Saturday, September 24, 2022

15 useful tips from: Seductive Interaction Design

Here are 15 useful tips from the book Seductive Interaction Design by Stephen Anderson. This book will help you design 15x better user interfaces.

Sunday, August 28, 2022

KGL - A Trek To Cherish For A Life Time

Today we have a guest blogger, please join me in welcoming Sapna Shah. I am a proud husband of Sapna. She recently completed one of the most beautiful treks called the KGL Trek - Kashmir Great Lakes. She is the first person from our family to venture into some serious trekking. Her experience was so spectacular and so special that it deserved a blog post. So here it is, KGL - The heaven on earth!

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Book Notes: Laws of UX: Using Psychology to Design Better Products & Services

We have been working on designing new UX for one of our products. Obviously I had no idea on how to design good UX, hence I decided to level up by reading the Laws of UX: Using Psychology to Design Better Products & Services by Jon Yablonski

Who is this book for?

This is one of the first books you should read if you are designing an interface that your customers will interact with. This includes UX designers, Product Managers, Product Designers etc. This book will add value to Product Engineers as well. 

Usual Disclaimer

This post is by no means a summary of the book, the notes mentioned here are extracts from the book. If you find these interesting, please pickup a copy of the book and give it a go.

Jakob's Law

Users spend most of their time on other sites, and they prefer your site to work the same way as all the other sites they already know. 

Users will transfer expectations they have built around one familiar product to another that appears similar. 

By leveraging existing mental models, we can create superior user experiences in which the users can focus on their tasks rather than on learning new models. 

When making changes, minimise discord by empowering users to continue using a familiar version for a limited time. 

The less mental energy users have to spend learning an interface, the more they can dedicate to achieving their objectives. The easier we make it for people to achieve their goals, the more likely they are to do so successfully. 

One of the primary ways designers can remove friction is by leveraging common design patterns and conventions in strategic areas such as page structure, workflows, navigation, and placement of expected elements such as search. 

A mental model is what we think we know about a system, especially about how it works. Good user experiences are made possible when the design of a product or service is in alignment with the user's mental model.

The process of design becomes more difficult when a design team lack a clear definition of its target audience, leaving each designer to interpret it in their own way. User personas are a tool that helps solve this problem by framing design decisions based on real needs, not the generic needs of the undefined "user".

The items common to most personas include: 

  • Info: Items such as a photo, memorable tagline, name, age and occupation. 
  • Details: This section helps to build empathy and align focus on the characteristics that impact what is being designed. 
  • Insights: This section helps to frame the attitude of the user. It helps further definition of the specific persona and their mindset. 

Fitts's Law

The time to acquire a target is a function of the distance to and size of the target. 

Touch targets should be large enough for users to accurately select them. 

Touch targets should have ample spacing between them. 

Touch targets should be placed in areas of an interface that allow them to be easily acquired. 

As the size of an object increases, the time to select it goes down. Additionally, the time to select an object decreases as the distance that a user must move to select it decreases. 

The touch targets should be large enough that users can easily discern them and accurately select them. Touch targets should have ample space between them. Touch targets should be placed in areas of an interface that allow them to be easily acquired. 

According to research, people prefer to view and touch the centre of the smartphone screen, and that is where accuracy is the highest. 

Hick's Law

The time it takes to make a decision increases with the number and complexity of choices available. 

Minimise choices when response times are critical to increase decision time. 

Break complex tasks into smaller steps in order to decrease cognitive load. 

Avoid overwhelming users by highlighting recommended options. 

User progressive onboarding to minimise cognitive load for new users. 

Be careful not to simplify to the point of abstraction. 

Complexity extends beyond just the user interface; it can be applied to processes as well. The absence of a distinctive and clear call to action, unclear information architecture, unnecessary steps, too many choices or too much information - all of these can be obstacles to users seeking to perform a specific task. 

It's also important to consider when simplification can negatively affect the user experience - more specifically , when we simplify to the point of abstraction, and it's no longer clear what actions are available, what the next steps are, or where to find specific information. 

Miller's Law

Don't use the "magical number seven" to justify unnecessary design limitations

Organise content into smaller chunks to help users process, understand, and memorise easily. 

Remember that short-term memory capacity will vary per individual, based on their prior knowledge and situational context. 

Human short-term memory is limited, and chunking helps us retain information more effectively. When we chunk content in design, we are effectively making it easier to comprehend. Users can then scan the content, identify the information that aligns with their goals, and consume that information to achieve their goals more quickly. 

Postel's Law

Be empathetic to flexible about, and tolerant to any of the various actions the user could take or any input they might provide. 

Anticipate virtually anything in terms of input, access and capability while providing a reliable and accessible interface. 

The more we can anticipate and plan for in design, the more resilient the design will be. 

Accept variable input from users, translating that input to meet your requirements, defining boundaries for input, and providing clear feedback to the user. 

Anyone, regardless of device size, feature support, input mechanism, assistive technology, or even connection speed, should be served something that works. 

The more fields you require users to fill out, the more cognitive energy and efforts you're asking of them, which can lead to a deterioration in the quality of the decisions made - decision fatigue. 

Peak - End Rule

Pay close attention to the most intense points and the final moments (the "end") of the user journey.

Identify the moments when your product is most helpful, valuable, or entertaining and design to delight the end user. 

Remember that people recall negative experiences more vividly that positive ones. 

Instead of considering the entire duration of the experience, we tend to focus on an emotional peak and on the end, regardless of whether those moments where positive or negative.

Cognitive biases are systematic errors of thinking or rationality in judgement that influence our perception of the world and our decision-making ability. We attempt to preserve our existing beliefs by paying attention to information that confirms those beliefs and discounting information that challenges them. This is know as confirmation bias: a bias of belief in which people tend to seek out, interpret, and recall information in a way that confirms their preconceived notions and ideas. 

The peak-end rule is related to another cognitive bias known as the recency effect, which states that items near the end of a sequence are the easiest to recall. 

Journey mapping is invaluable for visualising how people use a product or service through the narrative of accomplishing a specific task or goal. 

Journey maps usually contain some key information:

  • Lens: It establishes the perspective of the person the experience represents. It usually will contain the persona of the end user, which should be predefined based on research on the target audience of the product or service. The lens should capture the specific scenario that the journey map is focused on. 
  • Experience: This section illustrates the actions, mindset and emotions of the end user mapped across a timeline. Typical information captured includes general thoughts, pain points, questions or motivations that originate from research and user interviews. Finally, there's the emotional layer, which is usually represented as a continuous line mapped across the entire experience and which captures the emotional state of the persona during the experience. 
  • Insights: This section identifies the important takeaways that surface within the experience. It usually contains a list of possible opportunities to improve the overall experience. It also contains a list of metrics associated with improving the experience, and details on the internal ownership of these metrics. 

It is inevitable that at some point in the lifespan of a product or service something will go wrong. These types of situations can have an emotional effect on the people that use your product and may ultimately inform their overall impression of the experience. 

Aesthetic-Usability Effect 

Users often perceive aesthetically pleasing design as design that's more usable. 

An aesthetically pleasing design creates a positive response in people's brains and leads them to believe the design actually works better. 

People are more tolerant of minor usability issues when design of a product or service is aesthetically pleasing. 

Visually pleasing design can mask usability problems and prevent issues from being discovered during usability testing. 

Contrary to what we've been taught not to do, people do in fact judge books by their covers. Automatic cognitive processing is helpful because it enables us to react quickly. Carefully processing every object around us would be slow, inefficient, and in some circumstances dangerous, so we begin to mentally process information and form an opinion based on past experiences before directing our conscious attention toward what we're perceiving.  

The positive benefits of aesthetically pleasing design come with a significant caveat. Since people tend to believe that beautiful experiences also work better, they can be more forgiving when it comes to usability issues. Asking questions that lead participants to look beyond aesthetics can help to uncover usability issues and counter the effects that visual attractiveness can have on usability test results. 

Von Restorff Effect

When multiple similar objects are present, the one that differs from the rest is most likely to be remembered. 

Make important information or key actions visually distinctive. 

Use restraint when placing emphasis on visual elements to avoid them competing with one another and to ensure salient items don't get mistakenly identified as ads. 

Don't exclude those with a color vision deficiency or low vision by relying exclusively on color to communicate contrast. 

Carefully consider users with motion sensitivity when using motion to communicate contrast. 

In order to maintain focus on information that is important or relevant to the task at hand, we often filter out information that isn't relevant. It's a survival instinct know in cognitive psychology as selective attention, and it's critical not only to how we humans perceive the world around us but also to how we process sensory information in critical moments that could mean the difference between life and death. 

Banner blindness describes the tendency for people to ignore elements that they perceive to be advertisements, and it is a strong and robust phenomenon that's been documented across three decades. We ignore anything that we don't typically find helpful. Instead, people are more likely to search for items that help them achieve their goals - especially design patterns such as navigation, search bars, headlines, links, and buttons. 

Change blindness describes the tendency for people to fail to notice significant changes when they lack strong enough visual cues, or when their attention is focused elsewhere. Since our attention is a limited resource, we often ignore information we deem irrelevant in order to complete tasks efficiently. Because our attention is focused on what appears to be most salient, we may overlook even major differences introduced elsewhere. If it's important that the user be aware of certain changes to the interface of a product or service, we should take care to ensure that their attention is drawn to the elements in question. 

Tesler's Law

Also known as the law of conservation of complexity, states that for any system there is a certain amount of complexity that cannot be reduced. 

All processes have a core of complexity that cannot be designed away and therefore must be assumed by either the system or the user. 

Ensure as much as possible that the burden is lifted from users by dealing with inherent complexity during design and development. 

Take care not to simplify interfaces to the point of abstraction. 

A key objective for designers is to reduce complexity for the people that use the products and services we help to build, yet there is some inherent complexity in every process. Inevitably we reach a point at which complexity cannot be reduced any further but only transferred from one place to another. At this point, it finds its way either into the user interface or into the processes and workflows of designers and developers. 

When an interface has been simplified to the point of abstraction, there is no longer enough information available for user to make informed decisions. In other words, the amount of visual information presented has been reduced in order to make the interface seem less complex, but this has led to a lack of sufficient cues to help guide people through a process or to the information they need. 

Doherthy Threshold 

Productivity soars when a computer and its users interact at a pace (< 400 ms) that ensures that neither has to wait on the other. 

Provide system feedback within 400 ms in order to keep users' attention and increase productivity. 

Use perceived performance to improve response time and reduce the perception of waiting. 

Animation is one way to visually engage people while loading or processing is happing in the background. 

Progress bars help make wait times tolerable, regardless of their accuracy. 

Purposefully adding a delay to a process can actually increases its perceived value and instill a sense of trust, even when the process itself actually takes much less time. 

While a 100 ms response feels instantaneous, a delay of between 100 and 300 ms begins to be perceptible to the human eye, and people begin to feel less in control. Once the delay extends past 1000 ms, people begin thinking about other things; their attention wanders, and information important to perform their task begins to get lost, leading to an inevitable reduction in performance. The cognitive load required to continue with the task increases as a result, and the overall user experience suffers. 

In some cases the amount of time required for processing is longer than what is prescribed by the Doherty threshold (> 400 ms), and there simply isn't much that can be done about it. But that doesn't mean we can't provide feedback to users in a timely fashion while the necessary processing is happening in the background. This technique helps to create the perception that a website or an app is performing faster than it actually is. 

One common example used by platforms such as Facebook is the presentation of a skeleton screen when content is loading. This technique makes the site appear to load faster by instantly displaying placeholder blocks in the areas where content will eventually appear. The blocks are progressively replaced with actual text and images once they are loaded. 

Another way to optimise load times is known as the "blur up" technique. This approach focuses specifically on images, which are often the main contributor to excessively long load times in both web and native applications. It works by first loading an extremely small version of an image and scaling it up in the space where the larger image will eventually be loaded. A Gaussian blur is applied to eliminate any obvious pixelation and noise as a result of scaling up the low-resolution image. 

Animation is yet another way to visually engage people while loading or processing is happening in the background. A common example is "percentage-done progress indicators", also known as progress bars. Research has shown that simply seeing a progress bar can make wait times seem more tolerable, regardless of its accuracy.

Ten seconds is the commonly recognised limit for keeping the user's attention focused on the task at hand - anything exceeding this limit, and they'll want to perform other tasks while waiting. When wait times must extend beyond the maximum of 10 seconds, progress bars are still helpful but should be augmented with an estimation of the time remaining until completion and a description of the task that is currently being performed. 

Another clever technique for improving perceived performance is the optimistic UI. It works by optimistically providing feedback that an action was successful while it is being processed, as opposed to providing feedback only once the action has been completed. For example, Instagram displayed comments on the photos before they are actually posted. It only displays an error afterward in the event that the action isn't successful. 

It might seem counterintuitive, but it's important to also consider when response times might be too fast. When the system responds more quickly than the user expects it to, a few problems can occur. First, a change that happens a little too fast may be completely missed. Another issue that can occur is that it can be difficult for the user to comprehend what happened, since the speed of change does not allow sufficient time for mental processing. Finally, too-fast response time can result in mistrust if it doesn't align with user's expectations about the task being performed. Purposefully adding a delay to a process can actually increase its perceived value and instill a sense of trust, even when the process actually takes much less time. 

With Power Comes Responsibility

Random reinforcement on a variable schedule is the most effective way to influence behaviour. Digital platforms can also shape behaviour through the use of variable rewards, and this can be observed each time we check our phones for notifications, scroll through a feed, or pull to refresh. 

Infinite loops like autoplay videos and infinite scrolling feeds are designed to maximise time on site by removing friction. Without the need for the user to make a conscious decision to load more content or play the next video, companies can ensure that passive consumption on their sites or apps continues uninterrupted. 

We humans are inherently social creatures. The drive to fulfil our core needs for a sense of self-worth and integrity extends to our lives on social media, where we seek social rewards. Each "like" or positive comment we receive on content we post online temporarily satisfies our desire for approval and belonging. Such social affirmation delivers a side dish of dopamine. 

Default settings matter when it comes to choice architecture because most people never change them. These settings therefore have incredible power to steer decisions, even when people are unaware of what's being decided for them. 

Remove as much friction as possible - The easier and more convenient you make an action, the more likely people will be to perform that action and form a habit around it. 

Reciprocation, or the tendency to repay the gestures of others, is a strong impulse we share as human beings. It's a social norm we've come to value and even rely on as a species. 

Dark patterns are yet another way technology can be used to influence behaviour, by making people perform actions that they didn't intend to for the sake of increasing engagement or to convince users to complete a task that is not in their best interest. 

Ethics must be an integral part of the design process, because without this check and balance, there may be no one advocating for the end user within the companies and organisations creating technology. The corporate goals of the business and the human goals of the end user are seldom aligned, and more often than not designers are conduit between them. The first step in making ethical design is to acknowledge how the human mind can be exploited. 

Applying Psychological Principles in Design

One of the most effective ways we can ensure consistent decision making within the design process is by establishing design principles: a set of guidelines that represent the priorities and goals of a design team and serve as a foundation for reasoning for decision making. They help to frame how a team approaches problems and what it values. 

To define design principles follow these steps:

  • Identify the team: First step is to identify the team members who will participate. A common approach is to keep things open to anyone who wishes to contribute. It may also be a good idea to open the process to design leadership and stakeholders outside of immediate team. 
  • Align and define: It's time to carve out some time and kick things off by first aligning on success criteria. This means not only creating a shared understanding of design principles and the purpose they serve, but also defining the goals of the exercise. 
  • Diverge: The next step is commonly centred around idea generation. Each team member is asked to brainstorm as many design principles as they can for a defined amount of time.
  • Converge: Next step is to bring all those ideas together and identify themes participants are usually asked during this phase to share their ideas with the group and to organise those ideas according to themes that surface during the exercise. Then they are asked to vote on the themes they feel are most appropriate for the team and the organisation. 
  • Refine and apply: It's common to first undergo a refinement stage and then identify how the principles can be applied. It's a good idea to identify where and how these principles can be applied within the team and the organisation as a whole. 
  • Circulate and advocate: The final step is to share the principles and advocate for their adoption. Circulation can come in many forms: posters, desktop wallpapers, notebooks, and shared team documentation are all common mediums. It's critical that team members who participated in the workshop advocate for these principles both within and outside the team. 

The following are the few best practices to help ensure the design principles your team adopts are useful:

  • Good design principles aren't truisms: They are direct clear and actionable, not bland and obvious.  
  • Good design principles solve real questions
  • Good design principles are opinionated: They should have a focus and a sense of prioritisation, which will push the team in the right direction when needed and drive them to say no when necessary. 
  • Good design principles are memorable: If they are hard to remember they would be less likely to be used. They should feel relevant to the needs and ambitions of the team and the organisation as a whole. 


This is an awesome book that list down most common principles to follow when designing any interface. It is also short and crisp, you wont spend months reading it. I would recommend reading this book for anyone working towards building a product!

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Scam Alert: Electricity Power Will Be Disconnected

I want to highlight a scam that is going around. This scam starts with an SMS informing you that, "Your electricity will be disconnected at 9:30 PM because your previous month bill is not updated". The SMS also mentions a number which is supposed to be the customer care's number that you must call to avoid the power disruption. 

Here's the screenshot of the actual SMS I received along with the senders number and the Customer Care number

Scammer SMS

This posts documents my conversation with the scammer, in the hope that more of us will become aware of this scam and not fall for it.

The Investigation

When I received the SMS, I was a bit surprised, I had paid the electricity bill on 4th June 2022 itself. Still, I decided to check online, if the bill had been paid, turns out it was paid.

Then I started doubting that may be its a scam. Decided to call the helpline to figure out what happens next.

When I called the helpline, there was no answer. After 5 min or so, the call was returned. This further grew my suspicion, who from the government gives a call back?

The person on the other side was talking in Hindi with a thick UP/Bihari ascent (nothing against anyone, just describing what I noticed). I could also hear other people in the background speaking "Hello I am calling from Electricity Board..."

Here's another red flag, typically people from Maharashtra government would start speaking in Marathi not Hindi.

I asked him which state is he calling from, thinking that may be, they have sent the message to an incorrect number. But he said he is calling from Maharashtra. Next, I asked where are you calling from, he said he is calling from the electricity board helpline.

I told him, I have paid the bill on 4th itself. He said, the problem is not with bill payment. He asked me to read the SMS carefully to understand what is the problem. He asked me to read the message aloud, I obliged. I said what does "previous month bill is not updated" mean? He said, in his system bill is not updated, if I don't update it now, electricity will be disconnected today at 930 PM.

I asked what needs to be done, he responded, go to Google Play Store and download an app...

The Confrontation 

By this time, I have had enough, I decided to confront him and call his bluff. I asked him "Boss, you are running a scam, why are you doing it?".

This person was borderline rude, but my question annoyed him and he said, You will realise when your electricity is disconnected today at 9:30 PM. To which I told him "Do whatever you want, I am going to report you to the police".

This made him go from being rude to abusive. He started using all sorts of curse words and then disconnected the call.

I went to the Cyber Crime Portal and registered a complain. Here's the screenshot of the confirmation


Help me spread the awareness to as many people as possible so that, these scammers go out of business. Please be watchful!

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Book Notes: What Customers Want: Using Outcome-Driven Innovation to Create Breakthrough Products and Services

The next book on the cards was What Customers Want: Using Outcome-Driven Innovation to Create Breakthrough Products and Services by Anthony Ulwick. This book tries to emphasise outcome-driven thinking to bring discipline and predictability to the often random process of innovation. It's another foundational book towards learning how to build innovative products. 

Who is this book for?

This book will help everyone involved with product development i.e. product leaders, product managers, product designers as well as product developers. In addition to that it will also help marketing and sales leaders.

Usual Disclaimer

This post is by no means a summary of the book, the notes mentioned here are extracts from the book. If you find these interesting, please pickup a copy of the book and give it a go.

Book Notes

Introduction - Moving Beyond the Customer-Driven Paradigm

To figure out what customers what and to successfully innovate, companies must think about customer requirements very differently. Companies must be able to know, well in advance, what criteria customers are going to use to judge a product's value and dutifully design a product that ensures those criteria are met. These criteria must be predictive of success and not lagging indicators. 

The outcome-driven method is a new way to think about innovation process. Three key tenets define this approach. 

  • Customers buy products and service to help them get jobs done. Customers have "jobs" with functional dimensions to them that arise regularly and need to get done. In the outcome-driven paradigm the focus is not on the customer, it is on the job: the job is the unit of analysis. When companies focus on helping the customer get a job done faster, more conveniently, and less expensively than before, they are more likely to create products and services that the customer wants. 
  • Customers use a set of metrics to judge how well a job is getting done and how a product performs. Customers have these metrics in their minds, but they seldom articulate them, and companies rarely understand the. We call these metrics the customers' desired outcomes. 
  • These customer metrics make possible the systematic and predictable creation of breakthrough products and services. In the outcome-driven paradigm, companies do not brainstorm hundreds of ideas and then struggle to figure out which, if any have value. Instead they figure out which of the 50 to 150 outcomes for a given job are important and unsatisfied and then systematically devise a few ideas that will better satisfy those underserved outcomes. 
Innovation is the process of creating a product or service solution that delivers significant new customer value. The process begins with the selection of the customer and market, includes the identification and prioritisation of opportunities, and ends with the creation of an innovative product concept that delivers the new and significant value. 

Formulating the Innovation Strategy - Who Is The Target of Value Creation and How Should It Be Achieved?

Companies need to figure out what type of innovation initiative they're going to pursue; what growth options are best' and who in the value chain should be targeted to maximise value creation in the market. 

There are four types of innovation that companies should consider for pursuit.

  • Product innovation or service innovation: This is the most common type of innovation, results from improvements that are made to existing products and services. 
  • New Market Innovation: This occurs when a company discovers that people are struggling to get a job done on their own because no products exists and devises a creative product or service that enables customers to get that job done faster and cheaper than ever before. 
  • Operational innovation: This happens when a company discovers inefficiencies in a business operation and works to address those inefficiencies through creative solutions. 
  • Disruptive innovation: This results when a company uses a new technology to disrupt the prevailing business model in an existing market that is filled with overserved customers. 
Once a company decides which innovation path and growth strategy to follow, it must then decide where in the value chain to look to maximise value creation. When making these decisions, companies commonly make the following three mistakes, any one of which can derail the innovation process:

  • The company does not consider the end user directly. Companies commonly fail to consider the end user as a target customer, particularly when the end user is not necessarily the primary purchaser of a product or service. 
  • The company doesn't consider all relevant customers for innovation. Companies that are far back in the value chain and those that sell directly to the end user often don't take the time to consider all relevant customers for innovation and therefore fail to capture or consider their inputs. 
  • The company lets one customer speak for another. Often, companies take shortcuts and let their immediate customers, such as an OEM or a channel partner collect, interpret, and provide them with the requirements of others in the value chain. 

Capturing Customer Inputs - Silence the "Voice of the Customer" - Let's Talk Jobs, Outcomes, and Constraints

The second step in the outcome-driven innovation process is to obtain from customers the information that is needed to discover opportunities and to create valued product or service solutions. 

In outcome-driven paradigm, companies capture the necessary customer information and use it to guide them in the creation of valuable products or services. They do not brainstorm a range of ideas and test the with customers to see which ones consumers like best. While the latter practice is common, it is often the cause of product failures. 

A requirement is something that customers want or need, so, arguably, solutions, specifications, and benefits could all be considered requirements. But certain types of information about customer requirements are more valuable than others to companies. To help bring clarity and objectivity to the innovation process, we need to first create a common language around the different types of information about customer requirements. 

Sometimes companies delude themselves into thinking they are obtaining the data they need from customers - but they are not. Customers tend to state four types of information during the requirements gathering process: solutions, design specifications, customer needs, and customer benefit statements. None of them will help a company successfully create new products and services. 

Companies spend considerable time debating the methods used to capture customer information rather than focusing on collecting the right kind of information. 

Many customers offer their requirements in form of a solution to a problem. Customers do not always have the best solutions, which means their suggestions may lead to products and services that ultimately disappoint them. Customers do not know how the features they are requesting will affect other, possibly more important, dimensions of the product. 

Customers often focus on product specifications, giving interviewers detailed instructions on particular design characteristics: size, weight, colour, shape, look or feel. Accepting specifications as customer inputs inherently prevents engineers and designers from using their creative skills to devise breakthrough products and services. 

Customers' needs are usually expressed as high-level descriptions of the overall quality of a product or service. They are typically stated as adjectives and inherently do not amply a specific benefit to the customer. For instance, customers commonly say they want a product to be "reliable", "effective", "robust", "dependable" or "resilient". Although these simple statements provide some indication as to what customers are looking for, they have one major drawback. They are imprecise statements open to interpretation and present designers, developers, and engineers with the impossible task of figuring out just what customers really mean by "dependable" and "resilient". 

Customers often use benefits statements to describe what value they would like a new product or service feature to deliver. They often use words like "easy to use", "faster" or "better". These statements may be useful for marketing-communication purposes, but again, they present designers and engineers with ambiguous information that can't be measured or acted upon. 

To execute their innovation processes successfully, companies must obtain three distinct types of data. They must know which jobs their customers are trying to get done (that is, the tasks or activities customers are trying to carry out); the outcomes customers are trying to achieve (that is, the metrics customers use to define the successful execution of a job); and the constraints that may prevent customers from adopting or using a new product or service. 

There are three different types of jobs that customers are often trying to get done:
  • Functional Jobs: They define the tasks people seek to accomplish. 
  • Personal Jobs: These explain the way people want to feel in a given circumstance. 
  • Social Jobs: Clarify how people want to be perceived by others. 
Customers want to get more jobs done, but they also want to be able to do specific tasks faster, better, or cheaper than they can currently. To define just what "faster" or "better" means, companies must be able to capture from customers the set of metrics that define how they want to get the job done and what it means to get the job done perfectly. These metrics are the customers desired outcomes

Before we start capturing outcomes from customers we often begin to dissect the job into its process steps so we know where to look to capture customer information. This results in a clear understanding of the customer's value model. To fill in customer value model, managers must capture the customers' desired outcomes in a precise format for each stage of the job so development and marketing staffers can use the information throughout the subsequent stages of innovation process. Desired outcomes typically state a direction of improvement (minimise or increase); contain a unity of measure (number, time, frequency, likelihood); and state what outcome is desired. 

Desired outcomes are fundamental measures of performance that are inherent to the execution of a specific job. They will be valid metrics for as long as customers are trying to get the job done. 

Besides getting more jobs done, or a specific job done better, customers also need help overcoming the constraints that prevent them from getting a job done altogether or under certain circumstances. These constraints are often physical, regulatory, or environmental in nature. Companies that can find new ways to overcome these constraints can also uncover excellent growth opportunities. 

Identifying Opportunities - Discovering Where the Market Is Underserved and Overserved

The third step in the outcome-driven innovation process is to determine what jobs, outcomes, and constraints represent the best opportunities for growth and innovation. 

In the outcome-driven paradigm, an opportunity for growth is defined as an outcome, job, or constraint that is underserved. An underserved outcome, in turn, can be defined as something customers want to achieve but are unable to achieve satisfactorily, given the tools currently available to them. 

Underserved jobs signal potential opportunities for new markets. They are jobs that customers cannot perform satisfactorily with the tools that are currently available to them. Job-related opportunities for growth can be discovered by determining what ancillary or related jobs are underserved when a customer is using an existing product or service and by determining what jobs people are trying to get done in general. 

Underserved constraints also represent opportunities for growth as they point out under what conditions or circumstances a customer is unable to perform a job of interest. 

Companies often spend years developing a competency or strength in a market and then continue to improve the products that showcase that competency. Companies have a tendency to keep making improvements in their areas of strength even though the associated outcome may already be well satisfied, even overserved. 

When companies focus on what can be done rather than what should be done, they often focus on an outcome that is just not that important to customers. This takes resources away from the underserved outcomes that would result in the creation of value, adding an opportunity cost to the equation as well. 

Companies rarely know all the outcomes customers are trying to achieve, and often the improvements they make in one area end up having a negative effect on other important outcomes. The best opportunities spring from those desired outcomes that are important to a customer but are not satisfied by existing products. 

The opportunity algorithm, is a simple mathematical formula that makes it possible to discover the most promising areas for improvement. The formula states that opportunity equals importance plus the difference between importance and satisfaction, where that difference is not allowed to go below zero. 

Opportunity = Importance + max(Importance - Satisfaction, 0)

An opportunity for improvement exists when an important outcome is underserved - that is, when it has a high opportunity score. Such outcomes merit the allocation of time, talent, and resources, as customers will recognise solutions that successfully serve these outcomes to be inventive and valuable. 

  • Opportunity scores greater than 15 represent extreme areas of opportunity that should not be ignored. Outcomes with scores in this range are rare in mature markets, but common in newer markets. 
  • Opportunity scores between 12 and 15 can be defined as "low-hanging fruit" ripe for improvement. 
  • Opportunity scores between 10 and 12 are worthy of consideration especially when discovered in the broad market. 
  • Opportunity scores below 10 are viewed as unattractive in most market and offer diminishing returns. 

To define and deliver new solutions that evolve each measure of value along its continuum, better satisfying the collective set of outcomes. Every time a new product or technology is introduced, the opportunity for value creation migrates somewhere else. To understand how this dynamic is playing out at any given time, companies must know three things: what all the customer outcomes are, which of those outcomes are important and which are unsatisfied. With this information in hand, it is possible to see where value is migrating and to be the first to address the new opportunities with winning products. 

The information gained from competitive analysis can be used to help position existing products, to understand why one competitor's product is selling better than another's, and to target the weaknesses of key competitors. It can also be used to direct the organisation's communication and sales strategy to highlight the high-opportunity areas that are well served. 

In the face of uncertainty, companies simply copy their competitors because they feel they must meet or beat them on a spec-by-spec basis or be left behind. A company that is thinking in terms of customer outcomes has been freed from the spec-by-spec mentality, however, and will not necessarily try to match the competition. 

Segmenting the Market - Using Outcome-Driven Segmentation to Discover Segments of Opportunity

The fourth step in the outcome-driven innovation process is market segmentation. Traditional segmentation schemes often lead companies to focus on phantom targets - that is groups of customers who are neither homogeneous nor non-overlapping, and why may not value a unique set of desired outcomes. Segmentation must create a population that:
  • Has a unique set of underserved or overserved outcomes. 
  • Represents a sizeable portion of population
  • Is homogeneous - meaning that the population agrees on which outcomes are undeserved or overserved and responds in the same manner to appropriately targeted products and services. 
  • Makes an attractive strategic target - one that fits with the philosophy and competencies of the firm
  • Can be reached through marketing and sales efforts. 
Using the opportunity score as the segmentation variable forces the creation of segments that represent unique opportunities. From a development and marketing perspective this is nirvana, as this market insight is just what is needed to make effective targeting, positioning, messaging and other product and marketing decisions. 

In most markets there exists a group of customers who are more demanding than the rest. They are underserved along many dimensions of value; they want more and are willing to pay for it. In most markets there also exists a group of customers that is unattractive to utilise more function, or they may require excessive service while demanding lower prices. 

A technology can successfully disrupt a market only if a sizeable segment of market population is overserved and willing to accept a product or service that is functionally inferior to those currently available. 

As a new entrant into an existing market, a company must be able to pick out a small segment of customers, address their unique outcomes, and then leverage its position to make gains in other market segments. 

Outcome-based segmentation is used to discover segments of opportunity in a specific market of interest. Job-based segmentation is used to discover entirely new markets - a job or a group of jobs that are underserved. 

Targeting Opportunities for Growth - Deciding Where to Focus the Value Creation Effort

Once a company knows all the opportunities that exist in a market, it can devise a very effective targeting strategy; one that will ultimately place it in a unique and valued competitive position - a position that addresses the underserved outcomes in a market while reducing costs in those areas that are overserved. 

Targeting is the process of selecting for pursuit those underserved and overserved outcomes that represent the best opportunities for growth and innovation. An effective targeting strategy will enable a company to add function and performance in areas that are underserved and to reduce cost and function in areas that are overserved. 

It is best to target a big opportunity in the broad market first because an innovation that has broad-market appeal will have a big impact on revenue growth. Once the opportunities in the broad market are addressed or exhausted, the segment-specific opportunities should be explored and considered given their size, business implications and potential impact on revenue growth. 

On occasion we find a market in which a number of underserved outcomes represent some sort of theme. In such a case a company is advised to message, position and compete around this theme, as it offers a strong competitive position. 

Even when there are not a large number of opportunities in the broad market, there may be one big opportunity that has not yet been addressed. When a big opportunity is discovered, evaluate whether or not the outcome can be addressed by creating a new product that fits well within the existing system and makes great improvements in getting the job done. 

Some underserved outcomes will require new technology, cost-reduced technology, or a reshaped technology before the outcomes are effectively pursued. When a broad-market opportunity does not exist, companies often look for opportunities that multiple segments share. 

When company is able to find opportunities that are shared by multiple segments, it may be able to define a feature set that addresses those shared opportunities and use that feature set as a platform on which to build solutions for the multiple segments, thereby reducing the overall number of product platforms that it needs. 

We typically find a segment of the population that is highly underserved - meaning many of their outcomes have high opportunity scores. This type of segment is typically underserved along so many dimensions that it would be impossible to address all or even most of its underserved outcomes in the next release of the product, and, consequently, it would be impossible to achieve total customer satisfaction with that release. Therefore it's wiser not to target such a segment until all the other attractive segments have been pursued. 

Occasionally we fine a segment that has no or only a small number of underserved outcomes while the remaining segments demand more performance and have greater number of underserved outcomes. In such a situation we may plot the segments with price point along one axis and performance along the other. Such an exercise enables a firm to determine which segment is most likely to be satisfied at a low price point and which will only be satisfied with more features at a higher price point. 

Positioning Current Products - Connecting Opportunities with Valued Product Features

Once a company has targeted the underserved outcomes that represent the best opportunities for growth and innovation, it is able to exploit those opportunities and gain revenue in three distinct ways:
  • By better communicating and exploiting any advantages its current products have in satisfying the targeted underserved outcomes, leading to increased sales. 
  • By quickly bringing to market those products and services in development that do the best job of addressing the targeted opportunities. 
  • By developing longer-term product and service ideas that target the remaining unexploited opportunities. 
A company can have a great product, but if it fails to communicate the product's value, it will not optimise it's sales revenue. Although marketing managers know this, we have found that positioning and messaging strategies often fail to communicate a product's true value because companies are unaware of the opportunities that exist in a market, use vague messaging that fails to hit the mark.

Companies often feel the need to appeal to their customers emotions, but depending on the functional and emotional complexity of the product or service being delivered, doing so can bring unexpected and unwanted results. 

Certain products - especially those in cosmetic and perfume industries - are relatively simple, functionally speaking and are often purchased to help customers get emotional jobs done. As the markets for these types of products mature, the products simplicity makes it difficult for companies to continue to differentiate one product from another along functional dimensions. This in effect forces manufacturers to differentiate their products along an emotional dimension in order to build and maintain brand loyalty. 

At the other end of the spectrum we find companies in industries that product highly functional items such as medical devices, financial services, and computer and software tools can be differentiated along many functional dimensions, and customers who buy and use such products rarely use them to get emotional jobs done. 

We can categorise the possible scenarios into four quadrants based on their combination f functional and emotional characteristics.

  • In quadrant 1 (low function, low emotion) we find industries involved in production of raw materials and chemicals. Companies in this quadrant are better off positioning and differentiating their products along another dimension, such as service or cost. 
  • In quadrant 2 (low function, high emotion) we find the cosmetics, food and beverage and packaged-goods industries. These industries spend considerable time differentiating along emotional dimensions, since many of these products have limited function. Much is to be gained, however, by trying to make these products more functional. It not only adds a new avenue for differentiation, but it also makes the product more valuable to the user. 
  • In quadrant 3 (high function, high emotion) we find the apparel and automative industries. Although products in these industries are highly functional, they are also very important in defining the customer's persona. Because of this, the emotional component is an important dimension of differentiation. 
  • In quadrant 4 (high function, low emotion) we find electronics, software, services and medical-device industries. The focus here needs to be on function, as these products have little emotional appeal. 
If the sales team begins with a solid knowledge of the customer's outcomes and ascertains which are underserved, it can then create a sales pitch and solution that will connect with the customer front and centre.

A cleverly conceived brand name that connects the product to the job can make customers think of the product whenever they think about getting the job done - so much so that the product and the job may come to be thought of simultaneously. This can only happen when companies take an outcome-based approach to branding and sales. 

Prioritising Projects in the Development Pipeline - Separating the Winners from the Losers

With increasingly competitive pressures and tightened budgets, companies cannot afford to continue to bet on dozens of initiatives in the hopes that at least a few will succeed. A new method for prioritising development initiatives is needed: one that can identify the initiatives that will create the most customer value and company profit. 

Products and services that satisfactorily address targeted market opportunities are given high priority and the resources to get to market quickly. Those that fail to address targeted opportunities are reconsidered and often abandoned. 

Most companies do not know their customers desired outcomes or which of those outcomes are most underserved. They try to make educated guesses, often giving most credence to inputs from the sales team. They may react to competitors new launches, diverting resources from their own potentially breakthrough initiatives. Because companies don't know where opportunities exist in a market, they often feel compelled to invest in an excessive number of initiatives in the hope that at least some of these bets will succeed. 

The excitement and exuberance associated with a project typically originate with the project champion, a person whose unyielding conviction that the project will succeed is often based on a hunch rather than on strong evidence. The champion's exuberance spreads because others also want to believe. It is this dynamic that makes it hard to kill a project, even when there are signs that it will likely fail. 

Because companies tend to fund far more projects than they should, they are forced to spread limited resources across many projects. In the end, few projects receive the resources and attention they need to move forward quickly. 

When several competing initiatives are found to address many of the underserved outcomes, each initiative may also be evaluated for factors such as effort and risk. When all of a company's competitors satisfy an important outcome better than the company itself, then the company should give high priority to an initiative that helps overcome that competitive weakness even if the outcome was not one that the company has originally targeted. 

Devising Breakthrough Concepts - Using Focused Brainstorming and the Customer Scorecard to Create Customer Value

Most brainstorming and idea generation efforts yield poor and un-actionable results for three key reasons. 
  • Managers rarely know how or where to direct employees' creative energy. The result is much wasted energy, hundreds of useless ideas, and unfortunately, few ideas that are truly worth of pursuit. 
  • Companies often measure the success of an ideation session by the number of ideas that are generated, not the quality of those ideas. 
  • The third problem arises because so many ideas exist and most companies lack a useful way to evaluate them. 

Instead of thinking up ideas and then trying to figure out which ideas merit value, companies should only generate ideas around the underserved outcomes. Knowing where to focus creativity is the key to successful and accountable innovation. To successfully generate breakthrough solutions, companies must identify and address their customers' most underserved outcomes and do so in a way that does not diminish performance along other important dimensions. 

The first rule is to keep the ideation team focused on generating ideas that specifically address the high-opportunity outcomes. Do not let them wander off course and push ideas that are focused on satisfying other, less important outcomes. 

When brainstorming, employees are instructed to devise ideas that make significant improvements in customer satisfaction, not just incremental improvement. 

While some experts suggest that applying constraints is confining and many stifle creativity, we argue that on the contrary, constraints focus creativity in a way that generates valuable, usable, and practical ideas. 

There are plenty of bad ideas. These are ideas that are impractical and costly and that fail to address underserved outcomes. Outcome-driven companies eliminate these bad ideas quickly as they are evaluated immediately after they are generated. 


This book talks about how outcome-driven companies do things differently and why it is important to know what jobs, outcomes customers are trying to achieve and what are the constraints governing them.    I would recommend reading this book for anyone working towards building a product!

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Book Notes: The Lean Product Playbook: How to Innovate with Minimum Viable Products and Rapid Customer Feedback

After finishing: Continuous Discovery Habits: Discover Products that Create Customer Value and Business Value written by Teresa Torres, I picked up The Lean Product Playbook: How to Innovate with Minimum Viable Products and Rapid Customer Feedback by Dan Olsen. This book explains the exact steps to follow which can lead to building a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) that achieves Product Market Fit (PMF).

Who is this book for?

If you are working on building a new product or working on existing product to make it better, then you should read this book. This applies to product leaders, product managers, product designers as well as product developers.

Usual Disclaimer

This post is by no means a summary of the book, the notes mentioned here are extracts from the book. If you find these interesting, please pickup a copy of the book and give it a go.

Book Notes

Introduction: Why Products Fail and How Lean Changes the Game

The main reason products fail is because they don't meet customer needs in a way that is better than other alternatives. This is the essence of product-market fit. 

PMF Pyramid

Product-Market Fit Pyramid breaks down Product-Market fit down into 5 key components: 
  • Your target customer
  • Your customers underserved needs
  • Your value proposition
  • Your feature set
  • Your user experience (UX)
The Lean Product Process consists of six steps:
  • Determine your target customers 
  • Identify underserved customer needs
  • Define your value proposition 
  • Specify your MVP feature set
  • Create your MVP prototype 
  • Test your MVP with customers

Achieving Product-Market Fit with the Lean Product Process

PMF means being in a good market with a product that can satisfy that market - You have built a product that creates significant customer value. This mean that your product meets real customer needs and does so in a way that is better than the alternatives. 

Your product is the top section of the product market fit pyramid, which consists of 3 layers. The market is the bottom section of the pyramid, consisting of two layers. Within the product and market sections, each layer depends on the layer immediately beneath it. Product-market fit lies between the top and bottom sections of the pyramid. 

The PMF Pyramid separates the market into its two distinct components: the target customers and their needs. As you try to create value for customers, you want to identify the specific needs that correspond to a good market opportunity. 

A product is a specific offering intended to meet a set of customer needs. The real world manifestation of software products that customers see and use is the user experience (UX), which is the top layer of the PMF Pyramid. 

The set of needs, that you aspire to meet with your product forms your value proposition, which is the layer just below "feature set". Your value proposition is also the layer just above customer needs, and fundamentally determines how well the needs addressed by your product match up with the customers.

When you are building a new product, you want to avoid building more than is required to test your hypothesis with customers. While the first prototype you test could be your live product, you can gain faster learning with fewer resources by testing your hypotheses before you build your product. 

The process is a checklist to help make sure you've thought about the key assumptions and decisions to be made when creating a product. If you are not making these assumptions or decisions explicitly, then you are making them implicitly. 

The process is an iterative process that requires you to revise your hypotheses, designs, and product as you make progress - all of which could be considered rework. The goal of the process is to achieve PMF as quickly as possible. 

Problem Space versus Solution Space

Any product that you actually build exists in solution space, as do any product designs that you create - such as mockups, wireframes, or prototypes. 

In contrast, there is no product or design that exists in problem space. Instead, problem space is where all the customer needs that you'd like your product to deliver live. Whether it's a customer pain point, a desire, a job to be done, or a user story, it lives in problem space. 

The "what" describes the benefits that the product should give the customer - what the product will accomplish for the user or allow the user to accomplish. The "how" is the way in which the product delivers the "what" to the customer. The "how" is the design of the product and the specific technology used to implement the product. "what" is problem space and "how" is solution space. 

It's product team's job to unearth these needs and define the problem space. One way is to interview customers and observe them using existing products. Such techniques are called "contextual inquiry" or "customer discovery", you can observe what pain points they run into even if they don't explicitly mention them to you. You can ask them what they like and don't like about the current solutions. 

The reality is that customers are much better at giving you feedback in the solution space. If you show them a new product or design, they can tell you what they like or don't like. They can compare it to other solutions and identify pros and cons.

Problem space and solution space are an integral part of the PMF pyramid. Unlike customers and their needs, which you can target but can't change, value proposition is the problem space layer over which you have most control.

Determine Your Target Customer

Matching a product with its target customer is like fishing. Your product is the bait that you put out there and the fish that you catch is your target customer. You can develop hypotheses about your target market, but you won't truly know who your customers actually are until you throw your hook into the water. Once you have a product or a prototype to show customers, then you can gain clarity about the target market you're attracting. 

In some cases, especially for business-to-business products, the customer who will use your product (the user) is not the same person who makes the purchase decision (the buyer). The buyer often has distinct needs from the end user that need to be addressed to achieve PMF, and you should define your target buyer in addition to your target customer when warranted. 

The technology adoption life cycle divides a market into five distinct customer segments based on their risk aversion towards adopting new technologies.

  • Innovators: They are technology enthusiasts who pride themselves on being familiar with the latest and greatest innovation. 
  • Early Adopters: They are visionaries who want to exploit new innovations to gain an advantage over the status quo.
  • Early Majority: They are pragmatists that have no interest in technology for its own sake. They adopt new products only after a proven track record of delivering value. 
  • Late Majority: They are risk averse conservatives who are doubtful that innovations will deliver value and only adopt them when pressured to do so. 
  • Laggards: They hate change and have a bias for criticising new technologies even after they have become mainstream. 

Identify Underserved Customer Needs

Customers are generally not skilled at discussing the problem space; they are better at telling you what they like and dislike about a particular solution. Good interviewers excel at listening closely to what customers say, repeating statements back to ensure understanding, and asking additional probing questions to illuminate the problem space. 

You should ask a set of questions about each benefit statement, such as:
  • What does this statement mean to you?
  • How might this help you?
  • If a product delivered this benefit, how valuable would that be to you?
Possible responses: no value, low value, medium value, high value, or very high value.
  • For a response of high or very high value: why would this be of value to you?
  • For a response of low or no value: why wouldn't this be of value to you?
These questions help you to see if the way you're describing the benefit is clear to users. They also help you learn how valuable the benefit is and why. 

Once you have identified the various customer needs, you have to decide which ones you want to address. You need a good way to prioritise among the different needs - and prioritising based on customer value is a good approach. We can do this via a framework based on importance and satisfaction.

Importance Vs Satisfaction

Importance is a measure of how important a particular customer need is to a customer. Importance is a problem space concept, separate from any specific solution space implementations.

Satisfaction is a measure of how satisfied a customer is with a particular solution that provides a certain customer benefit.

The power of the framework comes when you look at importance and satisfaction together. Importance is on the vertical axis and satisfaction is on the horizontal axis. The bottom two quadrants represent low importance of the need for a customer. There isn't much point in pursuing low important needs. The upper right quadrant is high importance as well as high satisfaction. This would be the case in a market where the leading products are robust and do a good job of meeting customer needs. The upper left quadrant is high importance of need but low satisfaction with current solutions. Customer needs in this quadrant are important but underserved. As a result, they offer excellent opportunities to create customer value. 

Kano Model

The kano model plots a set of two parameters on horizontal and vertical axes:
  • How fully a given customer need is met
  • The resulting level of customer satisfaction. 
The utility of the model is that it breaks customer needs into three relevant categories that you can use: performance needs, must-have needs, and delighter's. 
  • Performance needs: more is better. As the need is more fully met, the resulting customer satisfaction increases. 
  • Must-have needs: don't really create satisfaction by being met. Instead, the need not being met causes customer dissatisfaction. They are "table stakes" or "cost of entry" - boxes that must be checked for customers to be satisfied with your product. 
  • Delighters: provide unexpected benefits that exceed customer expectations, resulting in very high customer satisfaction. The absence of a delighter doesn't cause any dissatisfaction because customers aren't expecting it. 
Needs migrate over time. Yesterday's delighters become today's performance features and tomorrow's must-haves. The fact that your product has a delighter doesn't matter if it's missing a must-have. You have to meet basic needs before you can get credit for performance features. And your product must be competitive on performance features before delighters matter. 

Define Your Value Proposition

When you specify the needs your product will address, you are also deciding the other benefits it won't address - that is the essence of strategy. 

To create your product value proposition create a table. The first column, you list the benefits - one per row, grouped by type. You want to include the must-haves. performance benefits, and delighters that are relevant to you and your competitors. You should have a column for each relevant competitor and a column for your product. 

Once you have established the benefits and competitors, you want to go through each row and score each of the competitors and your own product. The entries for must-haves should be "Yes". For performance benefits, you should use whatever scale works best for you: "High", "Medium" and "Low". Delighters are typically unique, so just list each delighter on a separate row and then mark "Yes"where applicable. 

Specify Your Minimum Viable Product (MVP) Feature Set

For your MVP, you want to identify the minimum functionality required to validate that you are heading in the right direction. For each benefit in your product value proposition, you want to brainstorm as a team to come up with as many feature ideas as you can for how your product could deliver that benefit. You should be practicing divergent thinking, which means trying to generate as many ideas as possible without any judgement or evaluation. There will be plenty of time later for convergent thinking, where you evaluate the ideas and decide which ones you think are most promising. Later you can score each idea on expected customer value to determine a first-pass priority. The goal is to identify the top three to five features for each benefit. 

User stories are a great way to write your feature ideas to make sure that they corresponding customer benefit remains clear. Well-written user stories usually follow the template:

As a [type of user]

I want to [do something]

so that I can [desired benefit]

Once you have written high-level user stories for your top features, the next step is to identify ways to break each of them down into smaller pieces of functionality. The goal is to find ways to reduce scope and build only the most valuable pieces of each feature. 

After you have finished chunking your feature ideas, you should perform a second-pass prioritisation that accounts for both the value and the effort. When you are building a product or feature, the investment is usually the time that your development resources spend working on it. When you have two feature ideas with the same ROI, it's best to prioritise the smaller scope idea higher because it takes less time to implement. 

Once you are done chunking, scoping, and prioritising, you can create a small grid that lists the benefits from your value proposition and that lists, for each benefit, the top feature ideas broken into chunks. 

Once you have organised your list of features chunks by benefit and prioritised the, it's time to start making some tough decisions. You must decide on the minimum set of functionality that will resonate with your target customers. 

To start with, your MVP candidate needs to have all the must-haves you've identified. After that, you should focus on the main performance benefit you're planning to use to beat the competition. Delighters are part of your differentiation, too. You should include your top delighter in your MVP candidate. 

Create Your MVP Prototype

A pyramid of four hierarchical layers is used to describe a product's attributes: functional, reliable, usable and delightful

What MVP should have

The pyramid on the left illustrates the misconception that an MVP is just a product with limited functionality, and that reliability, usability, and delight can be ignored. Instead, the pyramid on the right shows that while an MVP has limited functionality, it should be "complete" by addressing those three higher-level attributes. 

The first way to categorise MVP tests is by whether they are aimed at testing your product or your marketing. A landing page test is an example of marketing test. An MVP test used to validate your product will involve showing prospective customers functionality to solicit their feedback on it. 

The second dimension on which MVP tests differ is whether they are qualitative or quantitive. Qualitative means that you are talking with customers directly, usually in small numbers. Quantitive research involves conducting the tests at scale with large number of customers. 

Apply the Principles of Great UX Design

You are clear on the feature set you believe should be in your MVP. UX the top layer in the PMF Pyramid - brings your product's features and benefits to life for the customer. A product with great UX feels easy to use. It's effortless to find what you're looking for an to figure out what to do next. You don't even notice the user interface and are able to focus on accomplishing the task at hand. The product may even be fun to use and convey emotional benefits such as confidence in your abilities or peace of mind. A great design may lead you to what psychologists call a state of "flow", where you are completely immersed in using the product. 

The first key attribute of a great UX is usability. Usability focuses on the user goals and the tasks they need to perform to achieve those goals. What percentage of users are able to successfully complete each task? The more user effort required to take an action, the lower percentage of users who will take that action. The less user effort required, the higher the percentage of users who will take that action. 

The second key attribute of a great UX is delight. Strong usability helps avoid a poor UX, but it is not enough to deliver a great UX. Usability answers the question, "Can customers use your product?" Delight answers the question, "Do customers enjoy using your product?". Delight, goes beyond simply avoiding user frustration and evokes positive emotions. 

The framework for UX design is the following iceberg, only a small portion of UX design is visible and immediately apparent - but there is much more beneath the surface. Starting at the bottom, the four layers of the iceberg are conceptual design, information architecture, interaction design and visual design. 

UX Design Iceberg

  • Conceptual design: Is the underlying concept that forms the essence of the user experience. 
  • Information architecture: Determines how you structure your product's information and functionality. 
  • Interaction design: Defines how the user and your product interact with one another. 
  • Visual Design: Is how your product looks. 

You should also consider these principles of composition when creating and evaluating your designs:

  • Unity: Does the page or screen feel like a unified whole or a bunch of disparate elements?
  • Contrast: Is there enough variation in colour, size arrangement and so forth to create visual interest?
  • Balance: Have you equally distributed the visual weights of elements in your design?
  • Use of space: How cluttered or sparse does your design feel?

Test Your MVP with Customers

User feedback is incredibly valuable because it identifies what you don't know. When you are so close to your product, it is difficult - often impossible - to perceive it as a new customer does. As a result, you have "product blindness": blind spots for the issues that a new user will readily encounter within minutes of using your product. User testing is the antidote for product blindness.

Qualitative user tests require that you show customers your product or design deliverables - wireframes, mockups or prototypes - to solicit their feedback. 

You can gather much richer data sitting next to a user versus sharing a screen. You can see the user's screen and face when you're in his or her presence, and can pickup little things like sighs, facial expressions, and other subtle cues. When you are early in defining and validating your MVP, moderated testing is the way to go to ensure you can ask questions and get rich customer feedback. When you are farther down the road and feeling more confident about your MVP, unmoderated testing can be a useful tool. 

The top way that moderators perturb the results is by asking leading questions, such as "That form was easy to fill out, wasn't it?" Moderators who ask rhetorical and leading questions care more about confirming that the product is good than they do about getting actual, authentic feedback. The point of user testing is not to make ourselves feel good; the point is to get objective feedback from real customers. 

If a user takes an action on a prototype but doesn't verbalise that they did or why they did, a good moderator might say, "I see you just clicked on that button. could you tell me why?" Open questions give the customer plenty of latitude in answering. They usually begin with "why", "how" and "what". In contrast, closed questions limit the customer's possible responses to yes or no. 

If the users have difficulty understanding or using your product, it's important not to help them, as painful as that may feel. Your goal is to keep the test as real as possible; you're not going to be able to hold every customer's hand after your product launches.

It's crucial to differentiate between feedback on usability versus PMF. Feedback on usability has to do with how easy it is for customers to understand and use your product, whereas feedback on PMF has to do with how valuable they find your product. 

Iterate and Pivot to Improve Product-Market Fit

The Hypothesize-Design-Test-Learn Loop

  • You start with the "hypothesize" step, where you formulate your problem space hypotheses. 
  • In the "design" step, you identify the best way to test your hypotheses. 
  • In the "test" step, you expose your product or artifact to customers and make observations, which lead to validated learnings. 
  • You complete the loop by using this validated learning to revise and improve your hypotheses.
These revised hypotheses will inform your next iteration through the loop. The more quickly you can learn, the more quickly you can deliver additional customer value and improve your PMF. 

At the end of each testing wave, you want to look across all the users to see how many gave the same feedback, either positive or negative, which you can express as a percentage. Those percentages should help you prioritise the changes you make to your MVP. 

If you find that you are not making progress as you try to iterate, I recommend you pause and take a step back. Brainstorm with your team about what all the possible problems could be. Map each problem back to the corresponding layer of PMF Pyramid. You may find that you are iterating at a higher level than where the true problem lies. For e.g., if your hypothesis about your target customer is wrong, iterating your UX design won't make much difference. You want to start at the bottom of the pyramid and work your way up until you identify which of your hypotheses are incorrect. When you change one of your main hypotheses it's called a pivot. A pivot is larger in magnitude. 

You shouldn't change direction every time you hit a rough patch, nor should you drop what you're doing to chase each cool new idea you come up with, also known as a shiny object syndrome. You should consider pivoting if you just don't seem to be achieving gains in PMF after several rounds of trying to iterate. If, despite your best efforts, your target customers are only lukewarm on your MVP, you should consider a pivot. 

Build Your Product Using Agile Development 

There are many risks that could impede your while trying to build your blueprint. You may run into issues with technical feasibility, where what you have designed is impossible or too challenging to build, either in general, or with the resources you have available. Your product may be feasible but have such a large scope relative to your resources that it will just take too long to build. An important part of PMF is having the right product at the right time. 

Agile methodologies break the product down into smaller pieces that undergo shorter cycles of requirements definition, design, and coding. Because you are planning in smaller increments, 
  • You can react to changes in the market or other new information more quickly. 
  • Your product reaches customers earlier. 
  • Teams can reduce their margin of error in estimating scope by working in smaller batch sizes. 
There are known knowns. There are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns. That is to say, we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns. The ones we don't know we don't know!

Agile frameworks are like shoes: You really have to try them on to figure out how well they fit. It's often wise to just pick the methodology that sounds best to you and try it out for a few months. Many teams start by trying out either Scrum or Kanban. 

Kanban tends to work best with smaller development teams. The lower process overhead and the lack of a predetermined iteration length can enable faster delivery of product. But as a development organisation grows to multiple teams, Kanban can start to become more challenging. If you organisation has multiple development teams across which you need to coordinate work, then the predictable cadence of Scrum can be beneficial. 

Measure Your Key Metrics

Attitudinal information is what customers say about their attitudes and opinions. In contrast, behavioural information has to do with what customers actually do. The following framework maps Attitudinal information and behavioural information against Qualitative and Quantitative ways of collecting information.

What testing type to use when

Quantitive research can tell you how many customers are doing (or not doing) something. But it won't tell you why the customers are doing it (or not doing it). On the flip side, qualitative research will help you get at the underlying reasons for why customers do what they do. But it won't tell you how many people do what they do for each particular reason. 

You should not invest in trying to grow your business until after you have achieved PMF. To check if you have achieved PMF, you can use this survey where you can ask the users of your product the question, "How would you feel if you could not longer use [product X]?". The four possible responses are:
  • Very disappointed
  • Somewhat disappointed
  • Not disappointed (it isn't really that useful)
  • N/A - I no longer use [product X]
Products for which 40 percent or more of users replay "very disappointed" tend to have PMF.

Analytics are critical for any product team to fully understand how their customers are using the product. Analytics can't give you the entire picture; you also need qualitative research to know your customers. But you are flying blind without analytics. 

AARRR! framework is also called "Startup Metrics for Pirates" (for obvious reasons) it measures - acquisition, activation, retention, revenue and referral. It is recommended to track 2-3 key metrics for each of the five elements of his framework. 

AARRR Framework

At any point in the life of your business, one of the five macro-metrics in the AARRR model will be more important than the others. It's also called "Metric That Matters Most" or MTMM for short. Your MTMM is the metric that offers the highest ROI opportunity for improving your business right now. At some point, after you make significant progress on your MTMM, it will no longer be the MTMM - since a different metric will now offer higher ROI opportunities. The MTMM changes due to the phenomenon of diminishing returns. 

When you are working on a new product, you need to first achieve PMF. Until you know that customers find your product valuable, it doesn't make sense to spend lots of resources trying to acquire customers. Nor does it make sense to optimise conversions. If customers find value in your product, they will continue using it; otherwise, they won't. Retention is the macro-metric most closely related to PMF. For this reason, it is typically the first MTMM for a new product. 

Once you confirm strong PMF with a healthy retention rate, you know that a high enough percentage of customers that get through your front door and use your product will stick around. It usually makes the most sense to focus next on making sure the highest percentage of prospects who show up at your front door make it inside. 

Once you have optimised retention and conversion, it often makes sense to focus on acquisition - identifying new and better ways of attracting prospects. 

Three most important retention curve parameters are - initial drop-off rate, rate of descent, and terminal value - are direct measures of PMF. The stronger your PMF, the lower your initial drop-off rate, the lower your rate of descent and the higher your terminal value. Terminal value is the most important of these three parameters, since it answers the question, "What percentage of customers who tried your product continue to use it in the long run?"

Every business can be expressed as an equation. The goal is to come up with a quantitive representation of your business constructed from a set of metrics that you can use to optimise your business results. One equation you can start with that applies to every business:

Profit = Revenue - Cost
This equation tells you that you can increase profit by increasing revenue or decreasing cost. To make this metric more actionable, you are going to break down these higher-level metrics into formulas of more detailed metrics to go several level deeper. This is called "peeling the analytics onion".

Revenue = Paying Users * Average Revenue per Paying User
Paying Users = New Paying Users + Repeat Paying Users
New Paying Users = Free Trial Users * Trial Conversion Rate + Direct Paid Signups
Profit = Number of Customers * Profit per customer
Profit per customer = Revenue per Customer - Cost per Customer

Use Analytics to Optimise Your Product and Business

The great thing about a live product is that analytics let you clearly see the results of changes that you make. With a good A/B testing framework, you can easily conduct experiments and make improvements rapidly. Companies that do this well have an advantage over their competitors. 

Product Analytics Process

  • The first step in the Lean Product Analytics Process is to define the key metrics for your business. 
  • Next, you need to start measuring these metrics so you can establish a baseline value for each one. 
  • Next step is evaluating each metric's upside potential. This is where you assess each metric through an ROI lens. 
  • Once you have assessed each metric's upside potential, you move on to the next step in the process: selecting the metric that offers the most promising opportunities for improvement. This is the metric that matters most (MTMM). 
  • Then you want to brainstorm as many improvement ideas as you can for this top metric. 
  • Then you want to estimate how much each idea will improve the metric. You also want to estimate the effort for each idea so you can evaluate ROI. 
  • You then pick the highest ROI idea to pursue. 
  • Next, you design and implement the top improvement idea. 
  • Of course, you hope your target metric improves. But you've made progress even if it doesn't because you have gained valuable learning. You now revisit your list of ideas to improve the metric and select the next best idea, repeating the loop.
  • Eventually, you should see the target metric improving after trying several ideas. 
  • At some point, a different metric will offer greater opportunities for improvement. This new metric becomes the MTMM. 
The hypotheses you made in one layer of the PMF Pyramid, affects all layers above it. You UX is the easiest layer to change, you can also change your feature set, but it takes more effort. But the foundational elements of PMF - your target customers, their underserved benefits, and your value proposition - are difficult to change once you've built your product. Once you've locked in your hypotheses for these layers, they are like a set of interconnected tectonic plates. If you move one of them after you've already built your product, much of the product you've built will no longer be relevant - like an earthquake that reduces a building to rubble. When that happens, human nature can make you want to salvage and reuse as much as of your work as you can. But doing so can add onerous constraints to your solution space, which is suboptimal when you are changing your problem-space hypotheses. You would be better off building again from scratch on top of the new foundation. 


This book is a practical guide on how to build a product that customers love. The content in this book is very actionable. I would highly recommend reading this book for anyone working towards building a product!
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