How can UX Designers and Product Managers collaborate effectively? UX Question #82

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Heather from The Internet asks: how can I explain the difference between Product and UX and how they work together to a stakeholder or business partner that is new to understand the roles and their value?

I love that question. Thanks for asking, Heather. This is UX Question number 82 and I am Ben Judy.

I think what this question is getting at is: How can UX Designers and Product Managers collaborate effectively?

There’s so much I want to say about this—collaboration across disciplines, and the critical relationship between Designer and Product Manager. To keep this under three minutes, I’ll focus on three quick tips.

First: Achieve clarity on roles & responsibilities. Often, we just don’t have a shared understanding of what the other person is there to do.

When a designer doesn’t expect the PM to make decisions about product feature priorities or the go to market strategy, there’s bound to be conflict. When the PM doesn’t expect the designer to make decisions about the user flow through the application that will impact, say, conversion metrics—of course there’s going to be friction.

I encourage every designer and PM working together to talk candidly and specifically about what kinds of decisions each of you is going to make in your daily work. What’s your role and what are your responsibilities? Establish shared expectations.

Second: Good communication. Be proactive in reaching out and including one another in product discussions. Good designers love to be invited in to see how product strategy is formed. Good PM’s love being pulled into the user research and UI design process to participate and give their opinion.

A daily stand-up meeting is a good habit. I’ve seen this many times: a PM who is “too busy” (in air quotes) to communicate well with designers, or a designer who prefers to hide work in progress until they feel “ready” to share it with the PM. Bad things happen. Constant communication and an invitation to know what each other is thinking and doing every day is so helpful.

Third: UX Designers and Product Managers collaborate effectively when there is alignment on product goals. It’s important to separate the how from the what. PM’s are largely going to own the what: the key metrics and what success looks like for the product. Designers are going to own a big chunk of the how: crafting a well-designed product that enables a great experience for users.

A Designer should hold their PM accountable to provide clarity on product goals. A PM should hold their Designer accountable to help them achieve those goals through excellent product design. Don’t assume or guess. Ask each other about the goals. We have to move toward each other to be sure we’re both clear on the product goals.

Keep asking your questions about UX. Next time, I’ll answer the question: Why are UX professionals unsatisfied?

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