The best product managers understand that everything about their products should target users’ needs. Products offering cool features in search of a problem or technological magic motivated by engineering whimsy won’t find success beyond the most niche audiences. First understand your users’ problems, and only then build a solution to address them. Otherwise you risk building things that nobody really needs, just because someone thought it would be “really cool” to have feature X.

Unfortunately, as I’ve noted before, we’re all naturally wired to jump to solutions first. In fact, it requires considerable discipline to stay focused on the problem space. (Check out my simple concept of a problem-solution card to help restore attention to the problem side of things.) Even the most successful digital products of all time have struggled with this. When I talk at meetups and conferences I use the first landing page of (The) Facebook from 2004 to demonstrate how easy it is to slip to the feature-first mindset. Take a close look at the four bullet points below:

Courtesy of Mark Zuckerberg and Thefacebook. (Aren’t we all glad Facebook has invested so heavily in UX since then? ?)

Notice anything? The first three bullets clearly target college students’ needs — search for people at your school, find out who are in your classes, look up your friends’ friends. These are all needs driven by a natural desire to socialize.

But the fourth one?

Visualization of your social network sounds exactly like the “really cool” feature in search of a user need.

Luckily, Mark realized that this feature does not immediately solve any of the Facebook users’ core needs and killed it, simplifying user experience for all! ?

In productboard you can break down your products into components that represent your users’ needs and use them as containers to organize your features. No more would-be-really-cool features without users’ needs. And did I mention you can clearly organize and link all your user feedback and research as well? Try it out!

Hubert Palan
Hubert Palan Apr 11, 2016