How to Product Sense?

Sam Polgar
3 min readAug 3, 2022

Great product minds agree Product Sense is a learned ability — not an unattainable, god-given gift.

Great minds like Jules Walter and Lenny San, Julie Zhuo, Jackie Bavaro, and Jens-Fabian Goetzmann describe a set of tools and techniques to guide our practice; subscribing twice monthly will further develop your product sense.

I’ll first introduce my personal thoughts, then I’ll describe some of the nuggets I’ve picked up from resources from the above list.

My Personal Thoughts

the essence of Product Sense first comes from your personality

  1. An inquisitive and empathetic mind —being joyful & playful with technology whilst deeply concerned about how the end-user feels. One technique a previous manager used was the “surprise factor” — products shouldn’t surprise users in the “bad-surprise” term
  2. Ability to listen without bias or prejudice — I think it’s easy to, and I’m guilty of, doubting someone's experience with technology. When the support desk receives support requests for a product, it’s easy to assume the worst “they haven’t read our knowledge base” or “the feature is plug and play, what don’t they understand!” Assuming the user's intelligence, rather than stupidity, will open your mind to the possibilities that maybe the product, instructions, or documentation isn’t up to scratch
  3. Surrounding yourself with experience — being around vocal product critics, especially colleagues and friends that regularly exercise their product sense, enables osmosis, shaping the mind to learn to see things from their perspective

Accelerating Product Sense

Our product greats led the path in the developing and refining Product Sense — here are a set of practice questions I’ve adapted from Jules Walter and Lenny San, Julie Zhuo, Jackie Bavaro, and Jens-Fabian Goetzmann.

Now you’ve scheduled your bi-monthly product sense sessions, here’s the compiled list split between the 3 different analysis phases

Before using the product

  1. Marketed value — what are the key values the product aims to deliver? Often highlighted in company collateral and on the product website
  2. Outcomes — based on the value above, note the outcomes you’d like to achieve whilst using the product
  3. Reference — How did you find it? Where have you heard it? Did you see reviews? Beware of testimonials and recommendations, they can influence your Product Sense (72% of consumers are influenced by positive reviews)

Whilst using the product

  1. Onboarding — how long did it take you to sign up? Could you use existing credentials or SSO, how did it make you feel?
  2. Direction — how intuitive is the app, do you know what you have to do next?
  3. Features and functions — how did the products features and functions help you achieve your goal?
  4. Comparison — how do other similar products solve this problem? What makes this product different, and what can be improved?
  5. Time — how long did you spend on/with the product? Were you engaged?
  6. Thinking — what are you thinking as you use the product?
  7. Feeling — how did you feel using the product?

After using the product

  1. Could you achieve your outcome?
  2. Does the marketed value speak to the experience? How? If yes/no, why?
  3. What doubts do you have about the product?
  4. What makes this product a success, what would you improve to make it even more successful?

Last notes

Beware of your Biases!

Your mental and emotional state will affect your Product Sense. Try to block your time, relax, and beware of any bias you may have. Here’s a list of a few common biases and how they affect our thinking.

Lastly, have fun!

I enjoy Jens-Fabian Goetzmann’s approach and look forward to incorporating it into my Friday afternoon

Take a glass of wine with your colleagues, download the app and try to set it up — Jens-Fabian