Linking product management and design for customer success

Summary
You’re browsing a website or an app that is selling a product you know for sure you want to buy. After muddling your way through the main navigation bar that offers dozens of product categories, services, and options to select from, you give up and turn to the search bar to quickly find the item you’re looking for. But the search bar doesn’t direct you to any results.

Reading time: 5 minutes
Date published
July 7, 2022

Raise your hand if you’ve ever encountered the following scenario:

You’re browsing a website or an app that is selling a product you know for sure you want to buy. After muddling your way through the main navigation bar that offers dozens of product categories, services, and options to select from, you give up and turn to the search bar to quickly find the item you’re looking for. But the search bar doesn’t direct you to any results.

Annoyed but undeterred, you begin clicking around the different categories in the main navigation bar. After a few minutes, you stumble upon the item you’re looking for — except it’s not the exact item you’re looking for, because it’s a size too small, or the wrong color, and for some reason, the product page doesn’t give you the option to select the variant of the product that you actually want. Now thoroughly frustrated, you go back to clicking through categories and finally find what you’re looking for. When you attempt to add it to your cart, you’re shown an error message saying that the product is no longer in stock.

No one sets out to create a bad user experience. When a situation like the above does occur, it can often result in a frustrated customer who likely won’t return and a lost sale for the business. But if no one tries to build these experiences, how do they get built? And more importantly, as a business, how can you avoid these situations?

The scenario that we’ve illustrated above is still a common occurrence decades into ecommerce, and it’s a consequence of the various teams responsible for building the experience failing to work together in concert. Whether you’re looking to build an ecommerce storefront, a headless CMS, or a mobile application, a critical element to the successful execution of your vision is a highly collaborative team working together towards a set of prioritized goals – and a key pairing for this success is the product manager and the design team.

Whether you’re looking to build an ecommerce storefront, a headless CMS, or a mobile application, a critical element to the successful execution of your vision is a highly collaborative team working together towards a set of prioritized goals.

In this post, we cover how Rangle takes a collaboration-first approach between product management and design, and how our methodology leads to strong user experiences that are centered around driving value for our clients' businesses.

Decision making: The who's and the how's

In the early phases of a complex product build, there are many decisions that need to be made by the business, design, and technical teams. Without strong team collaboration, it can be very easy for these groups to fall into silos, which leads to a breakdown of communication when making critical decisions that impact the overall experience. A product must be viewed as a whole, and that means ensuring strong cross-functional collaboration from the outset.

For instance, when thinking about the design phase of a product build, a designer might automatically picture wireframes, conceptual layouts, user flows, and high-fidelity mockups of what the website could look like. However, there are a lot of non-design-related questions that need to be answered. These typically are the province of the Product Manager, and they include:

  • What product information is available for us to share to the user on the frontend?
  • What is the product hierarchy in terms of taxonomy (e.g. categorization)?
  • What can we actually display to the user? (e.g. product description, real-time inventory availability, product imagery, product searchability, etc.)

It’s the Product Manager’s job to come to the table with the business goals and a strategic vision, to talk to the developers to understand what is technically feasible, and to align with the design team on the focus of the user experience strategy (e.g. driving additional sales, promoting new product lines, providing customer support, etc.). Much of this information is critical to determine before you can finalize designs. If you don’t determine the information beforehand, you end up with idealized designs that are not defined by an overarching strategy and technical capabilities or restraints, but which essentially ensure a path toward a broken user experience.

For instance, the information architecture of a website — the options available to a user in a site’s main navigation bar — is typically built by a designer. But the designer can’t design in a vacuum — in other words, without the critical specifications that make up the site and all of what it offers to its customer. To come up with an information architecture, the team needs to have clear priorities around who is looking at the website, why they’re here, what they’re hoping to achieve, and how they typically look for the items you are offering. These are must-have parameters that need to be determined by the team as a whole, as different teams will bring different perspectives and considerations to the table that result in cross-functional alignment.

To come up with an information architecture, the team needs to have clear priorities around who is looking at the website, why they’re here, what they’re hoping to achieve, and how they typically look for the items you are offering.

The path to customer success

Looking at it from another perspective, some decisions are business decisions (such as whether or not you want to create upsell opportunities across various product lines) and some decisions are experience-driven, ie: how you present the upsell options to your customers. These decisions cannot be made in isolation from each other. That’s why the product and design partnership is critical for ensuring customer success. Product focuses on the critical decisions that underpin the experience, and design builds that experience in a way that is both delightful and enables the successful outcome of the understood business goal — two considerations that cannot be viewed as mutually exclusive from one another.

Visual design supports and accentuates experience design, and experience design supports the user and business needs. Together, they create a fabulous end-user product, ensuring users want to come back repeatedly and thereby serving the business. Ultimately, if the product does not generate any revenue, experience and beauty will not matter. In order to ensure that the product is of value for the business, its design must be steeped in an understanding of the business strategy, as well as be grounded in the technical reality that brings it to life.

This is why an agile-based cooperative process between Product and Design is essential at Rangle, as it allows our teams to design with the business and end-user in mind, creating results that are at once beautiful, and take into consideration the strategic vision and goals that the business is trying to achieve.

The best part is that our process begins even before our clients sign up with us. As part of our initial conversations with prospective clients, we begin by asking questions to understand their business goals and begin explorations of our clients' ecosystem, customer base, and existing technological infrastructure, so as to involve them in our process as early as possible to ensure strategic alignment right at the outset.

Designs only shine when they serve an actual implemented result. Understanding the vision and, as a team, extracting what can be achieved in a way that delivers the most value in the shortest time possible is our strength.

You can learn more about Rangle’s best-in-class product management practice in Part 1 of our series: Not an afterthought: Product strategy is critical to product delivery

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