A user experience professional is someone who designs a product's user interactions and/or interfaces. This role is sometimes called "interaction designer" or "information architect".
Jeff and Chris note:
The most common conflict between user experience and product management roles comes into play when discussing what the product should do and how it should do that. There are often arguments about who should be responsible for defining the features and functionalities of the product. Product managers feel as though they should be responsible since they manage the product, but user experience professionals feel as though they should be responsible since they spend time researching user needs and interacting directly with customers and users.I have a slightly different take on this issue.
Since one of the primary responsibilities of a product manager is to thoroughly understand the prospective users of the product, it's natural to conclude she should design the user experience. Yet a primary responsibility of an information architect is to be an expert on the principles of user experience and how to maximize usability. So it's also natural to conclude that information architects should design the user experience.
Jeff and Chris resolve that the product manager is the final arbiter:
Ultimately, since product managers are responsible for the overall success of the product, they are the final arbiters of what the product should do. A good market-focused product manager understands the market context and customer needs and makes appropriate decisions about features and functionality based on first-hand experience and all available research.but that the product manager should take input from user experience specialists:
Good product managers understand the role and importance of user experience specialists. They value their input and use their research and recommendations to create good products. Just like the president takes advice from cabinet members, product managers should use their cabinet members—user experience, marketing, technology—to inform decisions that they need to make.I resolve the apparent conflict a bit differently than do Jeff and Chris. To me, the user experience responsibilities of a product manager and information architect are as follows:
A product manager frames the usability metrics. What usability problems do users need to solve or avoid? Are they afraid it will take too long for them to learn to use the product? Are they afraid it will take too long for them to accomplish their functional goals? Based on his understanding of users, the problems they are trying to avoid, and their tolerances, a product manager specifies the ways of measuring these aspects of usability and places constraints on them that will be acceptable to the user and the market.
An information architect designs the user interactions and interfaces that will satisfy these usability metrics. How will the user interact with the product to achieve her goals? What interface will the product present to the user? An information architect answers these questions by fleshing out use cases and composing screen mockups.
Some product managers have a knack for information architecture and can play both roles. Either way, the two roles should work together for the best chance of product success.