How Product Management & UX Work Together

Not all business problems are customer problems. (Customers couldn’t care less that you aren’t generating enough sales leads.)

Not all customer problems are business problems. (A tech company probably doesn’t care that their app doesn’t work on a PalmPilot.)

So, how do companies find the right problems to solve? They leverage product management and UX frameworks.

Product Management vs. User Experience

Growing up in the UX career path, it took me awhile to understand what a product manager does. On the surface, it sounded just like my role as a UX. Talking to users, designing experiences, hey—that’s what I do!

Now that I have several years of experience working alongside product managers, it’s much clearer now how it differs from UX.

Product managers are responsible for the entire product: the user experience, performance, ROI, and maintenance. They partner with other teams such as marketing, UX, designers, writers, engineers / developers, QA / UAT, analytics, business intelligence, and operations to gather insights, implement solutions, and constantly monitor performance.

UX designers design the user experience. They might also lead or take part in some of the above activities—but likely not all.

In both cases, the customer is at the center. Product managers seek solutions to business problems by better understanding users. UX designers seek solutions to customer problems that the business can solve.

Examples of Problems a Product Manager Might Solve:Examples of Problems a UX Designer Might Solve:
Increase number of first-time mortgage applicantsDissatisfaction with mortgage application experience
Increase number of in-app purchasesPoor usability when navigating in-app store
Decrease shopping cart abandonmentCannot remember password
Increase efficiency / productivity at resort check-inLong waits to check-in at resort

Taking one of the examples from above, let’s say a gaming company wants to increase the number of in-app purchases. First, the product manager might conduct IDIs with customers to understand what keeps them from purchasing game add-ons. Are they priced too high? Too hidden from view? Not desirable to game play?

A UX designer might then lead a sketching session with the product team to develop multiple solutions, and then get feedback from customers about which concept does the best job of solving their problem.

Next, the UX/UI team creates the polished design while the product manager writes the user stories and works with the development team to build the solution.

In Conclusion

Product management and UX are complementary disciplines, in the same way that UX and development are complementary disciplines. They can be separate roles—or one role—just like a multi-talented developer can also design user interfaces.

Deciding whether to leverage both a product manager and a UX designer depends on the size of your team, skill set, complexity of your organization, and how you want to allocate your resources.

Next week, I’ll talk about which product research methods to use during each phase of the product cycle.

Related Articles

Author: Kristine Remer

June UX is led by Kristine Remer, a CX / UX research and strategy consultant in Minneapolis. She helps companies drive significant business outcomes by finding and solving customer problems. When she's not creating customer journey maps and user personas, Kristine is either kayaking or watching her kids play soccer.