Best practices in product management
‘How to Get Your Development Team to Love You’ by Ron Lichty (45 min talk). How to become a great PM by a long-time Apple veteran. I copied all of his principles and remind myself of them on a regular basis.
‘Working Backwards’ by Werner Vogels (2 min read). Amazon’s philosophy of starting development with a press release first.
‘Top Hacks from a PM Behind Two of Tech’s Hottest Products’ by Todd Jackson (15 min read). How to become a great PM, by the PM of Gmail and the Facebook News Feed.
‘What Makes a Great Product Manager’ by Lawrence Ripsher (10 min read). How to become a great PM, from a PM at Pinterest.
’10 Traits of Great PMs’ by Noah Weiss (2 min read). Live in the future and work backwards. Amplify your teams. Focus on impact. Write well. Drive a fast pace of high-quality decisions. Optimize for learning. Execute impeccably. Apply product taste. Exhibit data fluency. Immerse yourself in the tech.
‘So you want to manage a product?’ by Rohini Vibha (7 min read). Being a product manager is not about getting wrapped up in the fact that you have “manager” in your title. Sure, you get to call the shots. But you also get to be accountable for every up and down of your product. If a user doesn’t understand your product, that’s on you, not Marketing. If your product comes at the wrong time, that’s on you, not Strategy. If a user can’t find the button, that’s on you, not Design. And if a target user has no use for your product, that’s on you, not him.
‘An alternate framework for PM’ by Ellen Chisa (6 min read). Product management can be seen as a balance between empathizing vs. systemizing. Effective PMs will make sure they keep the two in balance, and rely on them equally.
‘Product Leadership: How Top Product Managers Launch Awesome Products and Build Successful Teams’ by Richard Banfield, Martin Eriksson, and Nate Walkingshaw (248 pages book). Lots of great advice around product management in general, career planning, prioritization, roadmaps, and product vision.
‘We Don’t Sell Saddles Here’ by Stewart Butterfield (12 min read). Awesome memo from Slack’s CEO to his team just before their first launch. The points he makes are timeless and apply to all people building software.
‘Products Are Functions’ by Ryan Singer (4 min read). Products transform an input situation into an output situation. This lets you describe what the product does as a transformation of the user’s circumstance instead of a bundle of features. The user starts in some circumstance x. Whatever product or solution they apply is a function f(). Applying the product to that circumstance f(x) produces a result: y. → f(x) = y.
‘17 Product Managers Who Will Own the Future of NYC Tech — and the 9 Frameworks They’ll Use to Do It’ by First Round (28 min read). Lots of insights on how to be a good PM, prioritization, stakeholder management, product vision, storytelling, and when to work on what. One of my highlights: A good PM fills in the gaps and gets out of the way.
‘Behind Every Great Product’ by Martin Cagan (30 min read). General advice and great description of the PM role. Mentions competition and how to find a balance between ignoring it and obsessing over it.
‘Practical tips for applying the growth mindset to product’ by Merci Victoria Grace (10 min read). Considers self-awareness, emotional resilience and an ability to understand people to be the primary drivers of PM performance. Seek feedback and manage up. Foster a growth mindset in yourself and your team.
‘Builders make the best Product People’ by Piero Sierra (4 min read).
The best product leaders are those who lead by serving others — people with high EQ and low ego, who are attuned to their teams needs (personal and professional). They speak for the customer, not themselves. They put the team’s goals ahead of their own ambitions, and work to make decisions by consensus.
‘Why Chefs and Soldiers Make the Best Product Managers’ by Jim Patterson (12 min read). 6 things to look for in PM’s: Being able to lead without authority. Always taking blame while giving credit away. Strong decision-making with imperfect information. Valuing intense preparation. Methodical in how they recover from mistakes and crises. Operating optimally under extreme pressure.
‘Training your product intuition’ by Merci Victoria Grace (6 min read). Product intuition is a skill: it is the observation of human behavior, trained by data, and applied to software. The process of building product intuition starts with filling in your product hierarchy: start with customers as your base, then move up to their problems or opportunities, followed by their use case, and finally your product or solution.
‘Gods, Superheroes and Product Managers’ by Randy Silver (21 min talk). Your customers are the hero in your story. You as a PM are their mentor, the one who helps them succeed. Think of Q in James Bond movies. You as a mentor only play a small part. You’re somebody who comes in briefly, who’s absolutely necessary for the customer, but you’re not foremost in their mind. They have other things that they’re worried about. They have problems that they’re trying to solve, and they’re looking to you to help them solve it.
‘Be A Great Product Leader’ by Adam Nash (13 slides). There are 3 buckets of things you can deliver: metrics movers, customer requests, and delight. It’s extremely rare to have all 3.
‘How to do a Product Critique’ by Julie Zhuo (6 min read). Step by step questions to ask yourself when you evaluate a product. Structured in questions to ask yourself before you actually open the app (how did you discover it, etc.) the first few minutes you use it (how you feel, usability, etc.), and the weeks & months after that (why do you come back, engagement, etc.).
‘Good Product Manager/Bad Product Manager’ by Ben Horowitz (5 min read). A bit dated, but has some timeless general advice on product management.
‘The Power of the Elastic Product Team — Airbnb’s First PM on How to Build Your Own’ by Jonathan Golden (15 min read). There are 3 different types of product managers: pioneers, settlers, and town planners.
Strategy & Product vision
‘If your product is Great, it doesn’t need to be Good’ by Paul Buchheit (4 min read). What’s the right approach to new products? Pick three key attributes or features, get those things very, very right, and then forget about everything else. Awesome read.
‘10x Not 10% — Product management by orders of magnitude’ by Ken Norton (10 min read). Measure the impact you want to have. “We will have accomplished this” not “we need to do that.”
‘Strategy Is Not A To Do List’ by steve blank (4 min read). Strategy is not a to do list. It drives a to do list.
‘Engagement Drives Stickiness Drives Retention Drives Growth’ by Sequoia (6 min read). Whatever your product’s core value, your greatest growth lever is creating magical moments in which users recognize that value. Without such moments, retention will suffer and growth will be difficult to sustain. Mediocre companies focus simply on growth. A great company focuses on sustainable growth — through engagement, stickiness and retention.
‘What is Good Product Strategy?’ by Melissa Perri (7 min read). Learned what strategy is not, the distinction between strategy and tactics, and what makes a good product strategy.
‘The First Question to Ask of Any Strategy’ by Roger L. Martin (3 min read). Look at the core strategy choices and ask yourself if you could make the opposite choice without looking stupid. If the opposite of your core strategy choices looks stupid, then every competitor is going to have more or less the exact same strategy as you.
’20 Years Ago, Jeff Bezos Said This 1 Thing Separates People Who Achieve Lasting Success From Those Who Don’t’ by Jeff Haden (6 min read). Focus on the things that don’t change. Bezos: “In our retail business, we know that customers want low prices, and I know that’s going to be true 10 years from now. They want fast delivery; they want vast selection. It’s impossible to imagine a future 10 years from now where a customer comes up and says, ‘Jeff, I love Amazon; I just wish the prices were a little higher.’ ’I love Amazon; I just wish you’d deliver a little more slowly.’ Impossible.”
‘Sustainable Product Growth’ by Sequoia (12 min read). A product’s current growth status falls into one of four scenarios: “leaky bucket,” “death spiral,” “end of life” and “sustainable growth.” Retention (product-market fit) and net growth are the two key factors guiding sustainability of your product’s growth. Neither high growth without retention, nor high retention without growth, is sustainable in the long term.
‘WTF is Strategy?’ by Vince Law (9 min read). Product strategy represents the set of guiding principles for your roadmapping and execution tasks to ensure they align with your mission and vision. It bridges the gap between what you aspire to be and what you are doing. The article contains a great example for teaching others about strategy, including amazing visuals.
‘The New Toolset of Product Strategy’ by Paul Jackson (22 min read). Great summary of JTBD and other approaches to shape product strategy. People have jobs. Things don’t. It doesn’t make sense to ask “What job is the product doing?” Products, things, and services are solutions for jobs. They don’t have lives to make better, they don’t have emotions, aspirations, struggles. People do. Consumers don’t simply adopt a product, they switch from something else.
‘Navigating the Product Maze’ by Nathan Bashaw (5 min read). Think about developing a product in terms of “making changes” rather than “adding features”.
‘The One Cost Engineers and Product Managers Don’t Consider’ by Kris Gale (8 min read). Complexity cost is debt you accrue by complicating features or technology in order to solve problems. An application that does twenty things is more difficult to refactor than an application that does one thing, so changes to its code will take longer. The initial time spent implementing a feature is one of the least interesting data points to consider when weighing the cost and benefit of a feature. Your best tool for eliminating complexity cost is data — discard also features with neutral impact.
‘Position, Position, Position!’ by Ryan Singer (5 min read). Interesting definition of product positioning as a location in the space of trade-offs. Introduces the ‘less about/more about’ format which I found very helpful.
‘What Can You Remove From Your Product?’ by Tomasz Tunguz (3 min read). When you keep features which are used by tiny fractions of your user base, you create product debt. It introduces lots complexity downstream: confusing experience for customers, maintenance for engineering and product design, etc. Decide a threshold for features to stay (he suggests adoption or revenue metrics).
‘Google Ventures workshop: Lean product management’ by Dan Olsen (80 min talk). Thorough definition of product-market-fit. Framed product management as a step-by-step process to achieve it. Defines problem vs. solution space.
‘ClassPass’ Founder on How Marketplace Startups Can Achieve Product/Market Fit’ by Payal Kadakia (20 min read). The story of ClassPass. My favorite bits were: Don’t overprescribe user actions. Instead let them explore your product: you may be surprised by how they intend to use it. If you want to influence user behavior, use Fogg’s equation. Be willing to kill your darlings and know you’ll always be iterating to maintain product/market fit.
‘Why Onboarding is the Most Crucial Part of Your Growth Strategy’ by Casey Winters (8 min read). Define what successful onboarding means for you. This means (1) a frequency target and (2) defining a key action. There are 3 principles to successful onboarding: Get to product value as fast as possible — but not faster. Remove all friction that distracts the user from experiencing product value. Don’t be afraid to educate contextually.
‘Real Competitive Analysis is About Learning to Love Your Competitor’ by Chris Butler (9 min read). Good list of competitive analysis practices.
‘Vision-Driven Product Development’ by Wook Jin Chung (7 min read). The need for product vision: “We are not on a treasure hunt looking for clues on the way. Rather, we are on a mission to reach an intended final destination with finite time and resources. We may not know all the details of the journey, but we must know where we need to eventually be.”
‘The mechanisms of growth’ by Itamar Gilad (50 min talk). Lots of structure around growth: growth patterns, growth engines, growth models, growth templates, and retention. Also mentions the right time to start working on growth is only after you have a sticky product.
‘Business Insider interviews T-Mobile CEO Jon Legere’ by Richard Feloni (15 min read). Example of how to make strategic choices based on customer insights. Interesting case study on positioning T-Mobile US as the ‘un-carrier’ in a crowded market. I used it as an example in a JTBD workshop.
[on Medium’s paid tier] ‘How Great Founders Present Their Vision’ by David Bailey (4 min read). A product vision should describe an inspiring future product that would help a large group of people and make lots of money in the process.
‘Enter The Matrix — Lean Prioritisation’ by Andy Wicks (5 min read). 2x2 matrix for prioritizing: value vs. effort. That’s exactly how we prioritize at Typeform. Article has a great narrative structure to explain the process to stakeholders.
‘Babe Ruth and Feature Lists’ by Ken Norton (5 min read). Introduces an interesting prioritization exercise to try with stakeholders. When you ask your customers, don’t prime them with your ideas.
‘How bad ideas get on the Roadmap’ by Christian Bonilla (2 min read). How to treat small wins and things on the roadmap that don’t fall within the core product vision.
‘Building with creative confidence’ by Julie Zhuo (25 min talk). Written version ‘Building Products’ on Medium. Facebook’s 3 question product framework which inspired me to change the way I write my own product vision documents. Also talks about how to explore ideas and measuring success.
‘Why Impact/Effort Prioritization Doesn’t Work’ by Itamar Gilad (9 min read). Five ways to make value vs effort prioritization work better. Do back-of-the-envelope impact calculations. Use available data or new data. Think of low-cost ways to validate your assumptions. Factor in Confidence. A/B tests.
‘Rarely say yes to feature requests’ by Des Traynor (10 min read). Beware of the fre-cently bias. You assume the things you hear frequently or recently should without doubt be road-mapped. “Sure we’ll build that, I’ve heard it twice today already, says the founder with 4,800 daily active users, to the unbridled joy of 0.0625% of her customer base.”
‘3 Best Practices for Adopting Continuous Product Discovery’ by Teresa Torres (30 min read). Continuous discovery means weekly touch points with customers by the team building the product, where they themselves conduct small research activities in pursuit of a desired outcome. Use customer interviews, rapid prototyping, and product experiments.
‘A 5-Step Process For Conducting User Research’ by David Sherwin (19 min read). Conduct user research in 5 steps. Start with objectives, the questions you want to answer. List your hypotheses. Decide on the research methods you want to use. Use several. In the end, gather data and synthesize your findings. Great article to structure knowledge about user research.
‘Why You Are Probably Interviewing the Wrong People (And How to Fix It)’ by Teresa Torres (9 min read). Look for variety in the people you interview. Screen people when you recruit them for the interview. Include extreme users. Don’t confuse them with your target audience, but you can still learn a lot from them.
‘Why You Are Asking the Wrong Customer Interview Questions’ by Teresa Torres (13 min read). There’s a gap between what people think they do and what they actually do. Instead of asking, “What matters to you when buying a pair of jeans?”, start with, “Tell me about the last time you bought a pair of jeans.”
‘My product management toolkit (4) — Problem statements’ by MAA1 (5 min read). An interesting way to phrase customer problem statements.
‘The Three Personas: How Marketing, Product, and Analytics Attempt to Define The Customer’ by Casey Winters (5 min read). You can segment users based on their usage and define them based on that usage. This segmentation can be useful to see if your product is becoming more or less engaging over time. Example from Pinterest: users were defined as core, casual, marginal, and dormant users. Core people came every day, casual people came every week, marginal people came every month, and dormant users had stopped coming to Pinterest altogether.
The 4 Stages of 0->1 Products by Julie Zhuo (7 min read). Surface problems vs. root problems. Surface problem: “I need to order food from my phone”. Root problem: “I need to eat here and now”.
‘If they don’t ask about the price it’s absolute bunk’ by David Wu (2 min read). What a person says they want is often different from “revealed preferences” — what a person actually choses when they purchase something.
‘Your Job is Not to Make Every Possible Customer Happy’ by Steve Blank (6 min read). Part of Customer Development is understanding which customers make sense for your business. The goal of listening to customers is not to please every one of them. It’s to figure out which customer segment served his needs — both short and long term.
‘Exploratory research: how to use it to drive product development’ by Jillian Wells (5 min read). Explains the 3 types of user research: exploratory, evaluative, and iterative research.
‘6 Guiding Principles for Effective Product Discovery’ by Teresa Torres (13 min read). How to build empathy with your audience: get specific, ignore everyone who doesn’t match your ideal user, and obsessively learn about your target customer’s needs and challenges.
‘When to Listen & When to Measure’ by Laura Klein (6 min read). Quantitative research tells you WHAT your problem is. Qualitative research tells you WHY you have that problem.
‘Damien Peters on how technical a product manager really needs to be’ (6 min read). There is a balance between what users are telling, what they are asking for, and what will actually meet their needs. While Damien was in gaming, the number one requested feature was “more free coins”.
‘The Art of the User Interview’ by Nick Babich (14 min read). Great and pretty complete collection of advice for user interviews. Well-written, directly applicable and to the point.
‘6 Tips for Better User Interviews’ by Veronica Camara (5 min read). Avoid jargon in your user interviews. Embrace awkward silence. Keep your reactions neutral.
‘Avoid Leading Questions to Get Better Insights from Participants’ by Amy Schade (5 min read). Explains what makes a question leading, which you should avoid in interviews. Contains a few useful before/after examples.
‘5 Steps to Create Good User Interview Questions By @Metacole — A Comprehensive Guide’ by Teo Yu Sheng (9 min read). After you have identified a problem statement for your research (e.g. “How do people make purchases online?”), reframe it as many times as you can. This will open new perspectives for how you approach the problem (e.g. how people think vs. how they feel).
[on Medium’s paid tier] ‘User research — what’s tomato ketchup got to do with it?’ by Lisa Jewell (5 min read). The story of the re-design of the Heinz Ketchup bottle shows how sometimes, you need to observe people using your product to gain valuable insights. Talking to people or running surveys is not enough.
Jobs to be done
‘Clayton Christensen on jobs to be done’ (5 minds video). People hire products to change something for the better, to move from where they struggle to a better situation. They don’t get active because everything is fine, but because something is wrong. Introduced me to the JTBD framework.
‘Know Your Customers’ “Jobs to Be Done”’ by Clayton M. Christensen, Taddy Hall, Karen Dillon, David S. Duncan (18 min read). Introduces the dimension of jobs (social, functional, emotional). There are large and small jobs, and negative jobs. How to find jobs from current solutions. A new way of looking at competition, e.g. Slack’s biggest competitor is email.
‘Jobs to be Done: from Doubter to Believer’ by Sian Townsend (37 min talk). How Intercom came to use jobs to be done across the whole company to define what they build. Great introduction to the topic, I use it for teaching others.
‘This is not a map’ by Des Traynor (3 min read). Real-life example of applying jobs to be done from Intercom. Very useful for teaching.
‘What I learned from doing 100 Jobs-To-Be-Done interviews’ by Amrita Gurney (6 min read). Non-consumption is often where many opportunities lie. How to set goals for JTBD interviews.
‘The forces at work when choosing a product’ by Rian van der Merwe (2 min read). Article about JTBD. Progress-making forces move people from their existing behavior to the new behavior, and consists of the push of the current situation (things they’re not happy with in the current product) and the pull of the new idea (things that sound appealing about the new product). Progress-hindering forces hold people back from switching to new behavior. It consists of allegiance to the current behavior (things they really like about the current product) and the anxiety of the new solution (worries about learning curves and not being able to accomplish their goals with the new solution).
‘Personas vs. Jobs-to-Be-Done’ by Page Laubheimer (9 min read). Summarizes best practices for JTBD and personas. Both methods are not mutually exclusive. They can be used together — the JTBD to focus on the underlying desired outcomes, and the persona to prioritize within the job and create empathy.
Technology & Execution
‘Great Products Don’t Happen By Accident’ by Jon Lax (15 min read). You can use ‘playbooks’ — like in American football — to visualize and communicate the product process. Built a product playbook for Typeform based on this.
‘Why This Opportunity Solution Tree is Changing the Way Product Teams Work’ by Teresa Torres (20 min read). There are 4 common gaps in product thinking today: we don’t examine our ideas before investing in them, we don’t consider enough ideas, we don’t multitrack in a systematic way, and sometimes our solutions don’t connect to an opportunity or our desired outcome at all. A way to tackle these is the ‘opportunity solution tree’.
‘Stop Validating & Start Co-Creating’ by Teresa Torres (9 min read). Instead of asking our customers, “Does this design work?” when we get to a final design that we are happy with, we can show our customers three or four design ideas that we are playing with. We can ask them, “What do you think of these options?”
‘Your Team Is Brainstorming All Wrong’ by Art Markman (4 min read). How to generate better ideas.
‘How Much Time Should You Spend in Product Discovery?’ by Teresa Torres (9 min read). You need to balance discovery and delivery. Too much delivery is bad, because you’re not learning effectively. Too much discovery is bad, because you’re not shipping anything valuable (‘analysis paralysis’). Useful tools are opportunity solution trees and the distinction between type 1 and type 2 decisions.
‘How Google sets goals: OKRs’ by Rick Klau (81 min talk). Detailed explanation of what OKRs are. How to define effective OKRs. Rules of OKRs. Benefits of OKRs.
‘Deploy != Release (Part 1)’ (5 min read) and ‘Deploy != Release (Part 2)’ (6 min read) by Art Gillespie. Ship = Build → Test → Deploy → Release. Many teams use ‘release in place’ (deploy == release), yet there are better ways to mitigate risk. An example is to use a canary, where you first release-in-place to just one of your instances as opposed to all of them. 3 more ways to mitigate release risk. Dogfooding = release to employees first. Incremental release = go from small % to 100% over time. Dark traffic = make a request to both the old and new instance, and disregard the answer from the new one to avoid exposing users to risk.
‘Shipping software should not be scary’ by Charity Majors (7 min read). Create cohorts when you release. Deploy to internal users first, then any free tier, etc in order of ascending importance. Don’t jump from 10% to 25% to 50% and then 100% — some changes are related to saturating backend resources, and the 50%-100% jump will kill you.
Agile product development
‘Frankenbuilds; if Agile is so good, why are our Products so bad?’ by Gabrielle Benefield (45 min talk). Think in outcomes over output. Features by themselves have no value — beware of frankenbuilds / feature farming. Create options to reach your target outcome, and move fast.
‘Learning Agile: Understanding Scrum, XP, Lean, and Kanban’ by Andrew Stellman and Jennifer Greene (420 pages book). Understood the agile manifesto and agile values. Learned the mindset behind Scrum, XP, and Kanban. Lean values, waste, kaizen, and genchi genbutsu. Kanban is not a system for managing projects, it’s a method for improving your process.
‘Coaching Agile Teams’ by Lyssa Adkins (352 pages book). Good facilitation means to create a “container” for the team to fill up with their own ideas . The container is a set of agenda questions or other lightweight structure. You create the container, the team creates the content. The team always goes first: “it’s their meeting, not mine”. Observe the room and ask powerful questions. Every meeting needs a purpose. Basics of coaching. Shu Ha Ri model of learning.
‘Scrum Mastery: From Good To Great Servant-Leadership’ by Geoff Watts (288 pages). Characteristics of great servant leaders. Focus on mindset and first principles over process. Balance coaching, teaching, and mentoring. Be respected, enabling, tactful, resourceful, alternative. I only read half of this book.
Scrum and XP from the Trenches by Henrik Kniberg (140 pages book). Learned good practices and traps to avoid for standups, sprint planning, sprint review, retrospectives, user stories, backlog, and estimations. Planning does not mean predicting the future.
‘Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great’ by Esther Derby and Diana Larsen (200 pages book). How to better prepare and structure retrospectives. Lots of activities and tips on how to select them.
‘Popcorn Flow — Continuous Evolution Through Ultra-Rapid Experimentation’ by Claudio Perrone (60 min talk). If change is hard, make it continuous. The gap between expectation and reality is not success/failure, it’s learning. Popcorn flow to structure and organize team experiments, which we use at Typeform and has been incredibly helpful.
MVP’s and prototyping
‘Six Steps to Superior Product Prototyping: Lessons from an Apple and Oculus Engineer’ by Caitlin Kalinowski (15 min read). Declare your non-negotiables. Don’t give anchors before you actually commit. Start with what’s hardest. Prepare decision-making. How to determine when you’re ready. Release early & often. Awesome read.
‘Making sense of MVP (Minimum Viable Product) — and why I prefer Earliest Testable/Usable/Lovable’ by Henrik Kniberg (15 min read). Great narrative to explain MVP to stakeholders. Notion of earliest testable / usable / lovable. Caution around misuse of the term MVP.
‘4 Powerful Ways to Use Rapid Prototyping to Drive Product Success’ by Teresa Torres (10 min read). During the early days of Palm, the founder Jeff Hawkins carried around a wooden block in his pocket to test the ideal size for the initial PalmPilot.
Google design sprints
‘Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days’ by Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky, and Braden Kowitz (288 pages book). How to run a design sprint, I facilitated the first one at Typeform. Learned the prototyping mindset: you can prototype anything, prototypes are disposable, build just enough to learn not more, prototypes must appear real.
‘How to create your own Google Ventures Design Sprint’ by Jake Knapp (5 min read). Why common idea generation methods like team brainstorming don’t work.
How to become ‘technical enough’
‘Getting to “technical enough” as a product manager’ by Lulu Cheng (10 min read). How to gain enough technical knowledge as a non-technical product manager, by a PM at Pinterest. Also includes data fluency.
User experience design
‘How to choose the right UX metrics for your product’ by Kerry Rodden (7 min read). HEART framework for measuring the success of your user experience: happiness, engagement, adoption, retention, and task success.
‘Building Badass Users’ by Kathy Sierra (48 min talk). People don’t want to be amazing at your tool. They want to be amazing at the context. It’s not “I’m amazing at using this camera” but “I take amazing photos” or “I’m an amazing photographer”. // Cognitive leaks are anything which takes brain cycles for thinking, processing, questioning, worrying, self-control, focus, etc. Users saying to other people “This thing is awesome” depends on us removing cognitive leaks in our products.
‘BJ Fogg on Simplicity’ (12 min talk). Simplicity means building the minimally satisfying solution at the lowest cost. Simplicity depends on the person and on the context. It lives outside the product: it’s the perception users have of the experience of accomplishing a task. 6 elements of simplicity: time, money, physical effort, brain effort, social deviance, and non-routine.
‘Net Promoter Score Considered Harmful (and What UX Professionals Can Do About It)’ by Jared M. Spool (15 min read). Opinionated read about the weaknesses of NPS. The argument which resonated most with me is the fact that NPS is based on a prediction of future behavior, not past behavior. I agree with the view that the real value of NPS is not the number, it’s the trend and especially the answer to the ‘why did you give us this score’ question.
‘Amazon’s Friction-Killing Tactics To Make Products More Seamless’ by First Round Review (14 min read). Friction is anything that gets in the way of a customer and a task. How to detect and anticipate points of friction. There are three stages of the product experience where customers are most vulnerable to experiencing friction. How to reduce or mask friction.
‘The Quintessential Guide For Building An Unforgettable First-time User Experience’ by Wayne Chang (14 min read). You have to earn the right to more of your users’ time. Make the experience — especially the first time i.e. onboarding — amazing, the rest will follow. Awesome quote: ‘We didn’t need marketing. We didn’t need to overspend in those departments other startups allocate so many (too many!) resources to. When you make something lovable, the product speaks for itself.’
‘Addiction By Design’ by Natasha Dow Schull (30 min talk). How habits science can be misused. Slot machines get people in ‘the zone’, comparable to flow. They come back to gambling not because of the chance to win, but to experience the zone.
‘Increase your funnel conversion by getting users Psych’d’ by Darius Contractor (9 min read). Introduces the ‘psych’ framework, which is based on 2 key assumptions: (1) Every element on the page adds or subtracts emotional energy (2) Inspiring users is as important as reducing friction.
‘What The Psychology of Video Games Can Teach You About Product Engagement’ by Jamie Madigan (40 min talk). Endowed progress effect: when people feel they have made some progress towards a goal then they will become more committed towards continued effort towards achieving the goal. Frog pond effect: we feel better about our performance when we are the highest performing member of a bad group than if we are the lowest performing member of a good group.
Adapting UX research to agile product development
‘How to adapt UX research for an Agile environment’ by Amanda Stockwell (6 min read). Schedule user research every week, no matter what. Break hypotheses down into smaller components.
‘Agile Development Projects and Usability’ by Jakob Nielsen (5 min read). Don’t overlook the integrated total user experience and look at your product as one coherent system. Avoid patchwork. Use low-fidelity prototypes.
‘Doing UX in an Agile World: Case Study Findings’ by Hoa Loranger (8 min read). Do UX work at least one sprint ahead of development.
‘Top 10 Tips for UX Success From Agile Practitioners’ by Hoa Loranger (9 min read). Think iteration, not perfection. Turn user research into team-driven events. Secure strong stakeholder engagement. Set explicit roles and responsibilities. Modify your method until it works.
‘The Art of Writing One-Sentence Product Descriptions’ by David Bailey (4 min read). Most of the time, you won’t be there to pitch your product yourself. Your users will talk to their friends etc. — so keep it dead simple. You don’t have 30 seconds, you have 3. A common format is: “You do X and Y happens”. Example from Uber: “Tap a button, get a ride”. Example from early Facebook: “Type someone’s name and find out a bunch of information about them.” Awesome post.
‘Crossing the Chasm’ by Geoffrey A. Moore (227 pages book). In progress.
‘Observations on Data, Metrics & Goals’ by Dan Hill (2 min read). Short read about the data aspect of PM. My favorite quote: “Know the confidence intervals around a metric before you send people off to explain why it’s up/down this week. Explaining noise is such a giant waste of time.”
‘Correlation does not imply causation’ on Wikipedia. Serves as a reference base to make sure not to confuse correlation with causation.
‘Metrics Versus Experience’ by Julie Zhuo (10 min read). Make sure you measure the right thing. Single metric < Suite of metrics. There are typical instances where metrics fail us. Look at how people use your product, never at data alone. Magic wand technique. Growth doesn’t work without retention. Suggest counter-metrics and stay skeptical.
‘Product people KPIs aren’t about the product’ by Chris Butler (6 min read). 5 principles of good KPI’s.
‘The Power User Curve: The best way to understand your most engaged users’ by Andrew Chen (8 min read). Power User Curves are an awesome way to measure user engagement. L30 and L7 graphs, and also look at cohorts of power users over time. After reading this post, we ran a similar analysis at Typeform.
‘Quantifying Qualitative Research’ by Leisa Reichelt (27 min talk). No research is neutral. No analysis is unbiased. Awesome talk, here are two great quotes from it. “The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off” — Gloria Steinem. “Faith in data grows in relation to your distance from the collection of it” — Scott Berkun.
‘Data Visualization and D3.js’ by Udacity (7 weeks online course). Learned fundamentals like data types and false positives. Visual encodings. Types of diagrams and when to use them. Pre-attentive processing. How to use color. Gestalt principles of perception. Narrative structures. Chart junk. Lie factor. The grammar of graphics. Learned D3.js.
Experiment design & scientific method
‘What Type of Lean Startup Experiment Should I Run?’ by Tristan Kromer (8 min read). Generative experiments — Research techniques which don’t necessarily start with a hypothesis, but result in many new ideas. e.g. Customer Discovery Interviews. Evaluative experiments — Testing a specific hypothesis to get a clear yes or no result. e.g. Landing Page. When our hypothesis is specific and falsifiable, we can run an evaluative experiment. When our hypothesis is vague or we don’t even have a hypothesis, we need to do generative research to get new ideas or refine our hypothesis.
‘Democratising Online Controlled Experiments at Booking.com’ by Lukas Vermeer (26 min talk). You cannot rely on experimentation alone as a way to develop your product. It’s a tool in your toolbox, and adds to the other tools you already have. Data is just data. To make good decisions, we need good evidence. We don’t just need data, we need data to support an idea. The narrative and ‘why’ behind experiments and data points is essential.
‘Please, Please Don’t A/B Test That’ by Tal Raviv (9 min read). A/B testing is not an insurance policy for critical thinking or knowing your users. Although it sounds fantastic, it’s often not the right thing to do. Use it only when you either (1) need a precise quantification of the change or (2) if there is a plausible downside.
‘It’s All A/Bout Testing: The Netflix Experimentation Platform’ by Netflix Technology Blog (11 min read). Valuable insights into how Netflix runs A/B tests at scale.
‘From Power Calculations to P-Values: A/B Testing at Stack Overflow’ by Julia Silge (9 min read). Interesting quote: “Product thinking is critical here… If we are confident that the change aligns with our product strategy and creates a better experience for users, we may forgo an A/B test. In these cases, we may take qualitative approaches to validate ideas such as running usability tests or user interviews to get feedback from users.”
‘That’s Not a Hypothesis’ by Tal Raviv (6 min read). A good hypothesis is a statement about what you believe to be true today. It includes the reason why you think something is true. It’s not a prediction like “If we put concrete examples in the Patreon onboarding, then we will see a rise in successful creators”. There can be many predictions from one hypothesis. One belief can lead you to try many things.
‘Templates Suck, Here’s Our Lean Startup Template’ by Tristan Kromer (8 min read). A good experiment will generate an invalid hypothesis about half the time. If our hypotheses are always valid, then we’re not testing risky assumptions. You can never prove a hypothesis, but you can always disprove it.
‘Introduction To Business Research Methods’ by Dr. Anthony Yeong (40 slides presentation). Good reminder of scientific method terminology.
‘What Machine Learning Can Do for Your Business and How to Figure It Out’ by Yael Gavish (8 min read). Six-part series about machine learning. ML is a solution — you need to first define the problem. Talks about common applications, gives guidance on how to find opportunities in your product to use ML. Explains the 4 types of learning, NLP, the precision vs. recall tradeoff, and other important terms. Also explains a typical workflow to build ML features.
‘AI, Deep Learning, and Machine Learning: A Primer’ by Frank Chen (45 min talk). Good primer on artificial intelligence, machine learning, and deep learning. Includes some use case examples and a history of the field. Basic intro to the topic, useful for teaching others.
Product artefacts (like roadmaps)
‘Why you should stop using product roadmaps and try GIST Planning’ by Itamar Gilad (8 min read). Never kill ideas upfront, put them into a prioritization death match, favor management ideas, or choose the ideas that are most hyped/pitched/politicized. Collect all ideas into a visible idea bank instead. “If you want to have good ideas you must have many ideas. Most of them will be wrong, and what you have to learn is which ones to throw away“ — Linus Pauling