Using Psychology to make Product Decisions

In order to build successful products (products people use, products that are profitable, products that change the world), a product owner needs to think like the end-user or customer that would end up using that product.

Products that fail to inspire, motivate or entertain turned out that way because of one (or more) of the following reasons.

1. The product owner didn’t understand who the customer was. Clearly the worst possible scenario, because your product is doomed from the start.

2. The product owner did understand who the customer was, but wasn’t sure what his needs were.

3. The product owner understood the customer’s needs, but wasn’t able to come up with a viable solution, or worse, came up with a solution that did not meet his customer’s needs. As a result, almost nobody purchased the product.

4. The product owner understood the customer’s needs, but the solution he came up with was too complex, too expensive, or required too much effort from the end-user’s point of view.

1,2,3 are pretty serious problems, ones that should make you question the people you have put in charge of your product decisions and roadmap.
However, I want to address #4 here, because, it is a more common problem to have, and there’s a point I want to make.
Ever come across a product or website that was a pain to use? Like, you can never find the content you’re looking for, you need to click 10 links to even see what’s in your shopping cart, and so on? I can bet that at the time you were ready to pull your hair out, and you would rather shoot yourself over go back to using that same product again.

In most of these situations, the product owner hasn’t taken the time to REALLY think of his customer’s needs and requirements. By that I mean putting himself in his customers’ shoes, and looking at the product (price, product offering, user experience, whatever) from that perspective.

Well, easier said than done, right? Yes and no. A degree in psychology might just come in handy here, but there are simpler ways to get an accurate gauge of your customers’ needs.

1. If you do have customers, the solution is simple. Just ask them. Or if it is not appropriate (or feasible) to ask them, see what they are doing (and why they are not doing what you would like them to be doing) and then go fix that problem.

2. Or, if you don’t have customers yet, run a focus group on a sample of the audience you are targeting.

Either way, you want to really lose yourself in the process of understanding your customers’ needs, because that’s the best thing you can do for your product – and ultimately – your business.

14. June 2011 by Kunal Punjabi
Categories: Product Management | Leave a comment

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