Friday, December 11, 2009

User Experience and the Product Manager

When I started my software development career, interfaces were designed by the programmers. Over time, we added a graphics designer to make the buttons a little prettier, then an interaction designer to make sure screens flowed well, and now we have user experience (UX) designers, who design the entire experience a user has with the company.

As the person responsible for the product, you are ultimately responsible for is usability as well. This means you need to think about user experience and usability. But how much user experience (UX) and usability knowledge does a product manager need to lead a successful product?

The answer, like so many in product management, is some (where some is dependent on your situation). There are some situations where the product manager is responsible for the entire UX, but we will ignore those cases as degenerate and instead focus on the more idyllic situation where you have at an interaction designer.

You need some UX knowledge because somebody needs to be able to make decisions about trade-offs, and that you are the best informed to make those decisions. How many times have you sat down with engineers and discussed technical trade-offs? Even if you don't understand the deep inner-workings of the product, you know enough to discuss what different options mean and make an informed decision that is best for your customers, right?

You need to understand enough about UX to be able to have the same discussions and make the same informed decisions with your UX team. Without that understanding, your UX designer will be forced to make those decisions based on her understanding of the product.

To get you started, here are some resources. These resources are meant to provide you with the fundamentals, not to turn you into a UX designer.

Armed with this knowledge, you will be in a much better position to understand what is and is not working in your product's user experience.

What are your favorites for user interaction design? Leave a link the comments below!

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