Tips to empathising with your PMs, understanding their needs & dealing with them effectively | Unknown Skill of a Product Designer (Part 1)
Offering the best experience to users is quite a challenging task for UX professionals; not because it’s some rocket science, but defending our decisions with stakeholders to get them approved makes it challenging.
I believe this is pretty normal; but in our case, it becomes complex when those stakeholders really don’t understand our work.
Q. Does your PM (product manager) changes their priorities ignoring the user’s needs?
Q. Does your PM wants to bring in new features ASAP on the top of a badly-developed MVP?
Q. Does your PM reducing the scope, is disturbing the overall UX in the user flow?
If the answer is a Yes! & Still, you’re not compromising on the UX of your product… you’ve already cracked the Skill. But in case, your answer is Yes & you’re struggling to deal with your PM, then this is for you, my friend! we’re in this together.
How will this article help?
In this 1st part of the series of Unknown Skills as a Product Designer, I will share my real-life experiences of building a great rapport with your product folks, especially the PM & the associated teams.
I would also share a simple 3-step formula so as to make sure your PM understand you talk real sense 👍
Let’s Begin — Understanding the Problem
Let’s begin with a bit of appreciation for our beloved product folks (because in the latter half, I’m sure they’ll reject me😅)
Product folks are the real hustlers. They make sure that all the other teams like tech, design, analytics etc. are on the same page.
Their key responsibilities include — writing PRDs, managing dev priorities with the tech team & understanding the general market trends and making decisions. While the first 2 are OK, the last one creates 2 typical concerns for designers:
- Launching products (or features) & launching them quickly ⏳
This leads to the merciless chopping down of product scope, impacting the overall user flow.
- Sacrificing the user for metrics 😈
Getting overwhelmed by the quick rise in the metric due to a minor tweak without understanding the mental model of the user thereby leading to a sudden drop in the same metric after 2 weeks.
(Based on my Personal Experience)
You’ll even face a situation when either of the 2 concerns is used to justify the other, like
“The metric we’re solving is not a priority, thus we could limit the scope & save time” or “We just need a quick MVP because it doesn’t affect any of our key metrics”
and in either case, you might feel guilty of cheating the USER.
This subsequently leads to 2 situations:
- Not allocating time for usability testing so as to launch early.
- Asking to back up every decision with hard numbers and not just user insights so they can make the best business decision.
📣 Yes, product managers usually lean more towards the numbers people side of the spectrum.
Defining the Problem
As UX professionals in order to do what we wanna do, we have to sell the value of UX to our stakeholders. The problem is our PMs don’t always speak the same language as us — While we speak users, they speak business. Thus, we’ll have to translate user needs into business value.
How to do so? 🤔
Here’s the answer…
Our PMs might not be really interested in our UX principles, but they are definitely interested in what matters to them…their ‘Key Metric’. So every time we present our solution to them it has to be metric-centred i.e. how my design would be affecting the product’s performance & thereby impacting the metric.
It’s not just the end users that we designers need to empathise with;
once our solution is ready, how we present it to our PMs decides how early will that be shipped
and to do so, we need to go an extra mile empathising with the PMs as well.
What we need is a simple change in the way we present. Just observe how other people grasp & being a designer, we are made to do that; after all, this is why we exist — giving the best experience to our users.
⭐️ I’d prefer this as a skill (undocumented, unrealised & unknown as well) that one gains with time & I feel pride in showcasing it in my CV 🙂
Quick Hack: The secret 3-step formula
In such cases, to negotiate with my PM, I often follow the InDoBy formula — (believe me this has worked quite effectively for me)
So the formula says:
In order to achieve ‘x’, we need to solve ‘y, which could be done by creating ‘z’.
Breaking it into 3 parts:
Part 1: In order to achieve ‘x’
Think about what the business has to gain, the product goal. For this, you need to be well aware of what’s in your PMs’ vision/ roadmap.
eg. In order to achieve 90% contact sync permission by users on the first visit ~
Part 2: We need to solve ‘y’
Try solving the problem/ doubt that the user might be having which is why they’re not utilising the product fully.
eg. ~ make them know that contact syncing is completely safe & would help them discover their friends already using the app ~
Part 3: which could be done by creating ‘z’
It’s now when we’ll be showcasing our design solutions & making sure that you explain the significance of all of your design flow, UX reasoning, UI options etc.
eg. ~ This could be done by using this option, that nudge etc. etc.
In order to achieve 90% contact sync permission by users in first visit,
make them know that contact syncing is completely safe & would help them discover their friends already using app.
This could be done by using this option/ that nudge/ this copy etc. etc.
Unfortunately, we can be incredible designers, but it’s only valuable when we are able to communicate the value of our work to others.
In case this article makes some sense to you, here is the 2nd part where I’ve shared my learnings of building the same rapport with the techies: COMING SOON
Thanks for reading it to the end! Hit the clap 👏 button if you liked it.
If you have a project to work on or just wanna say hello, ping me at email@example.com.
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