The Best Product Content of 2019

Published Dec 23, 2019

Last week, we listed our favorite ProductCraft posts from 2019. Now we’d like to share some of the product articles from around the web that we really appreciated reading this past year. Some made us think, others taught us something new, and a few of them gave us a chuckle. We hope you enjoy these product pieces as much as we did.

When and How to Make Your First Product Hire by Jonathan Golden

When a company starts really taking off, the founder will need to loosen the product development reins and start thinking about hiring the org’s first PM. When exactly is it that, though? According to Jonathan Golden (the very first PM at Airbnb), it might be time if you’ve met the following conditions:

  • You’ve achieved product-market fit and need to scale
  • Your engineering team is more than seven people
  • You are mentally ready to let someone else control the roadmap at some level

The first two are probably easier to quantify than the last, but some introspection and maybe some career coaching can help you out there.

How to Keep New Users Engaged With Your Welcome Page by Cindy Change (Inside Intercom)

You never get a second chance to make a first impression, so you better nail that initial experience your user has with your product. A fantastic welcome page is one way to do that, but it’s not that easy to craft one. After all, this “welcome mat” has to do a lot: reflect your brand, set the stage for ongoing success, make users feel at ease, and offer some helpful “getting started” information. Oh, and it also needs to look great. So how do you even start building a page that appears effortless while actually doing some heavy lifting? Intercom shares their advice on that, plus some examples of well-crafted welcome pages.

The Design Thinking and Lean Startup Models Are Broken. Here Is the Innovation Vortex! by Jurgen Appelo

We love a good visual model to encompass the product development process, and this one became a quick favorite of ours. Not that we think the design thinking and lean startup models are “broken” (the author’s word), but they do have their shortcomings. And if there’s anything we like more than visual frameworks, it’s controversy — the creator of the innovation vortex had to write a defense of it just a few days after publishing it. Take a look and make your own opinion.

All the Best Engineering Advice I Stole From Non-Technical People by Marianne Bellotti

Who said engineering advice had to come from other engineers? Sometimes, great ideas and insights come from people with entirely different backgrounds and experiences than you. In this blog post, an engineer shared five pearls of wisdom that came to her from outside of the tech-focused world. Sources for these pieces of advice included a TOEFL instructor, a group therapy facilitator, and an NSA official. The article reminded us to keep our ears and our minds open — you never know where your next thoughtful suggestion will come from.

10 Obvious Lessons I Learned on my Path From a Designer to Product Executive by Sid Yadav

Most PM’s career paths are far from linear. And this is especially true in a startup environment — the product management function often emerges with growth and quickly increases in influence. Sid Yadav made the transition from designer/engineer to PM and then product leader, and shared 10 lessons about making the transition successfully. If you’re thinking of making a career change into the product realm, this thoughtful piece is definitely a must-read.

Ask Women in Product: What Books Should PMs Be Reading? (Women in Product blog)

We love a good reading list, particularly when we’re about to take a nice holiday break. And we’ll be honest — we do tend to focus our ProductCraft content on the B2B/SaaS product person. However, our friends at Women in Product cater to all PMs, include those of you who work on B2C products. Here is their recommended reading list for the B2C product manager. Even if you’re not a B2C product manager, you’ll probably find these reads useful and insightful.

Look Before You Launch by Jon Gatrell (Pragmatic Institute)

Before putting a new feature or product out into the wild, it’s good to ask yourself, “Is this a release or a launch?” This question is important for product teams and everyone who works with them (product marketing folks in particular). Depending on your release cadence, you may end up confusing the two concepts. However, this short-but-sweet piece from Jon Gatrell of Pragmatic Institute reminds you that differentiation is your friend.

Interactive Product Benchmarks (Pendo)

Product managers are constantly measuring how their product is performing, but they only have their own metrics to go on. What about other products in their industry? Is their product’s performance best-in-class? Average? 

To shed some light on this blind spot, our colleagues at Pendo analyzed over a thousand digital products and established benchmarks for five key product metrics, including stickiness, retention, and NPS. With their interactive benchmarking tool, you can compare your product’s performance against your peers, discover new KPIs to track, and download slides to report on your numbers. 

Product Teams Have Taken National News Organizations by Storm. What’s Happening Locally? by Christine Schmidt (NiemanLab)

As we’ve said before, product thinking isn’t just for PMs. This piece from Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab documented how newsrooms around the country are introducing product thinking to meet the demands of digital journalism. What is product thinking, in this case? One quoted director of product says it well: “Product managers are the ones trying to think holistically and bring people together on how to move forward with a big idea.”

Sounds pretty smart to us.