Product Managers (PM) are responsible for the growth of the product from the very first day. If the product succeeds, the whole product team gets the credit but if it fails, the PM takes complete responsibility for its failure. In this drive to make their product successful, PMs need to spend a lot of time with their product to make it simple and valuable for their users.
Every new feature, product improvement, re-design, or bug fix changes your product in some way for the user. With each passing day, you as a PM become so habitual of using your own product that it restricts your ability to notice small flaws in the user experience and you start to overlook them. Over a period of releases, these flaws are glaringly visible externally such that your product is no longer guiding the user in their journey and they are unable to complete their task effectively. The result is dissatisfied users and imminent churn.
Your job as a product manager is to deliver a coherent product experience to every user who signs up on your product
Every time there is a new update to your product you need to step into the shoes of a new user and use the product in a way such that you are using it for the first time. This requires a lot of cognitive effort to get rid of the complete understanding of your product and act only on the basis of information that is presented to you.
Your job is to find out those missing pieces of information that restrict the user from completing their journey, interact with the new module, or understand the advantages of a re-design. Issues like these need the right amount of urgency and prioritization from you to be addressed by the team otherwise there are high chances of these being overlooked. This is what I call unlearning your own product.
We’ll look at some specific examples to understand what are some of the common pitfalls and how you can be vigilant to deliver a stellar experience for all your users.
Whenever you launch a new feature or module in your product, think about how the user is going to discover that feature and interact with it. Is the feature critical enough that users will put an extra effort to find it? Is your existing on-boarding flow educating users about that new feature? Can an existing user find that feature who is not going through an on-boarding flow? Is the UX copy descriptive enough to help the users understand what the feature is about?
Humans are lazy decision makers and will always try to avoid something new unless there is a need for it.
Your new feature must create an emotional response of ‘want to use it’ instead of ‘have to use it’ in the user’s mind. Your product needs to clearly communicate what the feature is about and set the right expectation on what is going to happen upon using it. The user needs to clearly understand the value addition of this new feature.
During the launch of the product, you decide on a simple pricing model for your product and finally put it in front of your users. Over a period of time, your product evolves with new capabilities but is your pricing evolving equally? In the case of tier-based pricing, are the pricing tiers getting overwhelmed with the number of features getting built? In the case of feature-based pricing, are you making it difficult for the users to decide which features to pick? Is your pricing simple and competitive for the users as it was on the day of launch?
Your users will pay for the product if you are delivering real value.
In my personal experience, I have seen a number of products that do not re-work their pricing based on their growing capabilities but only focus on acquiring more customers to increase revenue. You need to continuously monitor and re-work the pricing and packaging strategy of your product such that your existing customers do not feel cheated for what they have paid and new users instantly see the value for money.
There is no doubt about the fact that you need to continuously talk to your customers to gather feedback and improve your product. But they are the people who are still using your product and find value in using it. (Read more about survivorship bias). What about the customers who have churned and no longer using the product? Was it an issue with the product which lead to churn?
It is equally important to talk to people who were your customers in the past and understand what lead to churn.
Insights from these conversations will help you resolve flaws that actually lead to churn.
You and your team’s thought process evolves and becomes mature over a period of time. This thought process also reflects on the product through the language it uses to communicate with the user. Yes, every new screen built on the product is better than the last one. But what about the first feature that you built together as a team? Does it use the same language and expression to communicate with the user?
Make sure that you are using consistent language and expression across the product.
Your product needs to display the same personality to each user irrespective of their segment. You need to revisit those old modules from time to time and make changes for consistency. Slack does a superb job of maintaining a consistent expression throughout.
Each module of your product is allocated a specific amount of time in your roadmap for improvements based on user feedback and your own learnings. But often improvements with less overall impact get prioritized because someone from your customer success/support team has bugged you 3 times in the last 1 week to release an improvement.
You need to be aware that the recency of events should not aid the prioritization process.
Make sure that the improvements are made based on overall impact and alignment with the roadmap even though they were identified a long time ago.
Teams often spend a lot of time discussing outlier user behavior during their team meetings and stand-ups. No doubt that these conversations are exciting and test the limits of your product but it also leads to improvements that do not serve the major cohort of your users. Since these improvements are also beyond the scope of your product, you need to invest more time and resources for a low overall impact.
You need to deeply understand who the 80% of your users are and how they use the product.
You as a PM should also clearly define what usage patterns and user behaviors are within the scope and outside the scope of the product. Always prioritize solutions that serve the needs of 80% of your users.
Your role as a PM is to identify and resolve problems that no one else is looking at! Unlearn all your product biases and beliefs every day to deliver the best experience to your users.