This is the 3rd part of a 3-part series called “How to Answer the Most Frequently Asked Design Questions with 40 Launch Product Manager,” where we have a Product Manager from 40 Launch, Rodhmir Labadie, that specializes in design answer questions that are common in design-focused Product Manager interviews. The first part of this series can be accessed here.
Product Gym: How do you ensure specifications and UX designs are aligned?
Rodhmir Labadie: Typically the way we go about it is that they are done at the same time in parallel. The UX goals are to get in the challenges or the solutions that we are offering as a team. The specs have different degrees of fidelity. For example, for the new eye fidelity, we need to ensure that users are able to click a button for feedback. A greater aspect of the UX design would be an onvoy experience. The acceptance criteria is to state that a new user is going to be interacting with the Product for the first time.
Using an onvoy experience would allow them to understand how to use the tool, the context in which to use the tool, and how to create their first task or behavior within the Product after signing on. Then it’s the responsibility of the UX design from a prototype standpoint to meet the goals of those specs, which would be the first time you would see what the UX designers have in mind.
To broaden the situation, there are sometimes UX researchers who play a role in this process. Sometimes a UX designer asks both a UX designer and a UX researcher for advice. The researchers inform you about the specifications by doing in-field experimentations and getting a better understanding of what’s going on in the market. The way they ask and answer questions that the Product Team has should have alignment with the process around the developing design methodologies to answer those questions. You need a common line between the UX team; mapping their questions sets to the answer sets so that they meet the context that the Product Managers created
Product Gym: What lessons have you learned about User Interface Design?
Rodhmir Labadie: There’s quite a few. There are some traditional guidelines that have been really helpful. A key component to user interface is ensuring that things are simple. A cognitive overload can occur when a user is presented with too much information at the same time. At the same time, there is an efficiency of space that needs to mix when certain content is associated with each other. Any type of cognitive dissonance or cognitive overload is detrimental to the cause of trying to help the user make a decision.
The biggest lesson that I’ve been learning is, though you try to follow these rules the best you can within your bubble, you really need to get out there and test your Product out with real users. You might not have complete insight into it because the circumstances and the product’s working situation might dictate their workflow. A certain point has to be in a certain place to maximize their efficiency and speed. These little things are very unique to a person, but provides insight into the idea that “when I’m using a rule, I’m not using it for the sake of applying a rule but using a means to drive a better user experience in the product holistically.”
Another situation that new teams might deal with is the consistency in the behavior of users.
I think that something that a lot of user interface designs can really continue to push forward is priming. The idea of priming means you can present a liquid solution to a particular case. The expectation is from then on, you will be dealing with that particular circumstance using priming.
The last thing I can say as a lesson about Interface design is that content is important. User interface design is not just about buttons, visuals, and color of things, but also the words that you use. Send vs submit, vs execute or vs any certain button would describe a certain action. Those things can impact or influence and can really break a great visual design when that aspect has not been given its due diligence that the other elements have been given. I’m a strong opponent of getting the real text in a prototype as early as possible because sometimes designers might use placeholder text to fill gaps so they can get their visuals forward. However, they are losing the opportunity to solve a case accurately. I think that that’s why I put in user updates because I can really do well to move forward and anyone that is working in that discipline can continue to do the same.
Product Gym: What do you dislike about Product Management and how would you improve it?
Rodhmir Labadie: I’m not sure I’d say if I dislike anything about Product Management. I think Product Management, as a whole, is going through evolutionary phases. I think that means that some of the Product Managers need to be judicious about the type of Product Management they do and the Product Management they are good at. You can be a Product Development Manager, a Product Marketing Manager, a General Product Manager, a Technical Product Manager, or an Associate Product Manager. There are so many roles that can come into play that different organizations are leveraging those titles to draw hires to help solve important problems.
Understanding what the organization’s actual pinpoints require greater conversations to be held, which takes time. When an organization assumes that they make one hire, and the one hire becomes their saving grace and solves all their problems, the situation becomes skewed by misguided and short-sighted mindsets.
Now the reason why I’m talking about the organizational goals aspect of it is because it comes full circle. When someone is going for a Product Management role, they should know what type of organization they want to work for. You want a large organization or a small organization. The reason why I’m even bringing up the different wants of different types of people is because that is what Product Management is. Product Management is not just a discipline that exists by itself, and where a Product Manager can assume that Product Management is practiced and define the same everywhere. Everyone comes into Product Management with their own unique expertise and backgrounds. There are a lot of soft skills that come with being a Product Manager. If you are considering Product Management, you should then ask yourself what it is you are trying to accomplish, what do you need to move forward, what are you passionate about, and how are you trying to drive the next iteration of your Product.
Product Gym: Do you have any advice for people looking to transition into Product Management?
Rodhmir Labadie: Understand what it is that you want to do; specifically, what type of Product Management you want to do. To take the necessary steps, you have to think like a Product Manager. I think that one of the biggest challenges to people trying to transition is the idea of thinking like a Product Manager. However, there are tools and skillsets that you can build on, such as creating business cases or competitive analysis, that will help develop a more finite Product Manager mindset.
It’s really all about asking the right questions. It’s your job as a Product Manager to become disciplined and gathering enough key information to make smart decisions. You have to be actively taking in information from your sales team, your client services team, and data from the Product itself. You have to be actively talking to your clients and users, so you can gain greater insights on how people use your Product. The goal is to ultimately take all that information, synthesize it, and take actionable steps to improve your Product.
You have to also constantly find ways to work through challenges to get the key information. For different organizations, it works seamlessly, and at others, it’s a little more challenging. As long as the organization understands the value in taking that approach, you should be in a good position to make adjustments to your plans and processes, if necessary.
For someone to transition into Product Management, they have to understand what their daily tasks and expectations are, and they have to be able to communicate needs and challenges concerning their Product to stakeholders to gain the resources needed to improve the Product as best as possible.
Product Gym: Is there any podcasts, books or blogs that you could recommend for people trying to transition into Product Management?
Rodhmir Labadie: In terms of podcasts, I think as a Product Manager, you should be listening to many different subjects to gain as much information as possible. For example, I personally listen to Freakonomics, the Daily, and Radiolab. I think that listening to a diverse and broad set of podcasts is helpful to get people thinking outside the box.
In terms of books, Cracking the Product Manager Interview is a good book for people transitioning into Product Management. I think that The Lean Start-Up is a great book on how to think differently, how to make problems smaller, and how to understand how a build manager works. As for blogs, I read anything that was written by Jason Shah. He is a great mind in the Product Management space and his articles would be immensely helpful for those transitioning.
About Rodhmir Labadie:
Rodhmir Labadie is a Product Manager at 40 Launch. Before 40 Launch, he was a former Product Manager at KPMG US. Prior to that, he worked for TheaterMania where he started as a Product Designer and then became a Product Manager. He got his Bachelor’s of Science at Sacred Heart University. He has a background in technology, development, marketing, and design, and has experience working in the energy, finance, logistics, and consumer branding industries. Rodhmir has successfully launched over 30 new products, websites, campaigns, and marketing strategies.