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6 Questions to understand a Product

February 27, 2019

I originally published this article on The Startup.

Photo by Emily Morter on Unsplash
Photo by Emily Morter on Unsplash

1. What is the product vision?

The product vision is the single most important goal that you are aiming for with your product. It is the reason that the product is a reality and without it, your product is a side project.

You should not be the only person who knows what the product vision is. The whole team should know your product vision and use it in making the product a success.

Put simply, to have a great product, you need a great product vision.

Click here to learn how to create a compelling product vision.

2. What are the product principles?

Product Principles are a set of beliefs and intentions that reflect your team’s values and vision. These can provide direction to the team and in understanding what is important to the team (and the product). Also, it can serve as a base for inspiring product features.

These are not Design Principles which help designers find ways to enhance usability, influence perception, increase appeal, teach users, and make sound design decisions during projects.

Product principles help provide direction and guidance to the whole of the product team. This should enable the team to focus on developing inspiring product features that are important to your product.

Click here to view an example of product principles for a real-life product.

3. What are the key metrics of the product?

Key metrics help teams check the success of their product. They also help stakeholders determine how customers are interacting with a product, the value it brings a company and how to improve it.

Key metrics need some sort of analytics. Exploiting the power of analytics will allow you to optimize your product to a new level. Key metrics let you see the results of changes that you make to your product.

“You can’t manage what you can’t measure. If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” — Peter Drucker

Google’s HEART framework is great for defining product metrics that follow from product goals. It enables a product team’s decisions to use the insights gained from data.

Click here to view an example of HEART Heart Metrics for an app.

4. Who are the users?

If you want to build a better product, feature, or service you need to understand who your audience is. You also need to know their behaviour, what frustrates them, motivates them, and what makes them happy. You need to have an understanding of these people and how they are different from you and your team. Let us be clear, you are not your users!

You will answer this question through analytics, interviews, and you can create proto-personas to keep the team aligned with the different types of users your product has.

Click here to view how to make proto-personas.

Click here to view an example of a proto-persona.

5. What features are users using?

You need to find out “how many people are actually using our product’s features?”. To answer this question you will need to perform a feature audit of the product. A feature audit is a powerful tool as it will let you focus your work on the areas where it will have the most impact.

Improving a feature knowing that you’re trying to increase adoption lets you measure the results and avoid pushing features for the sake of it. It also identifies the features do not need to be worked on and should be removed from your product.

Click here for more information about how to perform a feature audit.

6. What is on the product roadmap?

A product roadmap is a high-level plan that describes how the product is likely to grow over a certain period of time. It should communicate where the product is going, why it is going in that direction, and what goals you what to achieve.

A roadmap is great for communicating and aligning stakeholders to where the product is going over the next year and what the team will be developing.

“Building a great product is hard. Building a great product without a plan that accounts for iteration, quality control and user feedback is nearly impossible.” — Janna Bastow

Click here to read about building product roadmaps by Mind the Product’s Janna Bastow

I wrote an article before about a better way of building a product roadmap. The following is from that article.

Let’s face it, planning is guessing. Long-term planning is so unpredictable (due to the unknown) that unless you’ve got a DeLorean time machine you’re better off not doing it.

Deciding on what you’re going to build in Q4 (before the year has even begun) is a surefire way of building the wrong thing. Shouldn’t you spend your time building what’s important at the time? I think so.

Instead of using a yearly roadmap broken into quarters, use a “Current, Near, and Future” roadmap.

Click here for more information about why and how to create a roadmap forces a change in mindset that amplifies product discovery and helps remove waste.

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