Can you be a successful product manager without UX research?
Product Managers are sometimes called the anthropologists of a product due to the fact that they, more than any other role, are supposed to understand the product and how end users will likely interact with it. This is why they develop use cases, product flows, and roadmaps that act as guidelines for UI, UX, and development teams. But how do they know what their customers are expecting from the product or what they value? Intuition? Educated conjecture? Ouija boards?
Keeping Users at the Heart of the Product
It’s well known that for a product to be successful it requires keeping the user at the heart of design and development. Colleagues and stakeholders, regardless of how smart they are or how entrenched they may be in the product field, are not the product’s target audience. This is why product managers rely on user and customer research in order to understand what they value – not what team members think they value.
Take use cases for example. Use cases often begin by focusing on business rules and logic as a starting point for what the optimal experience may be for users. But without testing with users a product manager can never be certain that what’s in the use case will actually lead to an optimal user experience – they’re only guessing. It may be a good guess, but even a good guess is still gambling with your customers.
This is why product management without any kind of user input is doomed to fail. Even if the outcome is an “okay” experience for users that’s not good enough for a truly successful product.
User Experience is Everyone’s Job
Saying “Just let the UX team handle it” or “The design team knows what they’re doing” are sentiments that result in sub-par user experiences. Crafting a truly delightful user experience requires a cross-team commitment from the organization to keep users’ needs and feedback in mind during every step of the product lifecycle.
A successful Product Manager will champion the user and strive for a shared vision amongst the UX, UI and design teams based on their customer and user research. Sometimes this means changing direction and deviating from previous plans based on user feedback. Simply relying on the UX team to know what’s best for the product users can result in efficient products users might not like.
When it comes to a product’s success, specifically a digital product such as a website or mobile app, a positive user experience is an absolute must. Great user experiences depend on a collaborative effort between multiple teams – product management, developers, designers, marketing and so on. Despite the name, UX teams aren’t the only factor to a product’s positive user experience. They need to work hand in hand with product managers in order to keep users at the heart of design and development.