How I Learn: By Carefully Studying the Products I Love
I’m often asked by fellow or aspiring product managers how best to master the craft. They are inevitably looking for classes or books they might read to pick up the basics of product management and product design. While I do point them to some of the best blog posts on the subject, I focus them on learning the craft the same way I do: by carefully studying the products I love.
Unlike many disciplines, the best practices in software design are constantly evolving at such a rapid pace that by the time they are authored into a book, they are no longer relevant. The best content out there are blog posts by many of the product luminaries in the space. But even then, the best product designers are too busy innovating to blog on a regular basis.
Thus the best way to learn is from the most innovative products themselves. Start by looking at the products that you use regularly and picking the ones that you find yourself constantly delighted by. From this collection, start to dissect how each of these products design each of their core product experiences. And seek to find patterns of design across various products that you can leverage as best practices for your own site. Or alternatively understand why they might have made the trade-off they did for their own target audience.
I’m constantly doing this for any innovative product that I find myself using regularly. As an example, here are just a few recent learnings from products I love:
- How to leverage a pre-product blog to initially develop your audience (37signals, SEOmoz, Mint)
- How to deeply encourage content discovery on your site (YouTube)
- How to drive engagement via a weekly digest email (YouTube, Twitter, Quora, Mint, AngelList, Wealthfront)
- How to create productivity apps that reach critical mass (Evernote)
- How to build applications that deliver value by implicitly tracking the behavior of a user (Mint, RescueTime, Tripit)
Want to accelerate your product career?
I've finally distilled my 15+ years of product experience into a new course designed to help PMs master their craft. Join us for the Fall cohort of Mastering Product Management.
Enjoyed this essay?
Get my monthly essays on product management & entrepreneurship delivered to your inbox.
Sep 04, 2013