UX and Product Management

Someone asked me today what the difference was between UX and Product Management.  I explained with an analogy.

User Experience (UX) is like being Willy Wonka.  The chocolate factory was the ultimate in UX Design.  Not only was everything awesome, but it was easy to use.  No one had to ask how to eat in the candy garden.  There were no user manuals for how to fly with Fizzy Lifting Bubble Ade.  Sure there were lots of bugs in the system, like the dessert in the 3 course meal gum, but what product doesn’t have bugs.  The point is that Willy is a dreamer, a visionary.  He understands people at a core level and knows how to make them fanatic customers.  He knows how to hit just that right tone of form and function.

Product Management is the flip-side of Willy.  Product managers need to manage the process of building the chocolate factory over a period of time with limited resources.  Beyond resource constraints, there are technical limits and business realities.  The product manager has to be shrewdly tactical and make a million decisions.  The Oompa Loompas are the engineers and developers who work the system and do the actual building.

A great product needs both.  In a startup tech environment, often one person will do both.  I think its an incredibly fun process to do this.  Product Management needs to dream with one hand and make tough practical decisions with the other.  Great product management figures out a way to build the chocolate factory.  Bad product management builds the Slugworth factory.

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