Product Management and User Experience are practices that—more and more—involve and depend upon each other. But it’s not always clear how they should intersect. Who should be responsible for what? How might Product Managers and UX practitioners best support each other?
To explore the UX/PM intersection, we’re trying an experiment. Rosenfeld Media is organizing a one-day virtual conference—creatively titled Product Management + User Experience—that takes place February 3. We’ve lined up an absolutely fantastic speaker line-up that balances both UX and PM perspectives: Marty Cagan, Jeff Gothelf, Laura Klein, Jeff Patton, Tomer Sharon, and Christina Wodtke.
If you look at the event site, you’ll see that there are no sessions listed. That’s by design: we’re asking you to weigh in on what PM/UX questions are most important to you. Just let us know. The results will help the speakers understand what to cover in their talks (and we’ll let you know when their sessions are announced).
If you do this by EOD Wednesday, December 2, we’ll enter you in a drawing to win one of ten advance copies of our next book, Tomer Sharon’s Validating Product Ideas Through Lean User Research. (Tomer is one of our speakers.)
You can also just go ahead and register now (early bird rate ends December 18). Either way, please weigh in: what would you like to learn about the intersection of Product Management + User Experience?
It’s one thing to announce you’ll start conducting lean user research and another thing to do it. How do you start when you’re a tiny four-person team juggling three unique lines of business?
We poured our energy into drafting a research roadmap. It was ambitious and read like a thick, spiral-bound menu from the Cheesecake Factory. A buffet of enticing research techniques. Mental models, ethnographic studies, journey maps, interviews, surveys and Big Data. But face it: small businesses like ours don’t have the resources to apply them all. So Lou and Elaine suggested we tap our deep bench of consultants for advice. Cut out the cheesecake, go straight to the meat.
We asked our experts a question: how can we glean insights without investing a lot of time or money? Here are quick takeaways I gained from the six who answered the call.
1. Know the research question before you start.
Curb the temptation to tackle everything at once. Choose the one burning question you most want to answer then plan a short sprint no longer than 2-3 weeks long. By keeping your sprints short and focused, you obtain quick, actionable insights. You avoid burnout and enable repeatable research.
– From Caroline Jarrett, form design and survey guru
2. Don’t fish with a hammer.
Tools can be shiny and sexy but choose the one(s) that will help you answer the research question. For example, mental models are most useful when you plan to pivot strategies or have a known blind spot.
3. Tap asynchronous tools. Or a few volunteers.
Asynchronous tools. Small teams can extend their capacity by using asynchronous tools to gather customer input. Be sure to pick the right tool for the job. For example, a service like Usertesting.com can help you validate usability of task-based actions.
Volunteers. Find interns or volunteers within your organization (or even your customer base) who are passionate about the topic to add brains and elbow grease to your research project.
– From Leah Buley, author of UX Team of One
4. Develop an efficient and effective interview plan.
Interviews. You don’t necessarily need to interview a lot of people. Once you start to hear a pattern in people’s answers, you can stop.
Synthesis. Immediately after each interview, jot down your top 5 takeaways. Iterate your hypothesis as you go. When it’s time to synthesize listen to recordings or pay a transcription service.
– From Steve Portigal, author of Interviewing Users
5. Make a quick and dirty customer story with what you know.
Traditional personas can take weeks or months to research and develop. Meanwhile a customer story, like a Buyer Legend, takes a few hours. It’s written from what you already know about your users and revised as you collect insights. This post shows you how to write your own.
– From Jeff Eisenberg, co-author of Buyer Legends: The Executive’s Storytelling Guide
6. Segment around behavior, not demographics.
Indi Young and Jeff Eisenberg took issue with our audience segments because they focused on demographics. Forget job titles, years of UX experience, gender, they said. Instead, try building segments around a commonly shared behavior or intention.
7. Tell an insights story.
After you gather insights, consider crafting a compelling story, rather than a report about what you learned from your audience. Stories build a foundation of insight that is easier to remember than a report. It also helps build connections with users as people, not numbers.
– From Boon Sheridan, content strategist and IA provocateur
With plenty of food for thought, it’s time to adjust our approach. Stay tuned for our next post, where we’ll reveal the burning question we chose, and cover the highs and lows of conducting our first People Project sprint.
What lean methods have worked well for you? What are we missing?
Sometimes I feel that my one and only superpower is convincing smart but busy people to take on yet more responsibilities.
Well, I’ve struck again!
I’ve pulled together a new crew of advisors to help develop the editorial agenda for our UX books—and to review our proposals: Abby Covert, Andy Polaine, Boon Sheridan, Dave Malouf, Sara Wachter-Boettcher, Steve Krug, and Whitney Quesenbery. You can read their bios here.
This rag-tag bunch is a mix of past RM authors with people who’ve written for other publishers and—gasp!—have self-published. (Another gasp: some aren’t authors at all.) They work solo, at agencies, and at large organizations. They represent many, if not most, facets of UX. All, at some point in their careers, have been crack UX practitioners. And, dammit, they’re smart and helpful and nice.
Over the coming years, we’ll continue to publish UX books that will help you do better work and, by extension, impact the experiences of millions of people; thanks in advance to our new advisors for helping us help you. And endless gratitude to our emeritus editorial advisors, whose thoughtful and generous assistance continues to benefit us all: Andrew Dillon, Dan Szuc, Dave Gray, Dirk Knemeyer, Ginny Redish, Harry Max, Irene Au, Jared Spool, Josh Clark, Kim Goodwin, Kristian Simsarian, Marc Rettig, Mike Kuniavsky, Nathan Shedroff, Peter Bogaards, Peter Morville, and Tony Byrne.
Happy news: we’ve recently signed authors to write these three exciting new books, all likely to be published in 2016:
- Epic Fail: Design Research War Stories by Steve Portigal
- The Dawn of Agentive Technology: From Good Tools to Good Rules by Chris Noessel
- Blindspot: Illuminating the Hidden Value of Business by Steven Diller, Nathan Shedroff, and Sean Sauber
Steve has been compiling war stories—some written by you—for years. In Epic Fail, he’ll knit them together in ways that lead to new conclusions, lessons, and maybe even something grander. A design research framework for the next century, perhaps? We’ll see.
Chris’s book will be a wild ride; not surprising, given the scope of Make It So, his last book. Technologies like AI typically outpace our abilities to humanize them; I’m hopeful that Chris’s book helps designers to dramatically narrow that gap.
And a book on the hidden value of business from Rosenfeld Media? Well, there’s some incredibly exciting stuff happening at the intersection of business and design, and we’ll have some interesting news on this to report on later this fall. Please stay tuned.
In honor of these new books, here’s a discount code that will get you 25% off any Rosenfeld Media book until Saturday, 9/26: PRODIGAL.
More happy news: this is Steve’s second book with Rosenfeld Media. Chris’s too. And Nathan’s third. Indi Young and Whitney Quesenbery have also worked with us on more than one book. That means we’re doing something right. Normally I’d give credit to taking a UX-infused approach to how we do business. But when it comes to writing books, I can’t overemphasize the very old school approach of providing authors with great support from a human editor. As one of our authors put it just yesterday:
I’m not sure why so many other publishers are axing their developmental editors; I don’t see any other way to ensure an experience that’s good for an author and, ultimately, readers. So a huge tip of the hat to Marta Justak, who has edited most of our books.
I’ve always been impressed by people and organizations that value transparency. And I’ve tried to make it a cornerstone of how Rosenfeld Media does business.
As a brand attribute, transparency sounds great. But as a way for a company to behave, it’s much more complicated, and even a little painful. It means publicly admitting when stuff goes wrong, and occasionally acknowledging your own ignorance or impotence.
Allow me to be painfully transparent: given the field we’re in, you’d expect Rosenfeld Media to be a completely user research-driven company.
And you’d be wrong.
Like many small companies — and even some large ones — we’ve made the same excuses that we begrudge our consulting clients: not enough time, staff, or budget.
Well, it’s time to call bullshit. No more excuses.
So we’re starting a new thing called The People Project. It’s a lean user research program that makes sense for a tiny company like ours. And we’ll report on it— transparently—right here on our site. That way you’ll see — and hopefully learn from — what we’re discovering.
We’re centering our research on the actionable questions — some big, some small — that directly address what people need and want most from us. We’re leaning on our roster of Rosenfeld Media UX experts to guide us when we get stumped answering these questions along the way.
And we’re emphasizing practical tools and iterative approaches over grand methods. After all, we’re in the business of UX expertise, not medical devices or Martian rovers.
I’m so excited that Rosenfeld Media is finally becoming truly user research-driven—and a little relieved. It’ll be hard, but the hardest part is, as they say, recognizing that you have a problem. Nice to check that off the list. Of course, we’re certainly not the first organization to share our user research. In fact, our biggest inspiration is the amazing UX team at MailChimp; you should really subscribe to their newsletter to see what they’re learning.
I’m especially proud of Elaine Matthias and Stephanie Zhong for pushing this forward; you’ll be hearing directly from them along the way.
Speaking of which, we’ll be posting what we learn right here. We’ll also tweet about what we’ve learned via @rosenfeldmedia.
If you’re finding this interesting or even inspiring, let us know by commenting below. In fact, if your small organization is doing something similar, would you mind sharing a bit about what you’ve learned?
Got what it takes to be the voice of Rosenfeld Media? Then we’d like to hear from you. Have a look at the job posting; we’ll need your pitch by July 10.
Great UX requires more than design and research chops—so we’ve put together a virtual conference to help you develop your listening, facilitation, negotiation, and leadership skills. People Skills for UX brings the collective wisdom of four UX “innies” and four “outsiders”—David Sibbet, Harry Max, Jennifer Pahlka, Julian Treasure, Kevin Hoffman, Kim Goodwin, Michelle Katz, and Steve Portigal—this May 27. And because it’s a virtual conference, you (and your team) can participate in your PJs.
Oh, and recordings are part of the deal.
What does it take to build incredible products? Many UXers have experienced the highs and lows of working hard on a product fueled by a great idea only to watch it fall short of users’ expectations at launch. This all-too-common story has sent UX people delving into the world of product management, and vice versa.
That’s why we’ve signed Laura Klein, author of O’Reilly’s UX for Lean Startups, to write Build Better Products (due out in 2016). Laura will take you step-by-step through the process of building products that people truly love to use.
Why we’re excited about this book:
- This might be the first product management handbook that pulls it all together for UXers and product managers alike.
- Laura will share expertise that comes from helping many Silicon Valley startups fine tune their product development processes.
- Laura is crazy funny and insightful—you’ll laugh while you learn practical methods for building products that live up to what users need and want.
- Not every company can afford to hire a coach like Laura. So we figured we’d bring Laura to you.
She’s pretty driven to write this book. Read why.
What do you most want to know about building better products? Let Laura know by commenting below…
Are people getting in the way of the work you want to get done? No matter how talented a designer you are, if you can’t communicate or collaborate effectively with others, people can’t see the brilliance of your ideas.
Many of us (secretly) feel unprepared to deal with difficult bosses, colleagues and clients. And school didn’t teach us the skills we needed to influence people, lead teams, or resolve conflict. It turns out that “soft” skills are more important than we thought.
We’re thrilled to bring you a one-day virtual conference People Skills for UX this May 27 to take the stress out of working with people. Come boost your “soft” skills in four critical areas: leadership, listening, negotiation, and facilitation.
4 Reasons to Sign Up for People Skills for UX
- Gain strategies to help you be more influential at work
- Learn from a unique lineup of experts including: a Hollywood insider, several TED speakers, and design leaders you know and respect
- Ask the experts the burning questions that are keeping you up at night
- No travel required—learn from the comfort of your desk—and get unlimited replays
The Expert Lineup
- Leadership: Kim Goodwin (VP of UX, PatientsLikeMe) & Jennifer Pahlka (Founder, Code for America)
- Listening: Steve Portigal (Portigal Consulting) & Julian Treasure (Founder, The Sound Agency)
- Negotiation: Harry Max (VP of Product, All Clear ID) & Michelle Katz (Former VP, Legal Universal Studios)
- Facilitation: Kevin Hoffman (Founder, Seven Heads Design) & David Sibbet (Founder, The Grove Consultants)
Reserve A Seat
See you there!
In design circles, it’s becoming as common to discuss organizational behavior as it is responsive design. This isn’t surprising; designers find their efforts continually crashing into walls of misaligned goals and, at times, vicious politics. And decision-makers are suffering too; if they can’t get their people and resources pointed in the same direction, their organizations can be damaged beyond repair.
So we’re glad to present our 23rd title, Managing Chaos: Digital Governance by Design. It’s the “not a UX book” that UX people should read—as should their bosses. Because, as Peter Morville says, “You can’t get user experience right if your governance model is wrong.”
We’re also thrilled that were finally able to convince Lisa Welchman to write about her work. She’s been tackling governance issues for her entire career, and now is the perfect time for her book to debut, as designers care more about governance and decision-makers are grasping for ways to get better returns on their design investments.