Congratulations; you are a new product manager! Product managers need to pick the brains of existing users and potential users of products. They need to understand the different personas of users. They need to understand pain points of using the product and looking at the product. They need to have users that they can ask clarifying questions over the course of a year. If a new product manager does a simple UX project (like this one), she will have all those things early.
Recruit 5 expert users of the product. Recruit 5 users familiar with the product. Recruit 5 potential users of the product.
Have the participants answer a few questions about themselves and then have them complete about 10 common tasks using the product. Ask their name, age, and any other relevant demographical data. Ask their experience level: (a) I’ve never used it and never seen it, (b) I’ve never used it, but I’ve seen it, (c) I’ve used it once or twice, or (d) I’ve used it weekly or more often. Have them briefly take a look at the product. What do they think it is there to do?
Start using a screen capture tool. I’ve used Screenr and CamStudio, and both are acceptable. Screenr is better. If data security is a concern, be careful with what you’re recording and where you’re storing it. Ask them to perform ten tasks. This should not take them more than 30 minutes.
Ask them, on a scale of one to ten, how easy it is to use a product. Ask them how the product could be improved.
The most difficult parts of the project will be fine-tuning the script and recruiting the users. Both of these activities are very valuable to a new product manager. By watching the recordings, figure out how long it took them to perform tasks. Look for patterns in the problems the participants experienced. Look at the quotes from participants and use them. Lastly, write a short paper with recommendations on UX improvements and translate the recommendations into business requirements and functional stories.
For more information on product management and UX, read the Product Guy Daily. I publish it every morning.
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged functionality, prodmgmt, product management, product managers, QA, strategy, testing, usability, User interface, user-centered design, UX
Sometimes a product manager is asked to do things like testing to help software development processes. This is especially true for product management job titles like product owners, business analysts, product analysts, etc. What about when the product manager is the primary tester? Sure, there are reasons why it can be a good thing. First and foremost, it is a great way for a product manager to understand the product and how it is used. However, I wanted to focus on the limitations of this arrangement. I’ve compiled a few of the consequences that arise from having product managers as the primary testers. These include impacts on the development process, conflicts of interest, and impacts on the performance of the product manager.
Impacts on the Development Process
- The turnstile. Using the product manager as a tester is to have one person be the action person for too many parts of the process. You’ll be at the beginning, the middle, and the end of the team’s work. In this flow, the product manager naturally becomes a bottleneck.
- The weird smell. You’ll be less likely to investigate something that passes, but passes oddly (something’s not right). In an ideal world, an engineer or tester should investigate the weird smell. A product manager probably doesn’t have the expertise or the time.
- The importance of testing. Testing is a full-time job (usability testing, performance testing, load testing, security testing, etc.). Doesn’t there need to be a dedicated person doing this job?
- The stuntman argument. If you’re an actor, you may not want to do your own stunts because it takes away work from a stuntman. Same argument here: you’re taking away experience from a junior engineer.
Conflicts of Interest
- Pulled in different directions. Product managers should want to ship the product as soon as possible; testers should want to send problems back to engineers to ensure quality. Product managers who test face tough decisions on what is important.
- Scope creep. The product manager will have the ability to sneak in additional requirements to get it perfect. It’s always very tempting for a product manager to do.
- Perfectionism. Being the finder of bugs makes you more likely to delay a launch to address a defect. After all, finding and squashing the bugs is what a good tester does.
Impacts on Your Performance as a Product Manager
- Less time for your day job. You’ll have less time to interface with customers. Understanding customers is probably the most important thing for a product manager to do.
- Different mindset. Testing puts you more in the details, and less with the overall vision. Testing every day can shift focus away from developing the 3-year big picture, or at least developing the big picture with an open mind.
- One more way to be wrong. As the product manager, you’ll be the throat to choke for starting late. As the tester, you’ll be the throat to choke for the launch being delayed. Why open yourself up to more potential criticism?
What do you think about product management and testing? Leave a comment!
For more information on product management, read the Product Guy Daily. I publish it every morning.
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged Agile, Best practices, Kanban, Lean, organizational behavior, prodmgmt, product management, product managers, QA, scope creep, software, strategy, testing, weird smell
I’ve been looking at what organizations should consider when adopting new technological solutions, and it got me thinking. Which factors need to be considered in the research and implementation of new customer-facing products and services? Here is a checklist that you can go through during your evaluation of new technologies:
- Will new products and services pose any risk to data security? If a user were to log in and have her personal information compromised, this would be a disaster!
- Will new technology solutions have outages? Many of today’s technologies are “up” for less than 99% of the time. Is this acceptable? Is there something else that users can use if the solution goes down?
- And will they strain other technologies we use? Some software types “sit on top of” existing systems and occasionally cause them to go down.
- Consider the performance for the product or service. Will users feel it is dramatically slower than Google or Amazon?
- Are the features going to be there on Day 1 or will users experience iterations to get to full functionality?
- Is there broken functionality in the product or service? Ownership: whose problem is it to fix? Accountability: to what extent is it our throat that is going to get choked when there is a problem?
- One-size-fits-all and one-search-fits-all: should search software work out of the box for 60% of users or 99% of users? Specialists may be alienated if the general search tool is optimized for laypeople (and vice versa).
- Is a new technology-based product or service going to change the UX of other services? Major changes to your online presence have major implications for users. Even changes that are seen as very positive by most will frustrate some.
- For a potential product or service, at what point will UX assessment be possible? Can you do UX assessment before making a large investment in resources?
- Will the UX for mobile users change?
- Redesigning the user interface to incorporate a new product or service is risky, and most organizations avoid drastic changes. Look at the CNN redesign model…
Impact on employees
- What will new technology mean for existing employees’ job responsibilities? Is there currently expertise in the organization or will new positions be required? For those affected, will their other job responsibilities be lessened or changed?
- Will the implementation of new products and services open doors for collaboration with other organizations? Could nearby organizations share costs with us? Do we want to work with those guys?
Resource usage patterns
- Will new products and services change the current usage of your organization’s resources? Will end users incur the extra costs?
- Where does new technology live? The days of organizations having to buy/lease/maintain servers are coming to an end. Software companies offer SaaS solutions. Cloud companies like AWS can cheaply offer huge amounts of virtualized space. Due to cloud computing, initial development investments can be $$$, instead of $$$$.
- How do potential new products and services address your organization’s priorities?
- What is a new technology’s impact on ideal of being green? Is there a reduction in data usage? Does the fact that someone else is hosting it make it green?
- Will new technologies remain sustainable? Sure, we can afford to have them now, but what about ten years from now? If organizational priorities change in a few years, will we still be locked into supporting the product or service?
- Will new technologies be scalable as usage grows?
- Will new technologies be scalable as the organization grows?
Getting the word out
- So let’s say we did implement a new technology-based product or service…how would we tell people about it? What is the marketing strategy?
What other factors should an organization consider? Leave a comment!
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged Best practices, Cloud computing, CNN, collaboration, customer-facing products, features, functionality, green technology, hosting, Marketing, Mobile web design, performance, product marketing, risk assessment, risk management, SaaS, scalability, security, software, stability, strategy, sustainability, system analysis, technology, User interface, user-centered design, UX