PM Process: User Interface

Source: The Open Clip Art Project (

Many product managers focus on finding the best interface for easier user engagement with the product. While some insist on using design tools, mock-up tools, prototyping interactions, some insist such must be left to the UX designers to provide the best possible proposals. I will like to debate if we actually captured the requirement at the right level. A lot of that is to do with how you described your problem in the first place. If you are excited about writing user stories right, read on and let me know what you feel.

The Curse of Details

Let’s look at a travel portal user story where a user interface is described for an air ticket booking interface.

As a user, I shall be able to select a from airport from a drop-down, select a to airport from a drop-down and the date and time of the travel from a calendar/clock, and request flight options.

I think most of us will relate to this user story. But, do you realize we have kind of assumed substantially on the user story? These are stiflingly restricting for your UX person to operate. How so? Following are the assumptions I made that look innocuously simple, yet constraining innovation.

Someone may say it’s fair; we just have a travel portal. When we implement for mobile devices we will write a new user story. How much effort is expended in writing another line? Fair enough. But, can there be an alternative?

The Alternate

Let’s look at the user story in this way:

As a user, I shall be able to pick up from the airport and a to the airport and an indicative travel time to seek suggestions for available flights.

This story is incomplete to most people, and rightly so. Hard to estimate and even not clear as to where it will be delivered. These are ideal epics for your backlog so that engineers and UX personnel can debate and come to a common understanding of the implementable user interface. Let’s understand the granular implications of this story:

When you have epics written like this, you can discuss them with engineering and UX teams effectively. Provide them the food for thought to munch on and then decide on a story that is narrow enough depending on the UX of your interest. If you think deeper, the user story is even true for a conversational chatbot. When in doubt, the bot shall ask you to clarify with a question just like a human agent shall do.

Writing very narrow user stories may look relevant to you as you implement a story in sprint planning phases, but never miss out on probing for innovation when you have an opportunity to do so and in short enabling your teams to come up with innovative alternatives. Use epics judiciously, leave the product management intent reflected in the backlogs.



The Practice of Product Management — Realizing Sustained Competitive Advantage

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