Product Has Moved

The website you’re reading is about 10 years old, maybe older. Going through some of these older posts is a lot like cleaning out your attic. You come across a lot of dusty things, many of which you can’t ever recall buying.

I’m keeping this site around but cleaning out some older posts. I’ve written a few piece on product development which I’ll keep here for posterity. However, if you want to see my current writing on product management then visit my other site.

Stop Treating Your Users Like Children

I spent about 15 minutes yesterday bulk deleting photos from Google+. Each time I clicked delete on a photo the computer so kindly asked me “Are you sure you want to do this?” I dutifully clicked “Yes”, as I’ve done thousands of times over the last 20+ years.

Then, it hit me. Why am I still doing this? It’s 2013.

If my computer were a sentient being and asked me to confirm every time I took some slightly dangerous action I would respond with something very sarcastic. “No, I don’t really want to do this. I just love clicking buttons.” Actually, I don’t. It made me feel a little like this guy.

Why do we continue to think that we know our users better than they do? Why are we treating our users like children that we must protect because they aren’t able to protect themselves?

Actually, that’s really not what’s going on. I’ve designed enough product to know that we’re not all sitting around thinking “Poor users, they just don’t know any better.” I think there is a much simpler explanation.

We are lazy.

Why are we lazy? It’s just so much easier to specify that a developer throw up a confirmation box then think through the problem. The thing is, it really doesn’t need much thought at all. The pattern for dealing with safely managing destructive actions has existed for almost as long as the computer.

It’s called Undo.

Ah, the Undo. You have saved my butt more times than I can count. And that’s exactly what you are there for. You are like Lindsay Lohan’s personal assistant. Never seen but always there to clean up the mess she makes.

Why doesn’t every application implement Undo? Well, building an Undo system isn’t easy. It’s actually kind of a pain and you must plan for it up front. Despite that, every destructive action should have an Undo function. Why?

Because your users have conditioned themselves to just blindly click on dialog boxes without reading them. Especially if they need to click many of them in a single session. They may just end up doing this.

Confirmation boxes are a way for the product team to wash their hands of any responsibility for the actions their users take.

Undo however, puts the responsibility back in the hands of the computer, the software team and the product owners. It’s harder to implement but provides a much better experience for people like myself.

Exceptional design, not designing for exceptions.

In the example I mentioned at the beginning, I needed to bulk delete my files. I clicked, confirmed, clicked, confirmed until I deleted each file. That was normal usage. The exception is a click that accidentally deleted a file. Despite that, the developers thought that I would need hand holding because I would potentially shoot myself in the foot each time I deleted a file.

Just let me delete the files! If I click on something by mistake I’m going to realize it. I can then just click the Undo button and poof, the file is back. It collapses 20 button clicks down to 10 + 1 undo. This is a much politer user experience.

The Undo has been around a long time. If your application needs to do something destructive, consider implementing Undo before putting up a confirmation box. Doing so will go a long way toward treating your users like peers instead of children.


Never worry about your site going down again

A few months ago my website was hacked. I didn’t realize this for a few weeks because I don’t check it very often. It occurred to me the other day that I could use Google Analytics Intelligence Alerts to keep an eye on my website. The alert system will notify me when something goes wrong.

This technique is also good to notify you in case you forget to renew your domain name (which I’ve also done.)

Here is how to set it up.

Open up your analytics dashboard for the site you want to monitor. Click on Intelligence Alerts as shown in the screen shot below.

Google Intelligence Alerts

Then, setup your alert as follows.

  1. Choose the property or properties that you want to moni1. tor.
  2. Set the period to1. Day
  3. Set the alert to go to email or even better, your mobile.

Then, set the Alert Conditions as follows.

  • This applies to “All traffic”
  • Alert me when visits “is less than” “1”

When you are done, it should look like this screenshot.

Google Analytics - Intelligence Alert

Click Save alert and you’re ready to go.

Do you have any cool Google Analytics tricks? Let me know in the comments.

Do product managers need to have more power inside Google?

Do product managers need to have more power inside Google?

No, I don’t think so. We bring together a team of people who are really passionate about [a] subject. I think it’s interesting: We still don’t do very high-definition product specs. If you write a 70-page document that says this is the product you’re supposed to build, you actually push the creativity out with process. The engineer who says, you know what, there’s a feature here that you forgot that I would really like to add. You don’t want to push that creativity out of the product. The consensus-driven approach where the team works together to build a vision around what they’re building and still leaves enough room for each member of the team to participate creatively, is really inspiring and yields us some of the best outcomes we’ve had.

via Inside Google’s New-Product Process – Businessweek.

I wonder if 7 years later that is still true?

How the Productivity Myth is Killing Your Startup — about work — Medium

Great article on #productmanagement.

  • The myth of productivity: means you won’t complete the most important things because group parallelization will occur based on erroneous scoping and estimation.
  • The myth of productivity: means you will hemorrhage what precious output you have with reckless abandon into dozen of disconnected initiatives, pet projects, and low-priority tasks.
  • The myth of productivity: makes more external commitments than you can fulfill, introducing more urgency but no more value to your work, preventing new opportunities, and dooming medium-term projects to the murky unforgiving sea of “long term projects”.

Dealing with the myths:

  • My rule of thumb is to take a list of to-dos, cut it in half, and double the time estimate. Most of the time, it’s eerily on-point. Hey, you can always add more in. This is always less expensive than taking things out.

How the Productivity Myth is Killing Your Startup — about work — Medium.

The Secrets of What Makes a Product Go Viral

Jonah Berger, an assistant professor of marketing at Wharton just wrote a book exploring the reasons why products go viral.

The book, Contagious: Why Things Catch On, covers six key features that all viral products share.

1. Products should have social currency and make their owners feel special

2. Products should have triggers to keep people coming back. At MeetMe, we call this reengagement

3. Your customers will evanglize your products if they have an emotional impact.

4. Cool looking products with high visibility.

5. A truly useful product is often recommended.

6. A good story to tell.

via The Secrets of What Makes a Product Go Viral |

Also visit the companion website Virality Explained.