Is Snap's strategy flawed? asks Nathan Furr in the Harvard Business Review.
In Summary: It's been hard to avoid the hype surrounding Snap's IPO which finally popped last week. Much of the debate centred on their stated intention to reinvest most of their revenue in 'developing new products'.
Sceptics pointed out that real value in the digital era comes not from products but from the platforms that facilitate interaction. Platforms, it is said, are the kings and queens of the digital era, whereas products are the serfs who work the land.
Evan Spiegel is adamant that Snap is 'a camera company.' But a camera is not a platform, it's an architecture often mislabeled a platform.
The key question for Snap is: 'What's its core interaction, how sustainable is it, and how do its investments multiply the value of that core interaction?"
If Snap intends to build products as a bridge to new platforms, or to create a more robust business model, one can be optimistic about its long-term viability.
William Gill busts the Genius Myth.
In Summary: Product instinct is less about knowing what the solution is. It’s about knowing which solution, from a list of possible ones, is worth exploring and testing. Less about moments of divine inspiration and more about work and grind.
Great Product Managers are masters of 'The Process'. They are adept at assessing and prioritising a variety of options and making the right call.
This means both 'divergent thinking', gathering ideas and inspiration from as far and wide as possible, and 'convergent thinking', boiling things down to a solution that best solves the problem for the customer.
Start with the Must-Haves, says Caitlin Kalinowski.
In Summary: Having cut her teeth at Apple and Facebook, Caitlin is now Head of Product Design Engineering at Oculus, an enviable product role in 2017. In another outstanding interview from FirstRound, Caitlin outlines her philosophy of prototyping and the role it plays in product development.
Prototyping starts by pinpointing your 'North Star'. This means writing down the product's 'must-haves' and not shipping until you've achieved them. Prototyping for too long is as risky as not prototyping for long enough.
Caitlin believes teams should use a 'speed-caution slider' to assess urgency, then start by attacking the thorniest problems and iterating fast. The more iterations, the better the product. The later teams wait to make changes, the more dangerous their decisions will be.
Prototypes should be ugly so stakeholders don't become too attached to them and additional features should be added in order of difficulty. Good Product Managers fight for not fixing everything in the first release.
Above all, prototyping should be fun! If it's not fun, you're doing it wrong.
How do products create the internal cues needed to form habits? Answer: they manufacture desire, says Nir Eyal.
In Summary: The degree to which Product Managers utilise habit-forming technologies will increasingly decide whether their products succeed or fail.
Variable schedules of reward are one of the most powerful tools that companies use to hook users. Companies must understand the mechanics of habit-formation to increase engagement with their products and ultimately help users create beneficial routines.
Feedback loops are all around us, but predictable ones don’t create desire.
Think beginning-middle-end says Julia Chen.
In Summary: Rudyard Kipling once wrote, “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” By evoking emotion and spurring curiosity, stories can help your product become more than just another tool.
The first moments in the user's experience of your product are the most important. They don’t just outline your product’s value, they determine whether or not users stay.
Nir Eyal has shown us that variable rewards can inspire feelings of uncertainty and excitement. Products which deliver variable rewards with every interaction drive the most engagement. Addictive products, like Tinder, have variability built into them.
Using conflict as context is a powerful way to market your product. Conflict translates naturally to storytelling in products. People use your product to solve a specific problem (or to 'get a job done') in their lives.
Chinese and American consumers view this differently, says Jennifer Mueller.
In Summary: When Americans say a product is creative, they mean it's distinctive. Features that communicate wide acceptance (such as celebrity endorsement) may indicate the product is common, but not necessarily unique.
Chinese consumers, on the other hand, think new ideas that aren’t widely accepted or endorsed must lack creativity, so why pay attention to them?
This has wide implications for products or brands that seek to be alternative and gain creative credibility in the process. Being 'edgy' may work in America, but could mean you're seen as irrelevant and overlooked in China.
Quantitative data tells you what but only people can tell you why, says the Nielsen Norman Group.
In Summary: Different research methods can keep product development on the right track at every stage in the design process.
The discovery stage is when you try to illuminate what you don’t know and better understand what people need. This is vital when working on a new product as you'll find out if it makes sense to move forward at all.
Exploration methods are for understanding the problem space and addressing user needs. Testing and validation methods are for checking designs during development to make sure systems work well for the people who use them.
If you can do only one activity and aim to improve an existing system, do qualitative (think-aloud) usability testing. This is the most effective method to improve usability. If you're unable to test with users, analyse as much user data as you can.