Milan van den Bovenkamp

Publish Date

25th of July 2017

Where do User Experience design and Product Management overlap?

uxd ux design product management

I have to be honest upfront I’m a sucker for terminology, in both English and Dutch I’d like to discuss the meaning of words, analogy and terms. My Google history has a great record of me googling specific terms and checking the which one is found more on the web. Like user experience and product management, what is the difference and commonalities?

Giving yourself a professional title is hard; especially when you have a horizontal skillset. Because perspectives can be so different everywhere you go, or at anyone you talk to.

I find discussing the terminologies quite entertaining (nerd alert). Talking about how people see meanings of words, analogy and where that comes from. When you talk to people with different backgrounds it is especially compelling. Where we are located here in Amsterdam; it is a melting pot of cultures and different signs of life. International companies like Philips and are excitingly diverse and interesting to work with because they offer so many challenges in vision to overcome.

We’ve come a long way with defining words like design, management and user experience

As a species we have come a long way to define all our different languages. Ethnologue says there are 7099 living languages. American linguist Stephen Anderson is saying spoken language goes back at least 60k years. While you’re reading this blog in English (or with Google Translate) language is fluent and in a continuum drift. It’s impossible to grasp something in one word in one perspective, but . Duolingo calculated that there only 248.026 ways to say I love you in Japanese

It’s clear language, words and definition differ from person to person—but let’s not get stuck on philosophy.

When Adobe came out with Experience Design, they basically slapped UX designers like me in the face. What they built is a interface prototyping tool, and what the result was that more and more people believed that UX and UI is the same profession.

User experience design job postings… where to start?

When I see ‘UX/UI designer’ written in a job posting I cringe. Then I try to challenge what people write about what the responsibilities are. For example when the description says you should do interfaces in Sketch, work with photoshop and draw in illustrator in my world we’re not at all talking about UX designer responsibilities. This is just more a visual and user interface (UI) designer role than the a general UX role which handles data, user stories, persona’s, running workshops with the team and converting complex systems into smooth user flows.

I can now argue that UX/UXD design comes closer to a product management—but the designer is part of the production team, while the product manager is not.

Peter Merholz even goes so far in saying there’s no such thing as UX design… Okay here I’m open for feedback after this provocative statement:

“The entire “field” of user experience emerged for one reason — to accommodate, and overcome, poor (or non-existent) product management practices. .. There is an issue around the job title, and career path, of “UX Design.” The use of the term is so broad as to be meaningless” — Peter Merholz

Okay another slap in the face, and this is already in 2014… Of course this is just one’s opinion, but it sure gets me thinking. I hope for you as well, let’s hear him him out:

“User experience is an emergent property of an entire organization, not just one group. When user experience is so closely associated with design, it allows non-designers to feel like user experience isn’t their responsibility. This association also sets up designers to fail, because they are given a charter they cannot deliver on.”

Allright then, let’s not use the term UX in the relation to UI any more, and maybe more towards UX research and stronger verticals within UX design…

When we focus less on the titles and what they mean, and more maybe on what a team of people needs to solve. IDEO made this

ideo user experience viability desirability feasibility

Design and with that product innovation comes from this.

  • Desirability: Mostly addressed by designers within the company, focused on the users needs and wants, empathizing with the pain the user and customer has.
  • Feasibility: Developers’ area of expertise. Within the frameworks, tools and capacity out in the world creates a feasible idea of the viable desires. Consults product manager and designer on feasibility of designs.
  • Viability: Product managers area of expertise since she knows about the companies business model and interests of stakeholders.

Then you can say product teams will only consist of (UX) designers and developers who work on a strategic topic. Than the product manager/strategist/hustler is just there to guide the product team from a helicopter view; into actually being able to do that (operationally), and to help find the market.

Lessons from sticking too much to terminology

The lesson I got from writing this article is that talking about the complexity of definitions is fun—but when it comes down to the real world things can be made simple, and thus maybe boring.  The lesson I hope you get is that you should work on integrating the user experience goals as widely as possible within teams and in turn in organizations.

Diversity matters, conversation matter, language is fluent and not at all static.

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