Why UX designers make great product managers
Product managers are known to come from diverse backgrounds ranging from data-science, engineering, networking, design to business, marketing, and sales (among others). The role of a product manager differs from company to company and is dependent not only on the business itself but on the industry or domain that the enterprise is part of.
The transition from a UX designer to a product manager makes sense and feels extremely natural when comparing the individual responsibilities for both positions.
Here are three reasons why UX designers make great product managers/
Product managers have to meet with customers most of the time and by the time UX designers transition to a product manager role, this becomes second nature to them.
A major part of the UX process is centered on user research and this is not relegated to just sending out surveys to potential respondents through email. User research is an enormous area that’s growing every day to the extent where some large companies only allow PhD students to apply for user research positions. The process of user research (along with testing) utilizes a vast number of different methodologies including contextual interviews, ethnographic studies, usability evaluations, one-on-one interviews, diary studies, card sorting, and questionnaires.
The objective of research and testing is to understand the needs and goals of the end-user. The UX process also often requires designers to convert their data into personas that dive deeper into the mindset and behaviors of target users. Everything in the UX process is customer-centric and it goes beyond just numbers. A UX designer has to show empathy for an end-user by understanding their thoughts, feelings, words, and expectations (often through the use of an artifact called an ‘empathy map’).
They make data-driven decisions
Data analysis is a huge part of the project management role and often that involves studying a large number of user metrics pertaining to the product. These range from the most fundamental ones like conversion metrics including sign-ups, drop-offs, time spent and pages viewed to much more complex datasets with hundreds or even thousands of dependent and independent variables
A UX designer is always working with metrics that dive into the mindset of the end-user. An example of this is Google’s HEART metrics — Happiness, Engagement, Adoption, Retention and Task Success. Each metric is relevant to understanding the level of interaction of users with the system.
Data is what drives the prototyping process in UX design. Every major design decision that goes into a production level prototype is driven by the data acquired from usability evaluations and research.
Their job requires them to be cross-functional
A UX designer is not just working with the developers and customers. They’re also interacting with the marketing team, the sales team and other designers (graphics and visual). This means that a UX designer needs to speak multiple languages and understand multiple domains.
UX design often needs to sync with the business goals of the company. This requires UX designers not only to understand the business model of the organization but also key stakeholders, long term and short term projections, and history of the company’s performance.
When it comes to marketing and sales, UX designers make it their objective to understand the needs of their target customers (as specified above). Technology companies often implement sales tactics that are driven to connect target consumers or businesses with the right product. Sales reps in tech companies need to understand the product as well as they understand the customer and UX design is a core part of both. UX designers need to do their background research on the customer and implement design solutions that align with their needs.
In conclusion, there’s no formula that makes for a great product manager. Anyone who works in a tech firm regardless of their background has the potential to be a stellar product manager. However, there are a lot of correlations between a UX role and a product manager role and I hope that any UX designers reading this have aspirations to become a product manager in the future.