracy. Instead we want to be able to feed our findings straight into the product. This is a fantastic development but comes with a risk to you. Less documentation means more susceptibility to catastrophic change later down the line. If you start to get reactive, you may end up changing something critical that were there for good reason.
  • 45. Content strategy Content strategy is making a big impact on the UX industry at the moment.
  • 46. Analytics and A/B testing One things I’m constantly asked is how to quantify UX. This is really difficult as, unlike SEO or Marketing, it’s none linear. By that I mean you can’t create an equation that says if I invest $X I’ll get Y% uplift. Instead there’s a tipping point. Lots of small improvements may not amount to much. But a collection of balanced improvements can create a snowball. The trick is ensuring that you go beyond that point. Also coming up as it’s something we’ve not traditionally had much experience or budget for. A/B testing is great but only as part of a balanced research diet. Otherwise you risk the "local maxima" problem or what's otherwise known as "polishing a turd"
  • 47. Psychology and persuasion My personal area of interest. Understanding the deeper motivations people have in order to provide more personalised and targeted experiences. Large elements of this include persuasion and game mechanics.
  • 48. The mobile experience The mobile Internet has reached maturity, largely thanks to Apple. The richer and more pleasing applications being produced have finally shown people the importance of good design. This is starting to leech over to the desktop experience.
  • 49. Improved web technology Over the last 2 years browsers have caught up with the current standards, new JavaScript libraries have increased functionality and we’ve seen the rise of HTML5 and CSS3.
  • 50. Help us make great products It’s our job to make great products. It’s your job to help ensure that happens. Please help.
  • 51. @andybudd www.clearleft.com andy@clearleft.com It’s our job to make great products. It’s your job to help ensure that happens. Please help.