When building digital products there are a lot of things that need our attention. If you are a Product Manager or somehow leading the product development, probably one of the top problems you may face is that there seems to be an endless stream of “urgent” things that require your attention. And that quickly leads to leaving other important things you should do unattended.
I’m a big believer in the power of habits. So, following Eisenhower advice, I schedule time each Monday morning for this 5 things I want to make sure I do:
1. Analyze stats and KPIs
I would say this probably is a daily habit. I guess I do not need to make any emphasis on its importance. Paraphrasing Drucker, if you don’t measure it, you don’t manage it.
Even when you look at your KPIs every day, devoting some extra time on Monday serves 2 purposes:
- Having a specific date and time for week over week comparisons
- Explore behaviors: probably part of your daily review consists on main KPIs for your products. But this will not give you any insight on behavior… what is driving those KPIs? (which would actually be more useful for product decision). Exploring behavior and getting these insights is a great way to start a great week with actions to take.
While working on an e-commerce I spent some extra time a Monday morning exploring behavior of the “buyers” segment related to filter usage. While filter usage was low, people who used them were twice as likely to buy. Good insight to explore if making filters more visible could increase conversion.
2. Browse your product
This also sounds obvious, but it amazes me how many product people don’t do it.
In my case, this used to be at random times and doing random tasks.
When I established it as a habit, I created a small set of core use cases that I try to look at constantly.
But I noticed that I also wanted to eventually browse parts of the product that were not in those core tasks. So I created a small “backlog” of tasks that I wanted to review eventually, and started picking some of them each Monday, trying to live the experience of a user doing that task (similar to what I would ask a user to do in a usability test).
Some time ago while working on a social video game company, I did use the product (play the game :D) for 5-10 minutes every day.
But I quickly noticed that I was not going through the onboarding experience with enough frequency. Depending on the phase of the lifecycle of the product, we had between 20% and 80% of new users every month, so at any point, it was a big number.
That’s why I forced myself to live that experience every 2 weeks, identifying thanks to this habit how new features would impact this experience for new users.
3. Check competitors & related products
I believe anyone working in digital products does check its competitors.
But similar to with my own product, before I built this habit I did check competitors but at random moments and with random purposes. This, of course, ended up with a lot of important ones unvisited, or important features unchecked.
Now I have a list of competitors that I want to make sure I check regularly, and I alternate which ones I see each week.
I also include in the list some great non-competitor companies that may be a source of inspiration. My obvious example is Amazon. How can I improve my checkout based on the great experience they provide?
I have a couple of regular use cases, but I tend to include the task I used in habit #2 to make sure I don’t always check the same sections or features.
Building on the last example, I started checking the onboarding experience of direct competitors frequently, and also related products that were known to be great at this stage.
4. What question do you want to answer this week?
Probably at any time, you will come up with hypotheses and ideas, and most likely a lot of people will come up with some more and convince you to add them to your list.
Monday mornings are a great moment to organize them. In my case, having just gone through the other habits of KPI analysis, product review, and benchmark, I have new insights that I can use to prioritize which questions I need to answer soon.
Whether you have an “ideas backlog”, an opportunity-solution tree, or a list of hypotheses you are working on, I suggest using Monday morning to select one to focus and come up with a question you want to answer around that.
Going back to my experience in social games, we had an alpha version for a new game that was showing high churn rates in the first session. Following habit #1 we identified a pattern: we saw that once people reach “Level 5”, their retention was much better. So the opportunity / hypothesis / question I wanted to answer that week was simply: what would make more people reach level 5?
I will follow up on this example on the next habit.
Keep in mind that the question to answer can be related to many aspects of the product. This example is an optimization one. You may have research oriented questions (ie. are we solving the right problem?) or more value proposition related ones (ie. would anyone want this feature?). There are tons of options. The key is to capture something that you want to have more information to make a product decision.
5. Ideate an experiment / customer contact
After selecting a hypothesis or a question you want to know more about this week, the next step is to ideate a way to answer it.
Usually, this becomes either:
- An experiment: a fake door or landing page to test a value proposition, a concierge solution, or whatever you can run quickly to learn about possible outcomes of what you are planning to build.
- An interview / usability test: with this specific learning goal in mind, face customers in direct conversations to find more about it (either on your existing product or a prototype for new ideas).
Following the “level 5” example of habit #4, we used UserTesting.com to quickly hire 5 users, with 4 tasks that were intended to have them play the game through the early stages.
2 days later we had 5 1-hour videos of people using the game.
We found 2 opportunities:
- An ordinary usability issue: a particular step of the tutorial was not clear, so we tried changing the texts used to provide more clarity
- The second insight requires some more context: The game had a particular “energy mechanism”, that depleted over time and players had to wait until it recharged to continue playing (or pay to get more energy). This is a very standard mechanism on social games, pretty much like Candy Crash lives, to provide a popular example.
We found out that this energy depleted before reaching level 5. So the new hypothesis we created was: “Maybe if players can continue their game without energy constraints up to level 5, more of them will get there and improve overall retention”.
So going back to the original goal, we got more information about the question we had for that week, and it also provided a very clear learning goal for the following week that we could easily A/B test.
To me, it feels particularly good to start the week doing these important activities. It feels like the urgent would no longer be able to kill the important. And it also gives you a perspective on what to focus on and clear next steps for the week: if you manage to run an experiment per week you will certainly be doing better than most companies 🙂
What are your weekly habits? What should I add to the list?
I hope this helps someone build better products 🙂