Should product managers learn design?

Should product managers learn design?

One of our team members has been a project manager, then transitioned to becoming a product manager. He always kept asking “Should PMs learn how to code?”. Similarly, many product managers agonize over whether they should learn how to code.

On the other hand, product managers don't really lean over learning design as much as they do about development. Since we have two product managers in our group with a high skill set of design, we'll talk about benefits of understanding design concepts and using which tools PMs need to utilize for a better product management.

First of all, product management is the process of overseeing the development and lifecycle of a product, from its inception to its removal from the market.

This involves working with cross-functional teams to define the product’s features. The UI and the UX team is also amongst the organizations a PM needs to share ideas repetitively.

Let's get started.

We first need understand what PMs need to do on a day-by-day basis and also define which of those items need an information exchange with the design group.

  1. Once the product vision and roadmap are defined, the product manager works with cross-functional teams (such as engineering, design, and marketing) to develop and launch the product.
  2. After the product is launched, the product manager is responsible for monitoring its performance in the market and making adjustments as needed. This also includes getting the best user adoption experience to the table.
  3. Ultimately, the product manager's goal is to ensure that the product is delivering value to customers and meeting the business's objectives. This may involve working with design teams and running A/B tests with different designs.

Does the product manager have to be technical?

It is not necessary for a product manager to be technical, but it can be beneficial. A product manager who has a technical background can better understand the capabilities and limitations of a product and provide valuable insights to the engineering team.

However, a product manager does not need to be an expert in software development or engineering to be successful in their role.

A product manager should be able to understand and communicate technical concepts to non-technical stakeholders including the design team, as well as work closely with the engineering team to ensure that the product is delivered on time and within budget.

Think about it: strong communication, leadership, and problem-solving skills are more important than technical expertise for a product manager.

Where does product management and design meet?

A product manager should have a strong understanding of user experience (UX) principles. UX is the study of how people interact with a product, and it is a crucial aspect of product development.

A product manager who understands UX principles can better identify customer needs and pain points, and create a product that is intuitive and easy to use.

Having a strong understanding of UX principles can also help a product manager make data-driven decisions about product features and design, and gather valuable insights from user testing and feedback.

TIP: A product manager who understands UX can also work more effectively with the design team to create a product that is both functional and aesthetically pleasing.

However, it is not necessary for a product manager to be an expert in UX design. A product manager should be able to collaborate with UX designers and other stakeholders to incorporate UX principles into the product, but they do not need to have hands-on design experience themselves.

Strong communication and collaboration skills are more important for a product manager than expertise in UX design.

The urge to learn UI design software

It may be surprising to you, but here’s the truth.

Many people conclude that it is not necessary for a product manager to know Figma or Canva, but it can be beneficial.

Those are design and collaboration tools that can be used to create and share visual assets, such as wireframes, prototypes, and presentations. A product manager who is familiar with these tools can use them to communicate product ideas and collaborate with design and engineering teams.

And it pays off.

The main reason is the ones mentioned above are design and collaboration tool that enables users to create and share visual assets, such as wireframes, prototypes, and presentations. PMs work on those in collaboration with design people and discuss product specific points.


They also offer a range of features, such as design components, prototyping, and commenting, that make it easy to create and share designs with stakeholders. It is used by designers, product managers, and other professionals across a variety of industries.

Some specific ways that product managers can use a design tool include:

  • Creating wireframes to visualize the product's user flow and layout
  • Using design components and styles to create a consistent look and feel for the product
  • Prototyping the product to simulate user interactions and test functionality
  • Collaborating with design and engineering teams to iterate on the product's design
  • Sharing designs with stakeholders, such as customers and executives, for feedback and approval
  • Using commenting and feedback tools to gather feedback and make changes to the design.

In our experience, those design tools can be a valuable tool for product managers to communicate their vision and collaborate with their team throughout the product development process.

Other than design tools, Product managers may use a variety of tools including but not limited to:

  • Usability assessment tools
  • Wireframing and prototyping tools
  • Design collaboration platforms
  • User research tools

How about usability assessment tools?

A usability testing tool is a software program or platform that is used to conduct usability testing on a product or website. This type of tool allows product managers and designers to gather feedback from users on the ease of use, functionality, and overall user experience of a product or website.

Usability testing tools typically include features such as screen recording, task management, and data analysis to help product managers better understand how users interact with their products and identify areas for improvement.

TIP: Product managers often use usability testing tools to gather feedback about their products from users. This feedback can be used to identify areas for improvement and make changes to the product to make it more user-friendly.

Usability testing tools can take many forms, such as surveys, focus groups, and user interviews, among others. The specific tools used will depend on the product and the needs of the product manager.

Help your designers understand company goals

Product managers can help designers understand the company's goals by regularly communicating and collaborating with them.

This can involve sharing the company's overall vision and mission, as well as specific goals and objectives for the product. Product managers also need to provide designers with user research and market analysis to help them understand the needs and preferences of the target audience.

Additionally, product managers can and should provide guidance and feedback on design concepts to ensure they align with the company's goals.

Suggestions to build your UX skills

A product manager can learn design through a combination of education, training, and hands-on experience.

This can include taking design courses or workshops, attending industry events and conferences, and reading design-related books and articles.

Additionally, product managers can gain design experience by working closely with designers on projects and using design tools and software to create and test designs.

It is also helpful for product managers to stay up-to-date on design trends and best practices in the industry.

Learning design is part of the job

Here’s the truth: NAIL THE FUNDAMENTALS.

Help your team understand the company’s goals and invite them into your process. Then get better at understanding design - preferably with the help of a friend.

Your job is a perpetual state of learning. That learning includes design.

Invite a designer and developer to your user interviews. Bring your workshop agenda to a design review. Ask them for their thoughts on which features are most important. Be comfortable with not having the answer to everything and getting other perspectives.

When you take an interest in another person’s work and invite them into your process, they will likely do the same.