What makes a product truly excellent? Team productboard chimes in
We are super excited to kick off our Age of Product Excellence content series — a deep exploration of the Product Excellence Methodology, the Product Managers who practice it, and the excellent products that result. We start by taking a close look at the products people use and love, then seek out the PM behind the scenes to shine light on their strategies and thought processes. From these real stories, we aim to trace Product Excellence from ideation to result and gain insight into what it takes to build today’s most beloved products.
At productboard, both our technology and mission are built on the foundations of Product Excellence — a methodology designed to help Product Managers get the right products to market, faster. And while we have talked a lot about the three pillars of Product Excellence and why they matter, we have yet to take a close look at the resulting products. Which products are considered truly excellent by their users, and what are their defining characteristics?
To find out, we interviewed productboard employees about their favorite digital products and why they love them. From their response, we were able to tease out a few common themes:
- Excellent products solve real problems for real people, and improve upon past status quos. They simplify people’s lives, make them more efficient, or help them pass time in a more enjoyable way. Oftentimes, the people using these products can’t imagine going back to how things were before — even if they didn’t recognize a need for change back then.
- Excellent products are simple and straightforward to use, even for people who aren’t especially tech-savvy. As our Customer Success Manager Shash puts it, “My mother doesn’t understand anything about technology and even she has no trouble understanding how to use Netflix!”
- Excellent products spark delight. Maybe they allow people to seamlessly collaborate with coworkers or encourage them to try something new that they never would have thought to try otherwise. Delight comes in different forms depending on the product, but it all boils down to adding value and making people feel good in some way
What are your favorite products? Tell us in this form and you may just see yourself featured on our blog!
Team productboard’s favorite digital products
Hubert Palan, Co-founder & CEO
Superhuman, “the fastest email experience ever made,” has done an amazing job considering the common use cases of their target audience — busy people who frequently use email. For example, if you receive an introduction via Superhuman, you can move the person who sent the intro into BCC with a quick shortcut; when you type a date into the body of an email, Superhuman recognizes the text and automatically pulls up your calendar so you can cross-check your availability. There are all types of conversations that they have optimized to make email communication much more efficient.
Though Lemonade is an insurance company, it’s clear that they carefully consider human emotions when it comes to product design. When you first download the app, you are sent into a chatbot for a conversational onboarding process. When you purchase an insurance policy, the app displays “You’re Amazing” in huge letters. The whole user experience feels very authentic.
Another feature I like is being able to choose a charity to support when I buy insurance. Lemonade takes a flat fee from your insurance purchase, uses it to pay claims, then gives what’s left to your charity of choice. It makes you feel really great about using their product.
Maurice Kleine, Frontend Engineer
All of my favorite apps make me feel more in control — of my money, my sensitive data, or my thoughts. The main thing is that they’re solving real, day-to-day problems of mine. I literally use them multiple times a day.
You Need a Budget
I use You Need a Budget because it takes away a lot of stress regarding budgeting. I like that they position themselves as an education company that happens to sell software instead of a software company that happens to educate. Their blogs and newsletters are written in a light and funny way but provide a lot of information.
1Password makes signing up and logging in — something I do quite regularly — so easy. The interface is minimal and straight to the point. And it makes it simple to share sensitive data with family members.
I use Headspace really frequently. Not only because they’ve promoted mindfulness and meditation up to the point where even my mother thinks it’s normal to meditate, but also because they’re raising awareness on mental health issues. Last month, they donated $1000 for every million minutes users spent meditating to Mind, a mental health charity. I feel happy to use an app that supports such an important cause.
Andrej Danko, VP of Product
I really appreciate Google Drive — and more specifically, Google Docs and Google Slides — for its functional superpowers. At any point in time, I can go back and see what a Doc looked like, and it’s great to have access to the full history of how a piece of content evolves over time. I never have to deal with a corrupted file or lose something I’m working on again (remember when Word and PowerPoint were our only options?).
Then there is the collaborative aspect of these tools. When you’re part of a team, many people work on the same documents together. Google Drive makes it possible to see not just your own edit history but a history of everyone’s inputs. This enables a great new way of cooperating with colleagues without the hassle of distribution, waiting, merging, and reconciliation of changes — you can see in real-time what others are working on, tag important information, and directly assign an actionable. I can never go back to how it was before.
Dottie Schrock, Content Distribution & Social Manager (me!)
I love that ClassPass gives me access to an endless variety of fitness classes in San Francisco. I can’t count how many times I’ve enthusiastically activated a gym membership only to stop going a few months later because I got bored with the lack of variety. It added up to an embarrassingly large waste of money.
ClassPass makes it easy to switch it up and try something new. Just the other day, I attended an Afro-Brazilian dance class that I spontaneously booked through the app, something I never would have thought to try otherwise. It was really fun, and I made a new friend out of it. As my partner puts it, it’s like “unlocking a new level in a video game, but in real-life.”
Where do I even begin with my love of Squarespace? I have used Squarespace over the last five years to build both personal blogs and professional portfolios. It’s amazing how they have democratized the process of building a website — something that used to be expensive and seemingly unattainable. Even though I have zero web design experience, I am able to create and maintain a beautiful website. I also appreciate Squarespace’s sophisticated aesthetic when it comes to their personal brand and website templates. As a customer, I’m not going anywhere!
Winston Christie-Blick, Product Marketing
I am an ardent fan of Intercom because I can remember what product management was like when users were still largely anonymous and we often felt like we had no way to get in touch with them.
Intercom changed that paradigm by making business personal at scale. Communicating with site visitors, prospects, and customers in real-time through chat is fundamentally different than email. It’s easier to let your personality shine through and feels more organic (gifs and emojis help too!). As a result, you’re really able to develop relationships that carry over into the real world, and you create bonds that inspire those same users to reach out to you whenever they have small insights while using your product. These insights add up over months and years and they can have a big impact on your ability to deliver an excellent product, particularly if you have the right systems in place to put them to use!
P.S. Apart from Intercom’s beautifully designed product we love their blog and podcast too!
I’ve been resolving to become a better cook for about 10 years. Good Eggs is what finally got me there. It offers a seamless experience for ordering healthy ingredients delivered directly to your doorstep at a reasonable price. But more importantly, its meal kits make you feel like a badass cook. They include recipes and ingredients I would never have tried on my own, and they come with well-written recipes that can be carried out in 30 minutes. They always turn out great and that’s boosted my confidence in the kitchen in general.
Making life easier and more delicious… broadening your horizons… making you a better version of yourself… isn’t this what tech promised to do for us? Good Eggs delivers.
Shash Tandon, Customer Success Manager
Stripe is so convenient in my day-to-day work. It’s great to have a holistic view of everything related to payments in one place, like when a new user signs up for productboard or when customers make a payment. If I need to process refunds or see if a customer’s payment method went through, all I have to do is check Stripe for that particular customer and I’ll have my answer right away.
Before Stripe, I had to go directly into online banking systems and excavate the information I needed. I used to manually refund customers. Now everything can be accomplished in one click and I don’t need to work with a specialized finance manager.
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We’d love to hear what you think. Fill out this form to tell us all about your favorite digital products and why you love them. You may just see yourself featured on our blog!