Glossary of product management acronyms and jargon
Ever find yourself in a conversation with your engineering team having no idea what they’re talking about?
“Another user story!? But we’re already maxed out for this Sprint!”
What about your UX or design team?
“After conducting a heuristic review, we found several usability issues with the interface.”
Or even other product managers?
“After testing our interactive prototype through unmoderated tests, we seem to be really honing our value proposition.”
As the field of digital product management continues to rapidly evolve, so do the words and phrases used by its practitioners. So we compiled a guide to help navigate the jargon. If you hear any that aren’t on this list feel free to leave a comment, but they are probably made up :)
Agile: Agile product management is based on gathering customer and user feedback on prototypes and early product developments, and adapting accordingly. It helps product teams reduce waste through iterative work cadences.
Scrum: a method within Agile where a development team works together to reach a goal, often with physical co-location or close online collaboration of all team members, as well as daily face-to-face communication among all team members. There are hundreds of Agile and Scrum tools out there, many of which may sound familiar.
Sprint: a cycle of development, often ranging from a week to a month, defined to complete a desired milestone.
User story: a tool used in Agile environments to capture a description of a software feature from an end-user perspective. The user story describes the type of user, what they want and why. They typically follow a simple template: As a <type of user>, I want <some goal> so that <some reason>.
API: Application program interface is a set of routines, protocols, and tools for building software applications that defines how components should interact. APIs can extend the functionality of your product to third-parties. For example, Uber lets Google bake the ability to order a cab right from the Google Maps app. Tim Falls discusses the importance of APIs on This is Product Management.
UX / Design
VOC: Voice of the customer is a market research technique that produces a detailed set of customer wants and needs, organized into a hierarchical structure, and then prioritized in terms of relative importance and satisfaction with current alternatives.
Design Thinking: a customer-focused, prototype-driven process for innovation. Tim Brown of IDEO describes design thinking as “a discipline that uses the designer’s sensibility and methods to match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity.”
Mockup: a model or design replica of a product, used to gather user feedback earlier in the product lifecycle. Mockups are often produced by designers prior to prototype or feature testing.
Prototype: a simulation of functionality or design meant to put testers in the proper mindset to answer questions through behavior rather than self-reporting. Prototypes are the means by which experiments generate actionable data and provide a framework by which product managers can evaluate and benchmark new product features iteratively. Many tools have been developed to make prototyping accessible to product managers.
UI: user interface — the visual dimension of any given product or service, as the user connects to it. UI designers determine how information and features are laid out visually within the greater product.
UX: user experience — how a user feels when interfacing with a product. UX designers study and evaluate how users feels by looking at such things as ease of use, perception of the value of the system, utility, and efficiency in performing tasks. Check out uxisnotui.com for a direct comparison of the two.
User Flow: the user’s entire experience from initiating the mockup, prototype, or product to closing it and returning to their life.
Variant / Design Concept: a different version of a product or design, developed in order to see what will receive the best response from customers.
Moderated User Test: a qualitative data gathering session that makes use of live interaction to follow-up on outlying responses and paint a fuller picture of the user’s experience using the product. Check out Mind The Product for some great user testing tools.
Unmoderated User Test: a user test with no interaction between the test team and the user. Results in video clips of the user’s screen, audio recording of the user’s voice, and is often tabulated with other user tests to generate quantitative insights.
Observed behavioral data / Self-reported data: Data derived from behavior reflects unconscious or unintentional biases that may be excluded when a tester is asked to self-report their experience using a mockup, prototype or product.
Perception of value: A measure of a tester’s experience viewing a mockup, reflects how the product concept translates into value in the user’s mind.
Net Promoter Score (NPS): how likely user is to recommend the product to a friend. This is considered to be a good indication of how valuable they find the product.
Split-test & A/B Test: A survey pattern used against large, roughly equal groups of cohorts that measures perception of value of two slightly different concepts.
Conversion rate: The number of users who achieved a specific goal divided by the total number of visitors. Often measured for a specific call-to-action, signup form, or other intended goal.
Lean: often confused with “cheap,” Lean is a term coined by Eric Ries to describe a product development process focused on gathering customer feedback early and often in the product lifecycle through customer development and developing a minimum viable product.
GOOB: Get out of the building — Coined by Steve Blank to refer to the process of going out and talking to users instead of staying inside speculating about what they want.
Alpha testing: Typically done toward the end of a development process when the product is in a near fully-usable state, to improve the quality of the product and ensure beta readiness.
Beta testing: Typically done just prior to launch, to improve the quality of the product, integrate customer input on the complete product, and ensure launch readiness.
Customer Development: not to be confused with sales, marketing, or customer support, customer development is the process of gaining customer insights through surveys and in-person interviews.
Panelists: A group of people who fit a specific user criteria, used for surveys, interviews, and prototype testing.
Landing page: A single page website, emblematic of a larger product. Landing pages are occasionally used to scaffold prototypes or mockups for the sake of providing the user with extra context, or to test value propositions before building a product.
MVP: minimum viable product — A core component of Lean, an MVP is a stripped down version of a product launched quickly in order to gather user feedback earlier in the product lifecycle. Large companies are beginning to use “MVEs” instead of MVPs.
Experiment: A tactic used to quickly gather user insights. Surveys, landing page split tests, and interviews are examples of experiments.
Stimulus / test criteria: the critical aspect of the experiment the user must view in order to measure reaction. If the stimulus or test criteria is buried too deep within the mockup or is too hard to find, the user may not know what they are supposed to be reacting to.
CX: customer experience — the interaction between a product and a customer over the duration of the relationship. This includes a customer’s attraction, awareness, discovery, experience, advocacy and purchase and use.
USP: unique selling proposition — the main reason why a user chooses one product over another.
Value prop: short for value proposition, this term describes the user’s primary motivation for using the product or the main benefit they receive from it.
Pivot: People use pivot in so many different contexts I don’t think anyone really knows what it is anymore. It originally referred to a small change in a company’s business model or product in order to meet customer needs, but now often refers to starting a new product all together.
Incubator: an organization that helps startups and entrepreneurs to grow by providing services such as training and office space.
Innovation lab / skunk works: Typically started within a large company, an innovation lab is a small team of employees tasked with building new products and businesses.
Disruption: coined by Clayton Christensen, disruption refers to an innovation that gives new consumers access to product historically only available to consumers with a lot of money or skill often with a new business model.
Unicorn: a startup whose valuation has exceeded (the somewhat arbitrary) $1 billion. Given that most startups fail, this term is used to refer to the most successful of the most successful startups.