My Product Principles

Over the last few years, I’ve built up a few convictions around building software for people.

These are by no means final, and I hope to look back at this post in 6 months and cringe. 

But they are what I currently believe to be important. And I rely on them daily when I make decisions. Maybe they will be useful for you. 

Structurally, I’ve based these principles on how Tucker Max writes. He states that a principle should be a clear, specific statement of action”.

What does this look like for a product person, specifically a designer?

How could you use these?

In my experience, principles are extremely flexible, and useful. That means they could influence anything from a quarterly team objective to the corner radius on a button.

One other thing.

These were not magicked out of thin air or copied from a Medium article. Fuck no.

I collect quotes, articles, diagrams, examples daily, from sources like Twitter, books, speaking to people, presentations etc. From my life. Most of these bits of ‘evidence’ go unused, but over time, I draw connections, add my own thoughts and test them out in the front lines of product development. 

Here’s what has stuck:

1. Prioritize Outcomes over Output

Product roadmaps should be lists of questions, not lists of features.” - Kent Beck
Notable people: John Cutler, Jeff Gothelf_

Velocity, # releases, story points can often be the wrong measurements when determining how to build something. It’s easy for teams to become factories and get obsessed with output. What really matters is the value, impact and positive outcomes our products enable for customers.

2. Problem Solve by Tinkering

Missing a train is only painful if you run after it!” - Nassim N Taleb

Notable People: Dorian Taylor, Clayton Christensen, Venkatesh Rao, anyone doing cool stuff on GitHub_

If a team has a strong mission and is pointed in the right direction, great things can happen. At the work-level a bias towards experimentation, quickly throwing away ideas and moving forward, helps to uncover new possibilities and serendipitous opportunities.

3. Balance aesthetics & usability

Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” - Steve Jobs

__Notable People: Don Norman, Rory Sutherland, Alan Cooper, literally any industrial designer or architect worth their salt_

Designers often treat these two things as tradeoffs. They make things pretty, and the end-user needs are ignored. I believe to be truly beautiful and pleasurable, a product has to fulfill a useful function, work well and make sense

So those are my product principles, what are yours?

October 14, 2017