Some products are mandated. They shouldn’t suck.

Posted on August 28, 2023.
Build this! Because I said so.

Often, in B2B situations mostly, some products are going to be mandated by the executive team. Their reasons will vary from competitive parity to regulatory compliance. The validity of those reasons will also vary. And it won’t matter. You’ll still have to build that product even though it doesn’t solve a real problem for the customer, nobody asked for it and it will likely bloat your product offering. Despite all of those anti-patterns, there’s still no reason why that mandated product should have a crappy user experience.

Somebody will have to use it

That mandated product that may not meet any obvious needs will inevitably get shipped. That means that somebody will end up using it. That person may be in a similar situation to you. They may be forced to use this product. As you set out to work on this initiative there’s no reason to throw away your usual user-centered approach. Consider the person who will end up using this tool and what their job to be done is. If this product becomes part of their workflow, why make them dread it? If nothing else, making the experience logical, useful and usable means your end user can get through it quickly, be successful and move on to a more productive part of their day.

Good UX may make it valuable

Another way to view an initiative that comes top-down is that by creating a good user experience around it, you may actually end up making it valuable. The work is mandated. The implementation is up to you. How might you take these requirements and deploy them in a way that not only achieved your boss’s goals but also drives up the value of the entire system you’ve deployed to the client? You have an opportunity to create lemonade out of the lemons you’ve been given. Challenge yourself to figure out how to do that.

We don’t have to love the project to do good work

My career path is littered with work I never wanted my name on. I’ve forgotten most of those initiatives. That said, I never half-assed my work on those projects. I always did the best design or product management work I could to ensure that the mandated work stood the greatest chance of success. In many cases that was going to be a struggle given the nature of the work but at least I knew, with certainty, that the product was usable and as valuable as we could make it.

When working on mandated products you have an opportunity to showcase your skills. While pivoting or killing the project may not be in the cards, making it the best version of the product it could be is still within your control. Take pride in your work. And remember, even if it fails or ends up part of a broader mandated initiative, you won’t be working on it nor attached to it forever.