It’s Easter Sunday and I feel like I am turning a major page and as such I thought I would gather my thoughts around products creation and dev. Of course I am always in continuous learning mode, so I may change my mind down the line, but as the way we interact with products is being radically changed by software, data and machine learning, right now, I think it’s a good time to pause and reflect on the progress we’ve made in the past 20 years.
The first thing I have encountered along the way are all the flavors and even in-between of engineering-driven, design-driven and product-driven product and user experiences. Not that any of it is bad per-se, times have changed and we have evolved from a hardware-driven world very much so into software and data-driven in tech over the past decade (yes software is still eating the world @withfries2). And as a result, I have come to the conclusion that today it’s all about being absolutely and fiercely product-driven when it comes to user experience. I’d like to thank Allen Zhang (CEO of WeChat) is at the forefront of this philosophy and his drive to make it front and center in product teams today. Thanks!
#1 We view our users front and center.
This means we have the honesty of building products with the most sincere best intentions for our users: this genuine empathy in treating our users will result in our products to be used for a longer time. This also means that processes aren’t really the way we design products today, rather, we optimize continuously using the data we gather from usage and other sources. Process optimization will never solve for the unpredictable and the most mischievous users.
#2 Technology is for efficiency.
Every day I am dealing with clients who are not immersed in the Silicon Valley tech groupthink and most definitely don’t need or want to place technology at the center of their lives. In fact I think technology is only of value when it’s absolutely not interfering with anything or anyone’s life, it just makes things better and more efficient. I remember my motorola razor’s 300 page user manual … As I said before, today we don’t use products, we train them ….
In other words, the mission of technology is only to improve a user’s efficiency and delight. To that extent, the vanity usage metrics we’re using today to measure success are very flawed. Instead we should care about the question “Are we the most fast and most efficient” with our product, and do we enhance our user’s lives without interfering with them. Small nudges are humble and this is precisely where we should be.
#3 KPIs are indicators, not drivers.
I am seeing many senior managers, including board members, being absolutely obsessed with key metrics - this is in fact counterproductive. It’s of course very important to track metrics however we need to always put them in context, and most importantly they should support the product strategy instead of driving it. As a result, we can put user needs more front and center, instead of traffic acquisition and retention for example, because our job is to create the best products, not the best traffic - organic and natural growth is the most important vector of adoption. In short, KPIs are secondary only; intuitive, user-friendly product is paramount and at the core of every decision.
Of course this approach can be taken with a grain of salt, and some will immediately say that a challenging aspect of a strictly product-driven philosophy is that it’s more long-term driven and may not be very compatible with the short terms requirements of company survival, investor patience or even team harmony: how can an opinionated product creator not become an issue for their team, when “design by committee” will necessarily contain a lot of different opinions and fragment the product’s character? But just the act of considering such product-led principled thinking can push us to new ideas, frameworks and innovations, such as — in what ways can these principles be adapted for different business models?
Let me know what you think! DM me @philippemora
My name's phil mora and I blog about the things I love: fitness, hacking work, tech and anything holistic.
Head of Product and VP Engineering.
thinker, doer, designer, coder, leader.