The annoying designer and how they can change your life
Yes, but why is that important?
This had been my everyday battle for quite sometime. Make no mistake, I'm used to dealing with high levels of expectation. From the clients, the end users, the team, my superiors, my colleagues. Skepticism should be no stranger to me by now, but still, the Spanish Inquisition mode got on my nerves.
Why is this relevant to our users? What makes our product better than any other solution they might find along the road?
Enter the User Experience/Design expert, the annoying guy who will question everything. In a few exchanges, I started doubting myself: "do I really know what I'm doing?", "shouldn't we research more?", "does my client really know their market?", "should I trust their briefing or should I simply leave the building and start interviewing?", "do we even have the time to do that?"
Being a Product Owner in a consulting company is a tough job. When you are a PO in a company that owns its product, you get to have the whole firm aiming for similar objectives. If your product fails, everybody loses, so you tend to map allies more easily. Also, you tend to remain in the same context, the same product, for much longer — in comparison to consulting companies: most products we work on are MVPs, and a year is a very long time for an MVP.
If you are in a consulting company building a product for a client, you might have everyone on board inside your client's hierarchy structure. But there are equal chances you might have been hired to build a product based on someone's whim, or to prove a point that has little to do with the company's business strategy, with few to no allies. And still, you have to outperform yourself.
In this scenario, having someone from your own team questioning your every move may be stressful. But I have found it to be an amazing blessing.
A PO in itself is like a monocycle. It requires a shitload of balance and effort to put in motion, but it moves (and it's funny). Add a UX as a second wheel, and you have a bike: it's much more comfortable, and it moves efficiently, in great speed. However, if you want stability, you'll need a developer. That is our third wheel, which allows the tricycle to move without the risk of tumbling over, or giving birth to an amazing idea that has no feasibility whatsoever.
Throughout the projects — we've worked together on some by now — my UX always kept me in check, which prevented some disasters. POs are built on devouring necessities and burping assumptions as to what solutions might solve a problem. Having someone to help you skeptically pursue the scientifical aspect of lean thinking is invaluable to any Product Owner. I couldn't have been more lucky.
This guy simply wouldn't let me fail.
At least not as a professional, and a team. Certainly, some experiments would fail, but we'd be able to foresee it, and pivot the product as needed.
After I got the hang of it, I really started running every idea, crazy or sound, through him, and I would endure his endless questioning as a very healthy sanity test to my assumptions. And, more often than not, after standing trial, his shoulders would relax, a smug smile would rise on his lips, and he would say "yup. It's a good idea".
It would make my day. 😀
And off we'd go, to test every assumption, talk to the users, run a product discovery workshop, a focus group, or apply any other technique that would allow us to verify if our work was sound.
So, to all the Product Owners out there, find yourselves an annoying designer/UX. To all annoying UXrs, let the annoyance rage on. You make the world a better place, and we are better professionals, building better products for it.
Thanks to Flavio Nazario for being the most annoying UX I know. I'm a better professional because of you. ❤