Product thinking. Not everyone
should be a product manager, but
everyone needs product thinking.
What is product thinking? “Think in
products, not in features,” says Nikkel
Blaase, product designer at XING [ 1].
Understanding the problem and
user needs is the first step in the
design process. User-centered design
is user-centered: Users, not features,
come first. Then how come designers
think in features? I was confused. And
what is the difference between product
thinking and design thinking? I asked
this question in Quora. Here is part of
Product thinking is a more holistic
vie w than UX/design thinking…and it’s
also much more complicated.
— Joseph Dickerson, UX Lead at
Microsoft [ 2].
I have increased my understanding
along the journey. For one thing,
Blaase comes from a traditional design
background. Everyone is talking about
UX, but much of the industry still
operates in traditional ways: Product
managers define products and write
product requirement definitions while
designers deliver designs, mostly the
UI. Designers with UX Designer titles
are actually UI designers.
There is a key difference between
product thinking and design thinking:
The former focuses more on the
design of the problem while the latter
focuses more on the design of the
solution. When building a product, 80
percent of the time we are defining
the problem. And we spend much less
time designing the solution, as shown
in Stanford DSchool’s design-process
model (Figure 2).
Problem, user, and use case. We
should not add technology to an
existing product without clarifying
the problem that this would better
address. Take chatbots. Chat as a
form of interaction is intuitive. MIT
Technology Review acknowledged
“conversational interfaces” as one of
the top 10 technology breakthroughs
[ 3]. But that does not mean chatbots
can be applied to every problem.
Opera, Magic, Assist, Luka—so many
bot startups were born in 2016 [ 4].
Facebook, Telegram, Slack—everyone
is building their own bot platform.
Facebook has since made changes to
its bot platform, with more emphasis
on actions [ 5]. It added a menu of
features offered by bots, which allows
for multiple and nested items to be
built in. It is a much simpler experience
without conversational capabilities.
E-commerce sites are starting to
pull their bots from the shelves,
acknowledging that they didn’t do
what they were supposed to [ 6]. They
are hard to use and do not provide
Speech recognition can be the
breakthrough: Bots cannot be
disruptive unless we find the right
problem. Bots are also not new.
Joseph Weizenbaum from MIT built
the first chatbot, Eliza, a computer
org/wiki/ELIZA). Lacking natural
(NLU/NLP), Eliza is not considered
to be a real conversational interface.
However, with continual technological
breakthroughs, I believe we will
soon be able to have a real chat with a
machine [ 3].
Figure 1. Baidu Research’s Talk Type voice keyboard.
Figure 2. Stanford d.school’s design-process model ( https://dschool.stanford.edu/).