Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Fighting the Five Core Product Problems ft. Des Traynor

Rarely do I hear a podcast that gives me pause long enough to force multiple listens.  This week’s feature of Des Traynor did just that.  It’s a must listen for anyone building a product.  He’ll walk you from discovery through scaling with insightful lessons even grizzled vets can make use of:


Here are some classic product problems Des tackles:

1 - Founder Focus


  • Customer focused – use customer conversations to drive decisions
  • Pattern focused – use metrics to drive decisions
  • Visionary – have a strong belief about the way the world should work and execute on that
  • Artistic – execute for personal engagement with little regard to external perception
  • Pick one and stick with it.

2 - Scope
Swiss Army knife vs scalpel.  Be the scalpel.  Your early product should be easy.

  • easy to understand
  • easy to test
  • easy to compare

It should not do a bunch of things marginally well.

3 - Creep

Every feature should help more people or help people do more. 
i.e. Each of your features needs to engage a larger audience or more deeply engage your existing audience.  Celebrate usage - not launches.  Focus on the core – launch features that help everyone – not a small segment (leads to consulting work).

Features are much harder to remove than launch.  So, if you make a bad choice that feature will likely rot quietly in your product degrading the overall experience.

Apply these tests to all new features:
-Does this fit your company’s vision?
-Does the reward significantly outweigh the cost of adoption for a user?
-Will this grow your business (higher satisfaction, more users, more frequent usage)?
-Will it matter in 5 years?
-Can we support this feature if its successful?

Beware of features that drive engagement but destroy values.  e.g. the LinkedIn/FB friend suggesters  Now that everyone adds everyone else on those social networks users no longer have a list of their deep connections.

4 - Purpose
Understand jobs to be done. e.g. Analytics dashboards are often built to be presented.  So, portability/aesthetics are more important than precision/detail.

Continue to innovate on your job not on a technology platform

5 - The New Magic (aka core trends)
What was once amazing innovation is now table stakes.  These three things are must haves for products coming of age today:

  1. Do one thing – apps that can be operated with one click (Uber/Instacart).  
  2. Data is there – by connecting to FB/LinkedIn etc.  You can get all the data you need.  Be very careful when asking users for data that you couldn’t get it elsewhere.
  3. Recommendation – systems are smart enough to deliver the information to you (ie in a daily email) rather than forcing you to go find it.  Workstreams can be made increasingly more passive with daily digests and activity streams.