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.
- Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, 2nd Edition by Steve Krug (Amazon Link): This is the grand daddy of usability books and a great introduction to the field. I can't recommend this book enough.
- Designing Interfaces by Jenifer Tidwell (Amazon Link): Another introductory-level book on usability and interface design.
- The Elements of User Experience: User-Centered Design for the Web by Jesse James Garnett (Amazon Link): One more book on the basics.
- First Principles of Interaction Design (Web Site): A list of the types of things a UX designer is looking out for. This should help you understand how much goes into true UX design.
- Interaction-Design.org (Web Site): Early stages of a crowd-sourced encyclopedia around interaction design. There are some interesting articles there now, and as it fills out, it looks to get way more interesting.
- Apple's Human Interface Design document (Web Site): Discusses many issues in human-computer interaction that should be thought about when designing an interface. While this document does discuss OS X in some places, it is applicable to developing on any platform, from mobile through web.
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!