Friday, August 10, 2012

Product Management: Aesthetics

Product manager is expected to know lot of things.  One of those things is aesthetics.  Ability to articulate what looks pleasing to eyes.  Product manager does not necessarily have to create a good design.  That's up to designer.  But when presented with an option, PM must be able to say which is better for what reason.

Trouble is that stuff like this is not taught in school.  Instead it is design sensibilities that you pick up around you.  Everyone has their own style of what they look and don't like, but there are universal rules about symmetry, alignment, Golden Ratio and color blending.

Here's example.  There is something very jarring about the below picture:

You can see more jarring pictures from this Buzzfeed article.

Why is that?  Because it violates several points in aesthetics.

First the opening is not aligned with block layout.  Blocks on each cover do not align with outside blocks either.  To make it even worse, the second and third from the left covers are switched.

If a website has such a UI, it won't get many return traffic.  Aesthetics is not just about alignments.  Product manager is responsible for calling out design like this.

Believe or not, this website is actually up today.
I challenge you to stare at it more than 1 minute!

But truth is that product managers are not trained on these things.  They are expected to know and have good taste on aesthetics.

If you feel that you don't have good eyes on aesthetics and not interested in them, I suggest you reconsider pursuing product management career.  Product marketing might be a safer choice.

If you want to be a kick-ass product manager, I suggest you pay attention to what looks pleasing to your eyes and refine your taste in design.  Many of design choices won't be as obvious as examples above.  But when you start putting things together, there will be little things that do not align or too much color pallets used.

Your best friend is simplicity.  Keep things simple and you would have eliminated 80% of problems that you might run into by trying to do too many things.

Know your aesthetics.  Cultivate it actively.  It will pay you back handsomely over your product management career.

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