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Who is designing your product?

Posted by EngineSmith on March 25, 2011

Ever read some document called PRD (Product Requirement Document)? In most companies (boring ones at least), it is Product Manager (PM)’s job to write up this document. Then a group of engineers rush ahead to get the product built according to the “spec”. What is the result? Most likely, the product will be late, ugly and buggy, way different than the PRD, and worst of all, nobody wants to use it.

In my personal experiences, most PMs are MBAs who have no experience in any form of product design, needless to say Web or Mobile GUI design. How do you know if they are any good, except which top business school they are from? Product is NOT business, it is art. My criteria on good product designer is: he/she has the guts to say NO. Too many time, the PRD didn’t thoroughly cover all the possible permutations of a scenario, and engineers always always like to “over-engineer” and ask the question, such as:

  • If user can delete one message, do you want to allow them to delete more than one message?
  • If user can create a new “something” here, can they delete/modify it later?

From technical perspective, they are perfectly great questions. But should a PRODUCT always do everything technically possible? Majority PM’s answer will be “good idea, let’s add it since it is useful to the user”. The best ones will answer “no, it is NOT an important feature for majority of the users, AND it made the product ugly/stupid/complicated”. These PMs are managing the soul of the product, not a SPEC. Example? iPhone original mail system, no multiple delete. Yes, there are tons of complaints, guess what, it doesn’t matter.

PM should be the soul of your product, not a executioner. It is a great sign that the founders of a startup are doing the design themselves. The moment they hire a business guy to manage a product, you know they handed their baby to a complete stranger (who might pretend he/she loves the baby, though in realty it is just a job).

Posted in Design, Startup | Leave a Comment »