Product Managers — Are you a “User Centered” or “User Led”?

Every startup want to succeed by giving best service to their users, by providing everything their user wants and keeping them happy. However most of these startup end up being “User Led” rather than “User Centered”. Whats the difference? Well lets look at the conversation below:


Customer: We love your product — but we need this “X”, “Y” and “Z” features.

You: Thank you. Don’t worry — these new features will be out soon.

Customer: Thank You. You guys are always responsive and deliver everything we ask for.

You: Yes, we are very “User Centric”. We deliver everything our user wants.


Does this conversation sounds familiar? Have you received such compliment from your customer? If YES than well its time to think — Whether you are “User Centric” or “User Led”.

Some points below to truly introspect whether you are “User Centric” or “User Led”.

User Centered DOES NOT MEAN Give Everything User Wants

  1. “User Centered” does not mean you give everything to the user. It means you say “NO” more than “YES”.
  2. “User Led” companies will say more “Yes” than “No”. They will have more friends initially and eventually die serving those friends.

User Goal v/s User Requirement

  1. “User Centered” company will always focus on long term goal of the user.
  2. “User Led” companies will always focus on short term requirements of the user.
  3. Let’s take an example of Doctor & Patient.
  • Doctor’s job is to listen to patient’s symptoms and apply all his education and intelligence to examine and diagnose the disease.
  • Doctor can not take all the words from Patient on its face value.
  • Doctor’s job is to 100% cure the disease. Focus is on the end goal and not on temporary solution. This is User Centered.

Problem vs Convenience

  1. Use requirements are endless — they will always try to solve their problems. Their problems are often local and they portray convenience as part of the requirement.
  2. “User Centered” companies will always differentiate between true Problem and convenience and always solve “Problem” first.

Process to add New Feature

  1. “User Led” companies will try to resolve every ticket raised by their customers.
  2. “User Centric” companies will always take feedback from multiple customers & say more “No” than “Yes” to the customers.

In my opinion “User led” product can not create game changing breakthroughs. In most of the cases “User Led” companies end up spending a lot of time in servicing & maintaining multiple version of the products. In my previous startup we all believed that we were “User Centered” as we were acting on all the requirements of the customers. In few months we realized that we are “User Led” & that resulted in to spending a lot of time in servicing the client rather than coming out with innovative features.

Be careful — sometimes its too late to rectify the approach. You don’t want to reach at Point of NO RETURN.

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