Build Better Products
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Build Better Products

A Modern Approach to Building Successful User-Centered Products

Laura Klein

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  1. 368 pages
  2. English
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  4. Available on iOS & Android
eBook - ePub

Build Better Products

A Modern Approach to Building Successful User-Centered Products

Laura Klein

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About This Book

It’s easier than ever to build a new product. But developing a great product that people actually want to buy and use is another story. Build Better Products is a hands-on, step-by-step guide that helps teams incorporate strategy, empathy, design, and analytics into their development process. You’ll learn to develop products and features that improve your business’s bottom line while dramatically improving customer experience.

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The first piece of the puzzle is understanding your goal.


In order to build something great, you have to know what great looks like. For most businesses, that means creating something that is either profitable or that fulfills a specific strategic need for the company.
It’s generally at this point that I get asked, “But what about nonprofits? Or governments?” It’s true, nonprofits and government agencies shouldn’t be focused on turning a profit. That doesn’t mean that they don’t have a goal. Maybe it’s educating more children or distributing more medicines. Their needs are defined by the mission of the organization.
For-profit products, on the other hand, have at least one very specific need—to take in more money than they spend.
This section will help you determine your business need, which will create the foundation for building a better product.



Defining a Better Business Need

Exercise: Creating a Measurable and Achievable Goal
Quantifying the Business Need
Exercise: Defining Your User Lifecycle Funnel
The User Lifecycle Math
The Dangers of Starting from the Business Need
Expert Advice from Christina Wodtke
There are a lot of different methods for defining your business need, but there’s only one goal. You need to understand the primary thing about your business that you should improve right now.
Sometimes you don’t need to go out of your way to determine your business needs. They’re sent down to you from on high. The CEO declares that this quarter the company will focus on a specific type of revenue or on cutting costs. The SVP of the department says you have to hit an annual revenue target. Your boss hands you a set of goals for your team.
In those cases, your task is to figure out how you, working on your specific product or in your specific business unit, can contribute to the goal that has already been defined for you.
Of course, if you’re the CEO, or if your company’s only quarterly goal is “survive until next quarter,” your job is a little bigger. You need to decide what your single point of concentration is going to be.
Why? Because having a single, achievable goal will simplify your decision-making process. More on that later.
To determine that goal, we’re going to run an exercise. You’ll find a lot of exercises in this book. You should try to run all of them. More than that, you should run most of them with your team.
First, I want to say an important word about teams. When I describe teams, I use titles like product manager, designer, researcher, and engineer. Those may or may not be the members of your team. Maybe you have a product owner or a project manager or a scrum master or a creative director or a principal scientist or a machinist. That’s great. Include them.
The people who should be running these exercises with you are the people you work with every day to build a product. These are people who are actively involved in making decisions about who your user is and how the product should work for that user.
For some exercises, you’re going to bring in external stakeholders who don’t work on the product every day but who have important input. These might be people from the legal department or from finance. Your company might not even have those departments. Again, use your judgment.
I also assume that you, the person reading this book, are someone who is making a lot of decisions about how the product will work and how the team will work together. You might be a product manager, a designer, an entrepreneur, the head of an innovation team, or dozens of other things.
The titles aren’t important. What’s important is making sure that the people who are making product decisions have all the information they need to build the best product they can.

Creating a Measurable and Achievable Goal

Whether you’re determining a business goal for your company, your entire product, or just for your own team, it’s important that everybody agrees what the goal is. This is an exercise I like to run with new teams to find out what people think they should be doing.
Gather your team together and ask them to complete whichever of the following questions is more appropriate to your team.
If you do not currently have any goals set by somebody higher up in the company, have them finish this sentence:
If I could wave a magic wand, our company/product would have more/fewer _________.
If you do have an overarching goal or metric that has been assigned by someone else, like a quarterly revenue or growth target, have them finish this sentence:
In order to reach our company target, our team/product should have more/fewer _________.
Have everybody on your team independently take three minutes to write their answers on sticky notes—one set of answers per note (see Figure 1.1).
Write each set of answers on its own sticky note.
Next, have everybody on your team read their various stickies aloud and put them on the wall. Try to group related ones together.
Some likely responses to this exercise will be:
• Company/More/Money!
• Product/More/Users
• Team/Fewer/Bugs
• Company/Fewer/Support Calls
If you get answers like this, you’re going to run the exercise again.
Don’t get me wrong. These are reasonable responses. They’re exactly what I expect when I run the exercise for the first time. The problem is that they’re not easily addressable. You want more money! Sure, join the club. It’s not terribly exclusive.
So iterate. But this time, you’re going to push people to be more specific. You want them to dig a little bit more deeply into what those goals mean.
The company needs more money. What are you doing to get the money? Raising it from investors? Getting it from customers in exchange for products? Generating recurring revenue in the form of a second sale to existing customers? Converting free trials into paid subscriptions?
Your product needs more users. What sort of users do you need? Power users? New users? Retained users? Engaged users? Paying users? Mobile users?
You may want to run the exercise a few times, having people concentrate on getting more and more specific each time.
Keep running it and pushing for more specific answers until you start getting answers that could be translated into things like:
• The product needs a significant increase in conversion from paid ad campaigns.
• The product needs more customers who perform at least two actions with the product on a daily basis.
• The company needs a decrease in the number of support tickets filed against a specific feature (with no increase in the number of support tickets filed against related features).
• The company needs to be able to ship physical goods to customers within five days.
What you have just done is to start to identify a measurable and achievable business need for your team.
This is the first step in the process. Too often, companies fail to take this first step and jump straight to things like “adding features” or “redesigning the product.” The problem with skipping step one is that you won’t have any way of measuring the success or failure of your future work. You can’t know whether you’ve succeeded if you don’t know what success means.
But it’s not enough just to pick a goal. That’s why I asked you to have your team drill down into specific needs. The business need that you select needs to be both measurable and achievable in order to be useful in determining success.

Why Measurable?

There are entire books written about the right way to collect analytics and metrics, and this is not going to be one of them, although you will find an overview of useful metrics information in Chapter 11, “Measure Better.” Whether you’re measuring with off-the-shelf tools like Google Analytics, or you’ve created your own system for tracking the metrics you care about, or you have an entire team of data scientists at your disposal, you need to have some way to assess your progress objectively.
More than that, you must be able to measure whether or not your specific change created the improvement. In other words, it’s not enough just to know that company revenue improved. You also have to have strong evidence that the things you did made that change happen.
For example, if I own a company making fuzzy, footie pajamas, I can predict that my sales will increase dramatically from November to December. I cannot, however, take credit for that increase, since even I hesitate to take credit for Christmas. However, if I create a special marketing campaign that I release to a certain percentage of random users, and those users spend more than others who didn’t see the special marketing campaign, then I can measure the exact impact of my marketing campaign on sales.
Unless we measure what effect our changes have on our product or company, we can never truly know that what we are doing is making things better.

Why Achievable?

You could measure whether your company, in general, makes more money. In fact, many people’s bonuses depend on whether the company as a whole hits a ...

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