PM / UX as Peer Groups

In many organizations, the product managers (PM) are the ones who define the “solution” for their project. They create wireframes and detailed UI requirements. They basically put the product designers (UX) into the role of “make it look pretty”. UI Graphic design is important, but it is not User Experience Design.

What is User Experience Design?
Article to understand what UX Design is to me.

I think this model makes designers feel pretty crumby and unimportant. I think there is a better model.  For many years, I have advocated a different approach. Product Managers (PM) should define the “problem” and the product designers (UX) should define the “solution”. They should act and be treated as peer groups.

What this means is that PMs should define the environment of the customer in detail. They should describe WHY the customer is having a problem that a new product or feature could solve. They should also go into details about the varying flavors of the problem so that a solution covers the right scope. They should prioritize the facets of the problem as well as how many times and how severe this problem occurs. In other words, they should set the stage for a solution.

UX should define the solution. It might be something in a browser, it might be a service. It might be an extension of an exiting feature or something brand new. They should give a deliverable to engineering that specifies what they should build. They should OWN the delivery of the solution, just as engineering owns the delivery of the code.

Now of course, design is partially a team effort. Collaboration with PMs and engineers and customers makes for a good design process. You shouldn’t design in an ivory tower. However, I advocate for designers to have specific deliverables that they should be held accountable to.

This all requires that PM, Eng and UX be peer groups. When the UX team reports up to engineering or product management, it automatically makes the design process less functional. It’s not impossible, but I think the designs in these systems is less than it could be. Here is the organization put in simple form.


When treated like a peer, the UX team can be measured and managed as a peer. When treated as a child group, they don’t get measured or managed in the same way. They end up saying horrible things like, “Just tell me what you want and I’ll do it”. This breaks my heart.

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