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UX Designing Playbook for Software Product Managers

In today’s extremely competitive business landscape, only functional products don’t succeed. Unicorns of the market are those software companies that build UX rich beautiful products that are super easy-to-use and most effective in catering to the user needs. If you fail to address user experience, the top and bottom lines of the business may directly get impacted. If the features lack user adoption due to usability issues, UX improvements may result in increased development costs. Additionally, unhappy customers may stop using the product leading to decreased sales revenue.

Regardless of whether you’re developing consumer products or business software products, a great product design pays off heavily. When it comes to product management, if you think that it’s completely different from UX, you should think again! As a matter of fact, great software products are developed by the product managers who also own product UX design aspect and work very closely with the UX designers. If you’re an aspiring product manager or have just stepped into this field, keep on reading this post as we’re going to discuss the key approaches related to UX designing in which you should build your expertise.

A Tested Playbook for Product Designing

As a product manager, here is a tested playbook Product Managers can follow for Product Design to achieve desired user experiences

Step 1: Analyze Product Requirements

The first and foremost step is to understand the requirement for each of the planned features. PMs research to explore the concepts, features, and technologies. PMs conduct user workshops or face to face discussions to best understand the pain points and work with the tech team to devise solutions to solve the problems. The idea is to chalk out detailed user requirements around the following 3 categories. The deliverable from such activities can be an approach document or business requirements document.

With business requirements in place, PMs present the concepts to dev and design teams to evaluate tech and design approaches. Whiteboarding is quite helpful in such discussions. Closed group meetings are helpful in brainstorming ideas to reach a common ground in terms of approach. Technical architects can further work on technical approach documents aligned with functional and design approaches.

Step 2 (a): Create wireframes

You should involve UX writer as early as possible when you start creating the wireframes to avoid design re-work as it may impact the tech approach.  A good wireframe acts as the first visual feature concept. PMs can present, validate and iterate the requirements by demonstrating wireframe prototype to product users or internal teams. PMs can start with low fidelity wireframes on paper or whiteboard by hand sketching. After reviewing the early designs with the design and dev team, high fidelity wireframes can be created using advanced tools like Balsamiq or Freehand or Canva. Depending on your engagement with the designer, either of you can work on the wireframes. Here’re the key qualities of a good wireframe:

  • Simple to understand
  • Has required visual elements
  • Represents core functionality

Step 2 (b): Write UX 

When it comes to creating the most usable interfaces, content shouldn’t be an afterthought and that’s where a UX writer pitches in. Though it’s quite common to see dummy texts and placeholder images used in the prototypes by the UX designers, if the UX content is introduced in the end, UX design might get overhauled or need major changes as writing has implications on the UX and vice-versa. Involve your UX writers along with UX designers in each and every discussion. UX writing complements UX design and helps in product adoption by making it easier for a user to use the product. UX writing involves writing content on different product elements like

  • Labels
  • Relevant push notifications
  • Useful tooltips
  • Error messages
  • Button text
  • Info Icons
  • Naming features/ products

Step 3: Build prototypes

Once the wireframes are ready, the next step to connect the wireframes to build prototypes. While wireframes are all about explaining functional requirements, prototypes represent interactive user experience with end to end-user flow. Put simply, prototypes bear the objective of simulating the interaction between the interface and the user. They let the team understand the flow of a feature on say, a web console or a mobile app, and test the feasibility and usability of the feature. Similar to wireframing, prototyping can be created using different tools such as:

  • Paper prototyping
  • Design software
  • Presentation software

An effective prototyping phase should come with these qualities

  • Alternative  design approaches
  • The right fidelity level based on the available resources, completeness of the design, or objectives of the testing
  • Reusability of the prototypes to stay within the budget and delivery timeframe 

Step 4: Finalize designs for development

Now, based on the feedback received from different stakeholders, PMs need to work with designers in iterating the designs and take final approvals on the same from the review committee. Once, the UX is approved. Attach the UX deliverables (style guide and finished prototypes created say in invision) with the corresponding EPIC or story in JIRA. UX adds to your user story description and helps you in providing the required content to your development team.

Step 5: Review UX designs and ship product

While the features are being developed, involve yourself along with UX guys to test and review features. You might be able to avoid some risks at a much earlier stage as few design gaps are only discovered when the feature starts taking shape. Be prepared to tweak design on the way.

Finally, when the feature is developed and hence tested by QA, the product manager should review the feature end to end keeping both the design and functionality in mind. And ship finished UX rich product feature with confidence.

Parting thoughts

Product designing is fun! But as you can see, product managers needs to go through complex design and development lifecycle. The above-mentioned approach should help you avoid any distractions and stay focused on a well-defined process for developing product UX design. If you are Product Manager or a UX designer do share your comments below if you agree with the above-mentioned product design approach or if you do things differently.  

About author

I am a Product Management professional. I love to write and talk about product, growth, career, and entrepreneurship in Enterprise Software and Internet space.

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