In this #ProductTank Tokyo panel discussion, Emi Kwon and Simran Kaur discuss how UX design and product management are intertwined and the need for collaboration between the two disciplines.

The panel, moderated by Tanmay Goel, Product Manager at Rakuten welcomed:

  • Emi Kwon, UX Lead of the Experience Design Group at a global insurance company
  • Simran Kaur, Product Designer at Rakuten Mobile

Watch the entire session in full or read on for the key points:

  • What is a UX designer and what makes a good one?
  • What does a UX designer do?
  • How should product managers communicate effectively with designers to build great products?

What is a UX designer? (And what makes a good one?)

Simran starts by pointing out that UX design is focused on how a user interacts with a product, whether digital or physical. A UX designer aims to make that interaction and experience between the product and the user easier, simpler and seamless.

This involves creating customer journeys, research, user personas, wireframing, prototyping, conceptualizing the entire process, and endless iteration.

As Emi follows up, there is however a difference between a UX designer and a good UX designer. Good UX designers are able to combine technical feasibility, business viability, and user desirability. They also know how to bring life to a physical product so that the user benefits and enjoys the experience throughout the customer journey. Finally, they know how to take the perspective of users and how to empathize with them.

What does a UX designer do?

Simran explains that day-to-day a UX designer could be performing research, wireframing, or creating a visual layout of the customer journey depending on the stage of the product. It all begins with gathering requirements, then defining the problem, identifying user personas and creating customer journeys. Then to get more clarity, she might shift to wireframing and testing before receiving feedback and then creating a visual layout. However, there could be overlap with multiple products at different stages.

As Emi expands, most of her work involves a similar process focused on ideation and prototyping as well as listening to customer voices. Ultimately it follows the design thinking process. Tanmay then points out that product managers do similar things as they can’t focus on one thing at a time and have to wear multiple hats.

Emi then touches on how she leads a team of designers and allows them to focus on their strengths rather than forcing all of them to do the same thing. However, both point out the need for designers to be T-shaped so that they know every area before they start to specialize.

Collaboration between UX designers and product managers

Friction and miscommunication are common themes that pain designers and product managers. Tanmay asks the panel how product managers can empathize with designers so that these two groups could find a middle ground.

As he points out, UX designers may want to do things in a specific way to achieve the best user experience possible, but product managers have to look at the overall product. Also, there could be frustration since product managers do have some understanding of the UX design process.

As Simran explains, the main cause of friction could be timelines which may need to be longer for a designer, while a product manager has to consider tight and many times unrealistic deadlines.

Emi adds that product managers and designers need to consider problems together to come up with the best solution as there could be a gap in how each group understands the problem. This could involve designers shadowing product managers to see things from a different perspective. The session continued with a discussion about various processes and approaches for product development as well as questions from the audience.

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