4 Foundational Skills Product Managers & Developers Should Master

As product managers and developers, we have no shortage of ideas bouncing around in our heads. Molding these ideas into full-fledged products is where uncertainty sometimes kicks in.

Product development often seems daunting when we start to take into account all there is to consider, and the reality that failure is very much a possibility.

Still, as Elon Musk said, “great companies are built on great products.”

Innovative product development is the key to company growth and behind every great product, is a team of great product developers, engineers, designers, and so on.

What do these great teams and team members have in common? Below are four foundational skills and tips that’ll help you become a better product manager or product developer.

1) Consider the customer

While this may seem reasonably self-explanatory, it is arguably the most important component of product development.

If your product does not align with the desires of your customers, it simply will not succeed.

Taking the time to thoroughly research your prospective customers’ desires, needs, and inclinations is a must. After all, the product will be designed to fit their standards, so it would be remiss not to study and communicate with customers to figure out what would mesh well with them.

With tools like social media, tackling this research is far more effortless, so soliciting feedback can be done quickly and efficiently, helping you speed up your product development process.

Additionally, recent user feedback tools have made it quicker and easier for businesses to get input from their customers–i.e., user testing, surveys, community feedback forums, etc.

Regardless of how you choose to get feedback from your customers, the key here is that you are taking the steps necessary to do so.

2) Focus on product appearance

Take, for example, the design and appearance of an Apple laptop.

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There really isn’t much to it–it is thin, sleek, and simply has the company logo lit up on the back of it. Aesthetically, its simplicity is quite appealing.

According to Theseus, an online Finnish database, many interviewees acknowledged the simplicity of Apple’s laptop design, and how that appealed to them.

“The overall appearance drew my attention. It was elegant and simple,” said one of the interviewees.

Another interviewee said, “… the product is so simple, that you cannot remove anything from it. There is nothing excessive… its details are extremely accurate.”

Consumers often associate a simple appearance with easy-to-operate functioning, and an uncomplicated product appearance is less overwhelming and more inviting.

Conversely, you might consider using bright colors and large, obscure fonts to grab the attention of your customers.

A scientific article on Semantic Scholar accentuates the role of an eye-catching product appearance:

“When a product ‘stands out’ visually from competitive products, chances are higher that consumers will pay attention to the product in a purchase situation, as it ‘catches their eye’ … The attention-drawing ability of a product can be enhanced by increasing its size and by using bright colors. Furthermore, people attend to stimuli that contrast with their background and are novel, that is, unusual or unexpected.”

So, if your product appearance is not simple and clean, it had better head to the other end of the spectrum–loud, bold, and striking.

Above all, the key to product appearance is to understand that anything between a simple design and a strong one often gets muddled and overlooked.

As Semantic Scholar also notes, “when a product is difficult to categorize based on its appearance, consumers may not regard the product as a purchase alternative.”

In other words, your product’s appearance should not take away from any clarity in understanding what your product is designed to accomplish.

However you choose to design your product’s appearance, whether sticking to either simple or bold design elements, making sure your product’s purpose is lucid will make your target customers that much more likely to give it more than just a quick glance.

3) Make your goals clear

As you set out to plan your future product’s course, take into account specific goals–i.e., what you want this product to achieve, what you expect your company to gain from it, who its target customers or users are, if it will simplify an existing product or be a completely new one altogether, and so forth.

By outlining your precise targets for the product’s completion, your development strategy becomes that much more organized and realistic about expectations along the way.

Measurable goals help develop a vision for the product’s development in the long-term, while at the same time supplying a motivation boost to get your team started.

4) Be open to pivoting

According to Steve Blank, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, “Pivots are the essence of entrepreneurship and the key to startup success. If you can’t pivot or pivot quickly, chances are you will fail.”

If we are being realistic, product pivots are often an inevitable piece of the development process. With that in mind, it is best to take them at face value and not shut them out.

It is important to note that various successful companies such as Twitter, Nintendo, and Pinterest have been known to pivot.

One of the primary rationales for the success of high profile companies–such as the ones listed–is their adaptable business models.

A company that is dismissive of change is one that will not be able to grow and expand.

When circumstances arise that warrant a pivot in your product, do not ignore them–they are likely necessary and will make for a more complete end result.

If you assume that your initial product scope is absolute and flawless, you risk falling into the trap of stagnancy.

Simply put, a growth mindset with regards to your product’s development–and any potential pivots–means that you will ultimately welcome growth and advancement to your business as a whole.

The Takeaway

While the number of ways to enhance your product development process is not limited to four, we believe that these tips are simple and straightforward enough for you to begin implementing today.

By focusing on product appearance, forming clear goals, soliciting user feedback, and being open to pivoting, you are ensuring that you are on a transparent, organized, and ultimately flexible path towards developing great products.

If you found this post interesting and helpful, be sure to check out our post on the ways AI is impacting product development to learn how your product development process could be enhanced even further.