5 things I’ve learned about Product Management

I’ve been thinking about what I’ve learned over the last few years building products at my startups. Here are the five biggest things that I’ve learned:

1. Design speaks louder than everything
Users don’t care about the technology stack on the backend. What matters to them is how it looks, and how it feels. Product design elicits love. Make the UI and UX of your product your utmost priority.

“When you’re a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you’re not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will ever see it. You’ll know it’s there, so you’re going to use a beautiful piece of wood on the back. For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through.” — Steve Jobs

2. Nothing beats a product that users love
All the growth hacks in the world can’t buy user love. You can attain and lose product-market fit when you have a hack. There is such a thing as transient product-market fit. Avoid that. Nothing can stop a product that users love. Focus on user-love and the users, and all else will follow.

3. Notifications are your product’s super-weapon
Use them wisely. Be too annoying and you’ll force the user to turn them off. Hit the spot and they’ll add to the experience. Design-think notifications to improve your metrics. The most effective notifications, in general, have some degree of FOMO and dopamine boost in them.

4. User empathy
Lots of companies talk about this, but few actually act on it. Force yourself to interact with users on a regular basis. Stay close to your users, and keep talking to them everyday. Better yet, set up a schedule where users will come in to look at prototypes or even just talk about their experience with your product. Lastly, building great tech products is more about understanding human psychology than it is about tech. Think about your users, all the time.

5. Don’t build MVPs. Instead, test RATs
The MVP methodology is almost universally misunderstood and/or misapplied. The first thing you should be thinking about isn’t what the minimum viable product is for you to achieve market results. Instead, the first thing you should be thinking about is how quickly and cheaply you can complete a “Riskiest Assumptions Test”. Very often, that doesn’t involve building a “product” at all. It can entail showing paper prototypes to users, or conducting surveys.