Takeaways: Jason Schwartz’s ‘How Product is Built’ class at GA

11 Mar

Class: Jason Schwartz of Matchbook on “Introduction to Product Management: How Product is Built”, via GA

Date: March 5 2012, 20:00-21:30

[This session was the third in a series of four; I missed the first two due to travel and schedule madness, but I’m attending the fourth on March 19]

Jason Schwartz, a product manager/UX specialist and the founder of Matchbook (a location-based app), offered a high-level and useful overview of the science of product management. Some highlights from the class are below.

As Schwartz put it, a product manager is a ‘scientist’ in the field of computer-human interaction. And on the point of that interaction, he stressed that:

all great software is based on already occurring human behaviour…software is really bad at changing behaviour – Jason Schwartz

So, if software is all about how people behave (and for a developer, about how you’d like them to behave) then a fundamental part of software development is getting insight into that behaviour.

Market research is crucial

As Jeff Mignon of RevSquare told the EJP12 fellows recently, startups are very afraid to confront the customer with their ideas…but the sooner you think about the customer the better.

Schwartz echoed this, noting that even the process of finding people to talk to is indicative of the likely success (or failure) of the product or service. In other words, if you can’t find enough people to talk to about your product, either the market is too small, or you may not have access to the right people. (For the latter, imagine you’re building software targeting CFOs of multinational companies – do you have access to these types of people? If not, can you get it? If you can’t even talk to them, how will you ever get your product in front of them?)

When first talking to customers, don’t tell them what you’re trying to do (or build). Just ask them what they’re doing – Jason Schwartz

Make sure there’s an “Aha!”

Schwartz identified certain reactions/responses to look for when conducting market research:

  • When you describe your proposed solution, how do they react? [Schwartz: you need to see their eyes widen; you need to see them get thoughtful, get excited; you need to see a visceral physical reaction]
  • What do they say when you ask, “would you pay for that?”

Wireframes, spec & UX

A lot of people design the user experience for the experienced user and not the total newbie. Onboarding is essential. – Jason Schwartz

Much of my previous role involved translating what the editorial team wanted into tickets and specifications for the developers (hello, Redmine) – and indeed, vice versa.

So what Schwartz had to say here almost made me laugh out loud:

Never say, “I need a login screen”. That is not a spec.

Why is that funny? Because it’s not your developer’s job to read your mind; it’s your job (as a product manager) to give your developers detailed and specific specifications. So you want a login screen? How do you want it to look? Do you need prompts for someone who’s forgotten a password? Will you have email verification? Do you want to allow your users to login with Facebook or Twitter?

“I need a login screen” is absolutely not a spec.

One very useful tool for this product manager-developer conversation is user stories, sometimes called scenarios, which are fundamental to the Agile approach. (Here are lots of examples of user stories, via Google Image search)

Wireframing is also a not-to-be-skipped step, though it’s important not to get too “design-y” at this stage of the process.

To quote Schwartz again:

None of this stuff is simple. None of this stuff is obvious. None of this stuff can not be thought through.

Who is Linda Tatersmith? – Design Decoded
Requirements 101: User Stories vs. Use Cases – Building Better Software

Elsewhere on Ent!
Takeaways: Alex Taub’s ‘Intro II Business Development & Partnership for Startups’ Skillshare class
“In the context of startups, project management tools will always suck”

3 Responses to “Takeaways: Jason Schwartz’s ‘How Product is Built’ class at GA”

  1. dopeambition March 12, 2012 at 23:37 #

    Aha moments! Onboarding! UX! Sounds like a quality GA class (we can discuss that later), or perhaps just relatable to everything I’m thinking about and going through at the moment. As seen today in Jeff Mignon’s wireframing class, there’s a lot we forget when we’re so tied to our idea. Log in pages, error messages, options for onboarding, etc. Thinking through all of this BEFORE meeting with a developer is so crucial, and oh, so time consuming.

    But again, it just makes so much sense to me that everything about the layout of our favorite sites/platforms is based on user behavior. I like that Jeff Mignon described the nav bar as “telling a narrative” about what your biz/service is.

    Time consuming? Yes. Worth it? Duh.

    nice post.

  2. cnutsr March 13, 2012 at 16:16 #

    Good post, UX is becoming a global problem in the industry for all the teams who want to collaborate for delivering software. Due to the business volatility & content importance UX needs to be given its due time for right creative designs. We tasted some success by making UX teams works of +1 iterations and have them collaborate with implementation teams.

  3. Michael March 20, 2012 at 06:00 #

    Appreciate the takeaways, especially about not confronting people with your idea first but rather asking them related questions about their current behaviors and needs…and then unveiling your idea and noticing the immediate reaction. So easy to get caught up pitching the idea right away.

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