The 50 most important terms for your product meetings, explained.
A/B testing, also known as split testing or experimentation, is a comparison between two or more versions of a visual element to determine which works better for your core user. The difference between the two versions can be in button color, a tagline, or a slight change in themes.
A/B testing can be done either on the client-side by marketers, or on the developer-side by the product owners. A/B testing is commonly used, since experimentation based on statistical analysis enables data-driven decision-making, and helps in learning how and why certain elements impact user behavior.
Agile development, also known as agile software development, is a development approach designed around self-starting constant advancement and iteration by cross-functional teams. This involves implementation of “Agile” practices that promote continuous response and iteration to change. Cross-functional teams frequently analyze circumstances and user needs to adapt projects and streamline processes. Sprints and scrum frameworks carry out small but manageable advancements. Agile development allows teams to avoid situations where the product is suddenly no longer “relevant” in the real world due to not adapting to contextual changes.
An Application Programming Interface,or API, is an established way of interacting with an application, used in software contexts to describe how a website, application, or system communicates and interacts with another. The API effectively translates requests from one application, through documentation that defines exactly what and how an application will specifically interact with another application depending on the defined needs. For software products, APIs allow integration of different features from another application into yours, or vice versa
Google maps API, for instance, is integrated into many other products such as the Uber app, allowing users to both use their map functions or gain location data functionality. The Google maps API, depending on what the third party wanted, will provide the features that it is allowed to provide.
Backlog, or Product backlog, in product development is the to-do list of actions required to complete a large-scale project. The items ranked highest on this list represent the product team’s most important and urgent items to complete, usually based on the general product roadmap. Backlog is an essential part of Agile Development practices, as it sets expectations for other teams and stakeholders when they want to work with the product team. The backlog is generally where teams will pull the tasks to work on in scrum frameworks.
In Beta Testing, the product team gives out a nearly finished product to a limited group of target users to evaluate product performance in the real world. While there are no set limits for what beta testing should look like, it is meant to test the most relevant product features. It provides valuable feedback from users’ interaction with the product. Beta testing is typically split between testing done for a selected (closed) or general group (open) of non-company members.
For example, in early 2021 Spotify carried out beta testing for new features to make podcasts interactive through polls and Q&As, before publicly launching it in September 2021. Through beta testing they were able to confirm that creators used these new features to ask for future suggestions about the guests and topics.
Cannibalization occurs when products from the same company compete against each other. This usually occurs when a new product or a new version of an existing product takes sales or market share away from other existing products rather than from its competitors.
This is not always viewed as a negative situation, especially when it gives access to new markets and segments. Teams tend to avoid cannibalization by identifying specific markets for each product and taking them into consideration during price strategy meetings. Assessing possible demand, testing which audience segments are engaging with your product before the official launch, and closely monitoring each product’s performance post-launch can help identify if cannibalization is occurring.
Customer Journey Map
Customer journey map is a diagram that illustrates the relationship between your product and your customers. It maps out every step concerning how customers engage with your product. Journey map steps include:
1) how the product gains the customer’s awareness (whether that is an advertisement or in a store)
2) purchasing and user experience
3) eventually replacing or upgrading which is considered the end of the customer journey.
The customer journey map provides clarity throughout the whole company, promoting a better understanding of the experience from a customer’s point of view. This is a good starting point for starting to address bottlenecks and approaching customers.
Customer onboarding is the process of introducing and readying your consumers to your product. It should teach your customers how to use your product and make its benefits clear to them.
Customer onboarding when done correctly can be a trigger that adds value to your product: customers are less likely to churn and fuelled by good onboarding are happy enough to refer it to someone. This in turn lowers acquisition costs while increasing revenue from existing customers.
Design thinking is a problem-solving method from a human-centered perspective. It is ultimately a way of reframing problems from a user perspective through constant testing and reiteration.
Design thinking typically revolves around three key phases, although the number of repetitions of said phases might vary case by case: understanding the user and empathizing with their struggles (defining the problem), ideating and prototyping based on information collected in the former steps (creating a solution), and repetitively iterating on prototype testing (refining the solution). These phases can be integrated throughout different company departments.
Differentiation is a process to make a product stand out from other similar ones available in the market, which helps companies develop the competitive advantages and Unique Value Proposition definitions that incentivise VC investment. It is also useful in avoiding negative cannibalization.
Differentiation should not be confused with product positioning, the comparison exercise determining what role the product plays in the market for the consumer. Differentiation is a wider market strategy as it covers every customer touchpoint: product management, engineering, sales, and customer service can all play an equally significant role in making the product stand out from the crowd.
Features refer to the characteristics and descriptions of what makes a product valuable. It is what differentiates the product from the competition. For example, eyeglasses may include features such as lightweight frames.
“Getting-out-of-the-building” is the literal or metaphorical meeting of potential customers and understanding the issues they have in their daily lives. Products that are designed by a team that has a deep understanding of user perspective have a higher chance of achieving a state where people naturally want to use them. So don’t be shy when you’re doing customer research, reach out to people online and utilize your personal networks, and even strangers on the street – whoever is relevant as your target. A common first-time founder mistake is to build something that you think people want without ever interacting with them, only to later realize no one had a need for your solution in the first place.
A go-to-market strategy is the step-by-step plan for successfully launching a new product to the market. This blueprint for delivering a product to the end customer should discuss every stage of the product process, from pricing to distribution. As a tool, it provides important insight in predicting the product’s performance based on market research, other use cases and data. A well-thought-out go-to-market strategy identifies the target group, and outlines a clear marketing plan and sales strategy.
The HEART framework, originally designed by Google research team’s Kerry Rodden, Hilary Hutchinson and Xin Fu, is specifically meant to measure user experience on a large scale with a series of user-centered metrics: happiness, engagement, adoption, retention, and task success. To use this framework, the team identifies goals, signals, and metrics for each of HEART’s five categories.
The Hook Model determines the factors that make customers become habitual users, which allows companies to develop competitive advantage. This is split into 4 stages of a cycle: a trigger when users start using a product, the action that follows, the variable reward that makes the users keep coming back to using the product, and finally investment where their commitment adds more value to the product itself.
The more cycles users go through, the more likely it is that their actions become automatic. The model is most commonly seen on social media platforms and in video games.
Lean development, also known as lean software development, is an implementation of “lean principles”: eliminate waste, build quality in, create knowledge, defer commitment, deliver fast, respect people, and optimize the whole.
Lean is a similar concept to Agile, in that they both optimize development cycles. While the former focuses on increasing speed through optimizing the singular flow of the development cycle, the latter puts emphasis on small batches of iteration to focus on increasing the number of implementations.
A mockup is a sketch of what the final product or a feature would look like. Mockups can be a scale or full-size of a physical model, or a visual representation of an app screen. A mockup’s main purpose is to serve as a material that can be shared within the team or to stakeholders.
Mockups do not include product functionality. They usually consist of a wireframe which has a structure and functional elements, with visual design. Mockups and wireframes are static, while prototypes are dynamic in order to demonstrate the product’s full function.
The process of determining whether a product is something that is needed by your target audience. This process is crucial in the early stages of product development, as it ensures that you don’t waste your resources creating something that is neither wanted nor needed by the public.
The product team can gain clarity on how close the product is to meet the public’s pain points by gathering information through surveys and interviews with people holding characteristics similar to the user persona.
MVP, or a minimum viable product is a product that has enough features to attract your first customers and validate a product earlier in the product development process. There are varying opinions on what an MVP should look like, as its main purpose is to be able to receive feedback as soon as possible with the least amount of work, to relocate resources, iterate and keep improving the product – this may vary from product to product.
To maximize its value, the MVP should align with the business objective, and have the functionality to solve the user persona’s pain points.
MoSCoW prioritization, also known as the MoSCoW method, is a prioritization technique for managing requirements and resource allocation. “MoSCoW” represents four categories of initiatives: must-have, should-have, could-have, and won’t-have (temporarily or permanently). It aims to determine factors such as the cost of a product, quality, and requirements as early as possible.
To use this framework a product team must:
- Agree on key objectives and features
- Start prioritizing them based on budget constraints, team’s strengths and weaknesses, etc.
- Categorize them into the four categories, and reach consensus on what percentage of resources should be allocated
Network effect is the phenomenon where a product gains additional value as the number of people using it increases. For example, the internet became increasingly more valuable as it gained more users producing content, building platforms where people can connect, etc. In the digital world, network effects account for approximately 70% of value creation.
Network effects promote startups to focus on developing more unique and efficient products, as it enables the products to become self-sustaining without additional investment once they’ve reached a critical mass, i.e. the number of users needed for network effect to take hold.
OKRs: Objectives and key results
OKRs, Objectives and Key Results, are a common goal-setting tool. While objectives refer to qualitative descriptions of what you want to achieve, key results are a set of metrics that measure your progress towards it. OKRs are usually reviewed quarterly, and can be set on multiple levels, be it personal, team, or company.
Opportunity scoring is the process of estimating market opportunity and defining jobs-to-be-done. It can take place by gathering feedback from target users, where they are asked to rate several product features based on both importance and satisfaction level. Through opportunity scoring, you can identify which features you should invest more resources into, thereby helping your chances of improving the product’s return on investment in many aspects.
Prioritization is the process of ordering features based on their relative importance. Prioritization plays an important role in eliminating wasteful practices and delivering customer value as soon as possible.
A product is anything sold by a business that provides value to a customer. Products can be physical objects (hardware), online technologies (software) or a provision of services. Products are typically classified by the consumer they serve, the most common being business to business (B2B), business to consumer (B2C), or business to government. The actual product for a business can be hard to discern on the consumer side, evidenced by ‘free’ products such as social media platforms such as Facebook that generate revenue by selling user data to third parties.
Importantly, products have a life cycle wherein they change and evolve according to the customer’s needs and requirements- the google or iphone of today are significantly different products and updated versions to the original.
Product Discovery refers to the combination of activities around understanding customers to ensure the product serves their needs. Identifying the right problem to explore and genuinely understanding the problem is extremely valuable to reduce uncertainty and give the team the confidence to move forward. Product discovery is a constantly evolving process, with relevancy shifting between needs among customers and other stakeholders. Product managers, UX designers, and the development team are the main players in this process. It is important to use other team members for feedback as well, since it might lead to new insights in user needs.
Product Life Cycle
The product life cycle is the length of time from when a product is first introduced to customers up until it is removed from sale. This consists of four main stages: introduction, growth, maturity, and decline. Each stage determines how teams should prioritize their actions.
The introduction stage usually requires the most marketing resources which are needed to establish the product’s status in the market and to compete against existing products. In the growth stage, more demand drives production and sales. Usually when a product reaches the maturity stage, the cost of production and marketing start to drop and competition increases. Therefore, branding, pricing, and differentiation become important to maintain market share. Managing these stages can help you streamline actions to maximize profitability and returns, whilst combating the potential negative effects of the decline stage.
Product managers, famously described as ‘the CEO of the product’ oversee that the product built is one that customers need. Product managers ensure that the product developed is aligned with the vision, value proposition, and user needs it’s meant to fill by deciding what direction to take. This is mostly done by giving the product team the necessary guidance and processes to solve problems regarding both the product and what the product should solve. The best product manager should not only consider the problems the product will solve but also how the product will achieve desired outcomes.
Achieving product/market fit (P/M fit) means that your product is serving your target users’ needs to the degree that users start referring your product to others.
Renowned entrepreneurs and investors talk about this topic in the context of pre- and post-stages in a startup’s lifetime, because these two stages have distinct priorities. In the pre-P/M fit stage, your first and foremost priority is to build a product that people will be willing to pay for; post-P/M fit focus shifts to strategic objectives such as growth and expansion.
Measuring P/M fit is no easy task. A well-known metric is Superhuman’s P/M fit framework that measures how disappointed customers would be if they could no longer use the product.
A product portfolio is the collection of products or services that a company offers. Analyzing the portfolio provides you with context in reallocating resources for optimal Return on Investment, identifying areas in need of improvement and keeping different products aligned with the company’s broader strategy. In contrast to product managers, product portfolio managers must evaluate all products’ performance relative to each other, providing business objectives on how the company should strategically prioritize activities.
Product specification (spec) describes the visuals and functionalities of a potential product. It is a written guideline of what product managers, designers and developers will refer back to as key objectives.
A well-thought-out product spec streamlines development and provides clarity in communication. It is therefore critical to be accurate with it in the early stages of ideation, and define what the team is trying to deliver, for whom, and why.
Product Value Proposition
Product value proposition is a statement communicating the product’s features and the benefits it provides for users.
Product value proposition tells exactly why people should choose your product over others’. Effective product value propositions tend to be short one liners that catch the user’s attention.
A product vision explains what the product’s ultimate goal is. A product vision is the north star for your product, supporting the company vision. It is the most important criterion for major decision-making concerning what features you should prioritize and who to target marketing efforts towards.
A strong product vision helps you develop better product roadmaps and provide a bigger picture to guide the daily grind.
Proof of Concept
Proof of Concept or PoC in short, is a piece of evidence that confirms that the business idea is feasible. In software development for example, PoC’s goal is to prove that the new technology can be created, not to determine whether people would want it if it exists. While it is not easy to build products with limited resources, PoCs can help you attract investors.
PoC is sometimes used interchangeably with prototypes, however, they have different purposes. PoC merely has to prove that the technology is viable and can be built, whereas Prototypes are a later stage demonstration of the technology.
Prototypes are the first examples of a product before testing, having a similar look and feel to the end product. They most likely have visual representation as well as the content that the first version of the product will have. Although a prototype is not the final version of a product, it is suitable to showcase features to potential users and to figure out if there are any other changes that need to be made before being made into a real physical or digital product.
Retrospective, or retro, refers to a meeting held after shipping a product where you pause and reflect on past actions to improve future results. By listing things that went well and things that could be improved, a retrospective provides clarity to reinforce best practices or to introduce alternatives. Retrospectives enable teams to improve future releases.
Although the concept originates from agile frameworks, it is utilized in a variety of teams; development teams retro about their activities after a product ships, and marketing teams retro about marketing campaigns and their outcomes.
After a product’s MVP and its key objectives are determined, they are put on a timeline called a roadmap. The roadmap indicates when certain features should be implemented and how the product should evolve over time.
Roadmaps are used in a number of fields, and they might look slightly different depending on who is using them. For example, roadmaps for development teams implementing agile development are broken down into epics and stories, using sprints that focus on specific problems it aims to solve. Meanwhile, roadmaps for sales teams indicate when new features are released and what customer value they provide.
Scrum or a Scrum Agile Framework allows teams to produce products faster by breaking large development goals into smaller pieces, called sprints. If the agile development approach is utilized as the guiding framework, scrum is the most common framework used to execute these principles.
A typical scrum framework involves a product backlog being broken down to a manageable iterative block of tasks to do, a sprint backlog. A scrum team will meet and execute the sprint, after which a review and retrospective on how the sprint went will be undertaken before the next block begins.
In many cases, software products are delivered at an incomplete state and updates follow after. This is called shipping and it is part of the iterative process. Teams release new versions of the product with newly added features and improvements according to previous version feedback on a regular basis. This way the product can be better aligned with user goals and outcomes.
Sprints are a timeframe in which you execute smaller tasks to achieve a certain goal and at the core of most agile frameworks. The goal and set of tasks are initially decided by the team in a sprint planning meeting. From developing new features, to improving performance or optimizing delivery, the goal of the sprint is broken down into smaller measurable tasks.
Sprints allow teams to deliver usable updates frequently whilst also continuously responding to change. Common team sprints are a 14 day cycle of design, build, test and review tasks, after which the next sprint is organized.
User Experience (UX) refers to how the users “feel” when they are using the product. It covers a variety of product aspects, such as how well users can navigate the product, its ease of use, and how efficiently it solves their pain points. UX essentially includes everything related to what the end user does with the product, including customer onboarding, product use, and how the customer feels after using the product. Key to UX is how the customer interactions change over time through their involvement with the product, and how functional updates affect each stage of the product’s life. UX is sometimes confused with UI, a subset of UX.
User Interface (UI) consists of all of the visual elements and interactions users encounter when using the product: the buttons they click, the text they read, the images they see, etc. It is important to make sure the elements are simple and easy to use while being visually appealing enough for the user to engage with the product.
A use case is a written description of how a user will accomplish certain tasks using your product. Use cases explain how the product should behave in a hypothetical scenario, starting with defining the user’s goal and ending with the goal being achieved. Use cases typically contain actors such as users, systems that are supposed to help users achieve their goal, and a goal that illustrates successful outcomes.
Use cases communicate why and how users will use certain functionalities, which guides how teams decide what functionalities are required in the product.
User flows illustrate how a user interacts with a product or service. While a customer journey map takes a broader view, including all potential touchpoints that a user can have with the product, user flow specifically indicates a user’s path through using the product or service. User flows are a section of the customer journey, which generally contains more layers of information, including the user’s relationship with the product, such as feelings and thoughts in addition to the steps they take to complete different tasks.
Keeping track of user flows provides many advantages to the team, enabling stakeholder communication regarding product goals and expectations, increasing speed of development and last but not least, promoting user-centric design. User flows give insights into whether the product is presenting correct information at the right time and allows users to complete tasks in a timely manner. This can help teams to design products that are more intuitive.
A persona is a semi-fictional character that represents the user group. Factors that can be included in creating a persona are: basic information such as age, sex, job and income, purchase habits, what their typical days look like, and what they get inspired by. Representing a user group early through a persona makes key go-to-market techniques such as market validation and differentiation more accurate, thereby achieving better UX.
User research is conducted to gain clarity on things such as how users interact with the product and perform certain tasks. This is usually done by getting out of the building to find the crucial information to use in the design or development process. User research can also be done by analyzing data on user behavior. User research allows teams to create and deliver the most relevant products or services for their relevant persona.
USP: unique selling proposition
USP, Unique Selling Proposition, is a feature or characteristic of a product that makes it stand out from other products of a similar nature. An effective USP can be achieved through differentiation and clearly states the product’s competitive advantage. Example USPs include Stripe’s developer-friendly customizable API, or Slush’s production value and matchmaking tool efficiency over other startup conferences.
USP identifies where the company should focus their efforts. In addition, it allows the company to effectively communicate its value to the market, helping product development, marketing, branding, and sales. A USP is generally distilled into one marketable sentence.
Wireframe is the most bare form of an UI. It illustrates the structural base of a product or service, defining the content layout and functionality before adding visual design elements and content. Wireframes are essentially the base form of a product or service, which can be used as an early visual that can be reviewed by stakeholders who can give initial feedback. Wireframes enable cross-functional teams to take a first look at the product and help them crunch down to key objectives towards achieving the final version. User needs and flows need to be taken into account in wireframing to make sure they’re met from the base foundations.