CIRCLE METHOD — Lewis C
The CIRCLES method is a problem-solving framework that helps product managers (PMs) make a thorough and thoughtful response to any design question. Often asked in Interview rounds to test the problem-solving skills of the candidate. Use it for questions on how you would design a new desktop, website, or mobile application. You can even use it to design new consumer products like a car, camera, or can opener.
Case in point:
Design a new feature for Youtube to increase annual recurring revenue (ARR)
- The feature being designed is for Youtube Web.
- Feature Development time: 2 months
- Youtube Premium Subscription Cost: $15
- Prioritization (When in a fix, ask the interview)
Comprehend the situation:
What is it? A feature on the platform that results in increased viewing time on youtube. Who is it for? The current audience on Youtube (Premium Users). Why do they need it? To watch more relevant videos When is it available? Based on available resources and estimation of other feature development timelines, the feature would take 2 months to develop. Where is it available? Based on the priority list of features, the new button can be added in the ‘More from Youtube’ section in the left-most column at the bottom or next to the search bar at the top center.
Identify the Customer:
Persona Name: Social Birds
- Demographic — Male/Female 16–35 years old
2. Behavior — Likes to watch videos of interest and share them with people
3. Adoption Category — Early Majority (Refer Technology Adoption Life Cycle)
*Persona 2 & 3, if time permits: Binge Watchers, Occasional Watchers, Links Driven
Report the customer’s needs:
- As a youtube user who watches and shares videos, I want easier communication with my friends so that I can share content dynamically without changing platforms.
- As a youtube user who watches and shares videos, I want to watch movies with my friends so that I and my friends can plan movie nights even when we are at different locations.
Cut, through prioritization:
- Youtube Chat feature with other accounts
Users can chat/share videos/shorts/messages dynamically on the platform itself.
- Youtube friends page
A user page extension showcasing all your connected (Email) friends and the content they watch/endorse.
- “Recommend a user” button option
The video player along with other functional buttons at the top right has an icon that can be used to share content directly with other users.
- Live movie watching
Giving a first-time movie-watching experience where all the users watch the movie simultaneously like it’s being live-streamed
- Live video conferencing while watching video
Users can have a live conversation with friends while watching videos
Evaluate Tradeoffs (Prioritize)
How to prioritize features: Prioritizations frameworks
We first looked at what the needs of the customer are and then compared them to identify what is the overall revenue impact. Based on the prioritization, we came up with a list of solutions that would directly address the needs of the persona. Each solution was rated on various factors and based on the overall rating and opportunity, we recommend implementing the ‘Live Movie Watching’ feature.
“The CIRCLES framework is put together so that you can use mental cues to structure your response to a product design question. Knowing the backbone of the framework ensures that once you get that product design question, you will know which elements to include in your answer no matter what the product is.”
Here are a few questions you can practice by using the CIRCLES Method:
- How would you improve Facebook Groups? How would you measure whether you were successful?
- How would you improve Pinterest?
- Create an experience around Disney theme parks using your phone.
- How would you design a “Google Refrigerator”?
- Design Netflix for Senior Citizens (Goal: Increase engagement time).