Needs, features and benefits

I’m currently teaching a lively bunch of budding product managers over at General Assembly.  After each class, I’ve been setting them a blogging task to sum up their understanding of what they’ve learned.  I thought it might be fun to level the playing field a little and open myself up for a little critical retribution.  So here are my musings on the first topic we covered: needs, features and benefits. Continue reading

The 8 traits of a successful web API

I’ve been talking to web developers, engineers and product people about APIs.  After all, they’re the ones using them.  From our discussions, it’s clear that the best web APIs share some common traits.  Would you like to know what’s going to make yours more successful?

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11: You are allowed to say ‘no’ – it’s strategic

I’m writing about one hundred things I’ve learned as a product manager.

Product managers hate saying ‘no’. It’s not in our nature to disappoint people. We want everyone to be happy with our products. We’d much rather say a nice, cooperative ‘yes’ that makes everyone happy and leaves us feeling warm and fuzzy.

The problem is that saying yes to everything creates manifest chaos. Continue reading

5: The best possible way may not necessarily be the right way

I’m writing about one hundred things I’ve learned about being a product manager.

We product managers are a surprisingly upbeat bunch considering that we seem to spend a good proportion of our time making compromises.  We very rarely get the opportunity to deliver everything we need in a product.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise, however.  We very rarely have truly ultimate say-so on the scope of a project; there’s always someone higher ranking that likes to make their mark on the world.  Similarly, technology has a habit of getting in the way sometimes.  Or pesky compliance issues.  And so on.

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Lo-fi usability testing – Part 1: Background

I recently spoke at ProductCamp London about conducting lo-fi usability, that is, easy, quick and inexpensive usability testing that anyone can run.  I did a neater version when I was invited recently to present to the BBC product managers and user experience practitioners, which I’d like to share with you.

Quite a few people are put off usability testing because they think it’s complicated, time-consuming and expensive.  What you may not realise is that you can run a set of usability tests in a single afternoon that will uncover eighty percent of the problems your product has.  And the only specialist equipment you’ll need is a pen, some paper and the computer you need to access the software or website.

This my friends is lo-fi usability testing – a high-return, low-cost method for these cash-strapped times.  In this first instalment, I’ll be discussing what usability is and why testing it is so important.

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“Why the heck should I upgrade?” – 4 things you’re probably missing

You expend a lot of effort getting people to buy your product and they’re happy with it.

Time passes.

You then go back to your satisfied customers and tell them what they have is now mediocre, so they have to move onto your latest and greatest product version.  You see this everywhere, from washing powders to family cars, so it must work for enterprise software, right?  So why are your no-longer-happy customers now chasing you with pitchforks and burning torches?

The Simpsons Angry Mob Fun Run

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Questions you need to be asking

There are many questions that a product manager needs to ask to determine the best course of action or to analyse underlying motivations.  Of them, I use the following three questions most often:

  1. So what?
  2. Why?
  3. What’s stopping us?

So what?

Use this repeatedly to uncover the true benefit of something rather than simply features of the proposition.  For example:

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