Why every Product Manager should build a website

· Mark Evans

Article Style: page, clean, sans serif, a dash of blue

I've used very specific wording in the title of this post. The key word in the title is build. I specifically don't state that every product manager should have a website, or write a blog. I don't even think it's that important if Product Managers actually publish the websites they build, but I do believe that all Product Managers (OK, not all, only those who are responsible for online products) should go through the process of building a website. Why? Well, like many of my suggestions, it all comes back to Ben Franklin (or maybe Confucius) and the following quote:

“Tell me, and I will listen; Teach me, and I’ll remember; Involve me, and I will learn.” — Benjamin Franklin

The reason I like this quote so much (and refer to it so often) is because I really believe it. It's the reason this website exists: I wanted to learn HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. I didn't start with a book or a course...I started by building a page. This meant I made a lot of mistakes initially - mistakes I wouldn't have made if I'd started with a book - but I find that mistakes are hard to forget, whereas it's easy to forget some instructions in a book that tell you how something should be done.

OK, but what does this have to do with Product Managers building websites? To help answer this question, I'd propose a small tweak to the above quote:

“Tell me, and I will listen; Teach me, and I’ll remember; Involve me, and I will understand and appreciate.” — Mark Evans

Learning something new is great, and I've really enjoyed learning how to build this website, but, it's also had a couple of side effects:

  1. I have a much better understanding of what my development team does.
  2. I have a much better appreciation for what my development team does.

Before I go any further, let me make one thing clear, I am not in any way comparing my tiny blog to the products that my developers build. This website, and the products I manage, are so far apart in scale and complexity that it would be laughable to even attempt to compare the two.

Understanding & Appreciation

Without a data team (to source, qualify, cleanse etc.) and a development team (to build the tools that allow users to easily access the data) my role would be utterly redundant. I'd literally have no products to manage, sales would have no products to sell, and marketing would have no products to promote. So, I've always had a strong sense of appreciation for both of these teams. But, building my little hand-crafted website (with just HTML and CSS...so no actual programming) over the last few months has only increased my appreciation for what my developers do. Even my meagre website, with its seven pages has required quite a lot of effort to create and maintain. For example, I've:

  • Moved from using CodePen to VSCode.
  • Gone through a retagging exercise to ensure that article-specific, semantic HTML5 tags are used e.g. <article>, <section> etc..
  • Refactored the website's folder structure, as I realised my initial structure wasn't scalable.
  • Moved the source files from my local PC to GitHub.
  • Updated my version of Git due to a recent security vulnerability.

The important thing to note about the list above is that none of that effort has resulted in any changes that are visible to someone visiting the website. Now, if all that has been required for my little website, imagine the size and quantity of "unseen" tasks that are required for a global data product built with numerous dependencies, strict security and privacy requirements, multiple databases, complex access and entitlement systems, and multiple frameworks etc.

So, stop reading about building websites, and pop over to CodePen and start building one 😊.

If you have any comments on this article then please get in touch via Twitter (@dbs_sticky).