Should product managers have UX knowledge?

Curious how the community feels about this, PMs and design work so closely and I’ve had really excellent collabs with PMs who know some stuff about design. I’m curious what you all think about how much design knowledge is useful to have? What UX skills/knowledge do you use at work all day? Is there a specific path to learning that stuff that you’ve followed?

  1. Understand how to map out a user journey
  2. Be able to determine if a UX design will address a customer problem

Honestly, that’s it. Product shouldn’t be making UX decisions. Product should ask questions - why did you choose this design? How will this impact metric X if you hide this link? Can we make changes so this process takes 2 clicks instead of 4? Etc - but product should not make UX decisions.


Here’s an article which might clear all your doubts and answer all your queries.
Hope this helps.


@AnaRodriguez, Interesting and mapping the UJ - how did you learn that? Do you use Miro for that? I’m super curious how using visualization type of tools might be helpful to the workflow for PMs.


Whether that’s just making flow charts, or like user journeys or even wireframes :thinking: - you could potentially categorize that as a ‘design skill’ just leveraged for product management purposes.


Whatever flowcharting tool you want.

As for how I learned it - I had a bad boss who create wire frames in PowerPoints the send it to designers. After 6 months under him, I moved to a different team, and did that same thing, and my new boss was like ‘hold up, why would you do that, you’re going to take all the creativity and fun out of for your UX designer’


At a minimum, if you want to cut your teeth, read through ‘The Design of Everyday Things’ by Don Norman. This will give you a cursory idea of what UX means. It will also give you lots of potential avenues of exploration, such as thinking through affordances within digital design… understanding skeuomorphism etc…


I agree - it sets a good tone for collaboration and opens up the brain a bit.


I think it depends on your position. When I started doing product management at a small start up, we didn’t have enough UX resources to go around. I had to work in user testing and also created a lot of wire frames. I actually miss it and I’m considering switching over to UX.


@RohitKumar, This comment is underrated. Do you have a UX resource? No, put together wires and test with internal users. Yes, seek to understand their thinking behind design decisions and ensure they meet intended business outcomes.


This is my experience too. I work with visual designers/artists, but no one who specializes in UX or interaction design or design research or anything like that. I end up doing all the wire framing and then getting someone more artistically inclined to make it look better.

I feel like it hurts me in my career because a lot more of my time is spent on this kind of stuff than should be. Although I do enjoy it.


I feel like PMs get saddled with doing wireframes like all the time and defining behavior/interaction. In general, how do you learn to wireframe? Just grab a tool and do it on the fly kinda deal?


If you’re building and directing a product, you need to understand the business goals and how customers experience the product.

UX is a critical component in building great products.

Imagine being a PM tasked with building a new type of door. Your design is beautiful but relies on a new type of door handle that people have never seen. In your customer research you realize that every time a new person walks up to the door, they spend 5 seconds trying to understand how to open it, before eventually walking away.

Knowing UX helps you reduce the chances of building products others won’t enjoy or even use.


If you work with a User Experience Designer, you do not need to know all that much about it, they already do.

I think you need to be able to build a good relationship with them and bring them in on the challenges you’re facing. Good UXD can be the best asset in a team as UXDs tend to have a very solid product mind. Just by working with them you will learn a lot about the UXD.


@LawrenceMartin, I agree - and visa versa! It’s a great collab. PMs can really ground you and give good constraints but inspire creativity too :slight_smile:


I think it’s dependent on the company/team bench context. I’ve been in situations with kind of weak/new designers that did not have strong UX skills.

Related, teams not well grounded in how to frame decisions or use research to inform those decisions.

In those situations, I had to guide research and testing and bring a lot more intuition into the situation of what felt important to de-risk than I would have if I had a strong product design partner (and researcher).

At the end of the day more UX knowledge does not hurt as long as you’re a good collaborator and colleague and don’t just lord it over designers as you know what’s best always.


@DhirajMehta, I like your take. I’ve loved a good back and forth, I even work with one PM who gets right in there and sort of ‘starts off’ a wireframe sometimes. Just to express their thinking.

Interesting you say intuition, do you think most PMs have a design sense?


@RisaButler, Not necessarily, across all PMs in the tangible sense of design output. Myself included. I just think most PMs could use the practice of thinking like a designer (and have a toolbox of learning/de-risking methodologies). But good PMs should at least have some intuition on where shit is likely to go wrong.

Like if Design was like this new interaction metaphor is the shit and everyone understands these affordances…I’d be like let’s make sure (if you didn’t already).

Similarly, I’ve told new designers they are too low level too early IMO, caring about specific screens and visual design spec when we don’t even understand how our solution might fit into the idealized user’s life. Big picture what’s their mental model and what steps or flow makes sense to them?


To add to all of these: I think it’s essential to have a good idea of how different kinds of UX Research are conducted; what artifacts are needed for each type of research; how different techniques help to illuminate specific business/design challenges; and how to prioritize research needs.

Knowing the difference between formative empathy research and evaluative usability testing is gonna save everyone a lot of angst.

Ideally you’ll have a UX Research specialist on hand to choose and craft these techniques as needed, but they may not always be in the room when there are discussions happening about how timelines/budgets/resources are being allocated to solve specific customer/business problems.

The very best Product Managers I’ve worked with are the ones whom I could trust to slot in the right kind of research at the right time when planning was happening. That made my job (which ultimately comes down to putting useful customer information into the hands of dev and design) SO much more delightful.

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Yes, that’s a really good point. Lots of UX peeps are generalists and get exposed to different types/methods of testing but not a TON. If PMs can be super knowledgeable, they can fill those gaps a bit and potentially become great user testers themselves!