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Which Design Skills Should Product Owners and Product Managers Have?

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Today, high-quality User Experience design (UX design) of a product is half the success. Some products can do well without it, but most solutions simply need it. 

For example, let’s take some great games like Monument Valley. The UX design is 85% of the overall work and success here. If developers had screwed up at the stage of creating an intuitive interface, music, graphics, animation and so on, this game would have not attracted the players' attention. In such a case, many games that directly rely on in-app purchases would lose a huge amount of potential income. That is why developers of some products, especially games, put User Experience design at the heart of their production. This is what distinguishes them from competitors and what helps to achieve success.

The tasks of the UX designers are clear. However, should a product owner or a product manager have any skills in this area? Or, is it enough for them to simply trust specialists?

To answer this question, let's look at an agile team that consists of a product manager or owner, developers, designers, testers, and scrum masters. 

What do PO and PM do?

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Either a product manager or a product owner is responsible for all stages of product deployment. At the same time, they may not be personally involved in specific processes but are obliged to guide specialists and make sure that they stick to the product mission. Let's list the main responsibilities more specifically:


  1. Understanding the market. This includes identifying the product's niche, as well as studying the competitive environment, pricing policy, product positioning, and more.
  2. Understanding the user. This may include customer development activities such as creating a user image, understanding customer needs, problems, and goals.
  3. Development of a strategy for a product that meets the market demands and user requirements.
  4. Creating a product roadmap. This is done based on the product strategy. A product roadmap is a global vision of your product for short and long periods of time. Thanks to the roadmap, product managers can clearly determine what their product offers at a particular point of its existence. This also includes prioritizing product features based on their importance.
  5. Support and coordination of development teams when creating a product. This is the main task, which covers almost the entire range of product development activities. Either PM or PO must coordinate the work of sales, customer development, marketing, development, design, and testing teams.

And more. Yes, this is not the easiest job in the world. Now, let's see what design skills are included in these responsibilities.

Design skills Product Managers and Product Owners should have

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In large companies, a product manager oversees the work of a whole design department. In a small startup, a product manager and designer can be one person. 

Since at the beginning of the article we agreed that we would consider an agile team as an example, we’ll build on it.

Progressive user research skills

Product owners and product managers should know their audience, their sore spots, problems, and needs. And they share this knowledge with their whole team. Progressive user research implies communication with users. They collect insights and record this data in the form of convenient storyboards or user personas.

While creating designs and images, designers can sometimes forget why their work is needed for the users. The task of the product manager is to keep designers on the right track.

Wireframing and user flows

A good product manager clearly understands which features are needed to solve user issues. Creating the product’s architecture, they must first take into account what kind of journey the user is about to perform via the product. It can be achieved by creating wireframes and user flows. While user flows are designed to predict the future customer’s journey, wireframes are more like visual guidelines for the product’s design. In large teams, there is often a UX designer who plans all the scenarios of the user journey, but in smaller teams, product managers are responsible for this, because they aren't involved directly in the design development. 

Taste for good design

It's hard to say something specific here, but we think you get the point. A good product owner or product manager has a flair for the necessary design. Whether it is achieved through experience or purely intuitively, but they should feel good design.

It is difficult to master. A good sense of design is gained by reviewing a huge number of templates and critically reflecting on each of them. Product managers need to write down their impressions and then, they will be able to understand which design they don’t like and why.

The very understanding of good design is very controversial. The product manager may think that it isn’t catchy, while the designer will insist that it is a work of art. This can lead to long disputes, but do not forget that it is the product managers and product owners who are empowered to make final decisions.

Moderation is the key

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After all, the product manager's main skill is to understand how to effectively distribute the tasks. Let the designer create the product’s design. This is their job. The team is unlikely to have someone more qualified for this task. POs and PMs are responsible for a large number of tasks and the overall success of the product. So, don't interfere with specialists doing their job. Still, be ready to give expert advice on time and make minor changes, where it is necessary. This approach will certainly help the team follow the main vector of product development.

Top comments (1)

monaco_lindsay profile image
Lindsay Monaco

Great article, thank you for sharing! A good UX design helps to create memorable experiences, engage users and improve customer acquisition.
Today an app icon is an integral part of a brand’s identity and the first touchpoint between your app and a user. It should be creative and cause some kind of emotions from the user. Here you can read how to create an amazing app icon