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
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.