Applying Product-Led Growth concepts in practice and how this can help you to grow your product faster
Especially for those who are starting out, the number of references and authors found in the design field is frightening, which makes it difficult to prioritize what really matters. As mentioned in several articles, this can lead to issues such as specializing in an area excessively complex and time-consuming.
Speaking of starting, in early 2018 I began working on a product team that was aimed to address a new concept in development. New paradigms that required rethinking the way a product is established, focusing on leading the growth of the company through the product itself.
In order to deepen and accelerate my studies on the subject, in May of the same year, I was invited to participate in an event precisely about the theme of growth related to the product. The leading companies that develop the most innovative products in the world operate this way — Slack, Linkedin, Dropbox, Pinterest, Calendly, etc. Kyle Polar wrote an amazing post about the Product-Led Growth Summit 2018, presenting details about the main lessons of the event.
As well as boosting growth, this methodology allows the creation of strategies based on techniques and models that use psychology, marketing, design, engineering, and other disciplines. Completely focused on investing in what actually brings results, high scale gains and the company’s expansion in a sustainable way.
How I changed my paradigms in design
It’s quite a complex task to modify concepts in a high-scale product with multiple designers and software engineers, to be constantly making adjustments and improvements is not a walk in the park. Not only a challenge is required, but also a change of attitude, a change of mentality.
Working on a new team demanded from me a shift in the way I pictured designing and how I built products as a designer. Mainly assessing how to reduce complexity and optimize the efforts being made due to investment and return.
Have clear principles
Be clear about the concepts you are going to work on and what you want to achieve. Visualize your goals and have a solid plan to reach them. What I’m trying to say is that having a clear view of this essence allows you to broaden the spectrum of possibilities and solutions.
It’s as if there’s a long racetrack ahead and these concepts function as a guide to go as far as possible (like guardrails), always in the right direction. This gives you more freedom and more peace of mind to devote yourself to what you believe in as something better that will actually bring more results.
Set your “north-star” references
This changes even as you go about studies and referrals. I believe it is best to devote yourself to the authors you consider as odd references and to conduct the study intensively. The time you invest to build something focused only on a few authors who are well above the curve, provide much better results. This should be related to the product vision and its references.
Make things super easy
The natural tendency of human beings is to make everything more complex. In a scale, everything breaks down into pieces and when you work on a high-scale product, one of the main roles is to make decisions that reduce complexity and make your product easier to use. This thought must be present even in your work process, delivering smaller, better-finished things.
Decrease the amount of time you invest
Reduce the time you invest to build your prototypes, screens, and studies. Imagine as if you only had 1 or 2 days. Make the decision and choose what will truly deliver the greatest value or solve the problem that has been in your product for a long time but never over priority.
“If I had eight hours to knock down a tree, I’d spend six sharpening my ax.” (Abraham Lincoln)
If you had just 1 day, how would you solve this problem? How would you test and deliver a minimally coherent but extremely well-finished version? Pay attention to the details and how they connect to the concept you believe in.
With that in mind, I have prepared a step-by-step guide that I have been using as a reference material whenever I need to build a new element or make some decisions related to product design. This clarifies a number of important points or at least will help you to know what aspects you should consider when putting these concepts into practice.
Step 1: Signup super easy
The first step is to review the way people access your product. Keep in mind that it’s not about making the signup easy or a bit easier. The signup should be super easy.
I emphasize this point because we rarely find a series of digital products that are almost a marathon to start using. Remove all barriers and think of the easiest way that the user could start experimenting. When you get into this model, remove even more and implement some concepts that may further facilitate the conversion.
It could be a chatbot, a conversational interface, an automatic flow, a gamut of your product entry … it does not matter. Explore creativity and keep a goal in mind: what is the simplest and easiest way for my user to start using my product as soon as possible.
Remove all excuses and technical barriers. First, you will probably do something that does not scale and that’s fine. One problem at a time.
Step 2: Less text (Show, don’t tell)
I’ll start this step with a controversial theme, but what I mean is: Stop uploading new lines of text in your product. There should be a rule that, for each new line of text added to the product, a line of code should be removed. The fact is that putting texts into your product increases complexity rather than facilitating its use.
For those who project, it really seems simpler and avoids even a “mea culpa” when you insert in the paragraph or in the CTA of the action everything that it represents. But in practice what happens is that it increases the complexity of your product and makes it bureaucratic, boring and without personality.
I suggest using the book Microcopy as a reference material and also several posts that the author Kinneret Yifrah publishes in his medium profile.
Step 3: Easy to understand (and super simple)
People are looking for your product because they are unsatisfied and need to solve a problem. And your product has to be easy to understand and super simple. Luke Wroblewski recently spoke on the subject: “The product normally has 2 stages: (1) add and (2) remove features, simply because you added too much.” Start by removing features that do not deliver the central value of your product quickly.
Want to know how to identify if what you are building is easy to understand? Try to explain what you are doing to a 5-year-old if they cannot understand what is being done it’s probably too complex. Remove the barriers and distractions that have been placed over time.
Step 4: Empty States
This particular point is extremely important and rarely used as a lever within the products. The initial states of the interface or when your user has not yet generated data or does not have enough information. The initial states (or empty states) are so important for adoption that they should be used as part of the onboarding within the product.
Instead of displaying an empty chart, a list with no elements, a basket with no products or a search result “explore the creativity and connect the personality of your product to the goal your user is looking for.
People are naturally insecure on the first points of contact, explore these emotions in favor of your product. Offer not only indicative of what will be found there but also encourage your visitor or user to start initiating an action through a positive reinforcement. Something like “Come on, you’re on the right track. You can start here.”
If you want examples of several empty states, visit this site. There you will find options for digital products (desktop, mobile, games) and the most varied use cases.
Step 5: Show how your product works
Steadily and consistently. Does your product look like those flashy salespeople who try to show all the benefits and incredible features in the first 2 minutes? Or is it more like that indifferent salesman who sits while the customer walks into the store?
Whatever the situation, there are two very important design techniques that need to be taken into account: progressive disclosure and gradual engagement.
The first, progressive disclosure is related to the way in which you show the necessary actions that must be performed so that the user can achieve success within your product. Showcase what your product offers by helping to keep the focus of user attention down, reducing confusion and cognitive workload. This improves usability by presenting only the minimum data required for the task that needs to be performed.
The second, gradual engagement, is the way you relate to your users from the moment they enter your product and how you lead the user through the process. With gradual engagement, new users are not presented with only one signature form for later abandonment (as with many products). It is important to understand that it is necessary to maintain this relationship throughout the process.
In both cases, you should consider: Beginner users have different demands from more advanced users.
How not to do: Ask the user to watch a 2-hour video to understand how to use your product.
How to do: Make several videos shorter than 1 or 2 minutes (or less) and distribute them according to the time and context in which they will really be useful.
Step 6: Feed up the Design System
Design System will be your biggest ally in implementing these new concepts. Rather than perceiving Design System as a material that “allows” you to do new things within your product, the idea here is to change that view.
Which in practice means that instead of Design System barring new concepts or preventing you from doing new things, your role as a designer will be to empower the Design System. As a result, you will be able to scale these new concepts into your product in a sustainable way and most importantly: profitable for the company.
The more focused and determined you are in relation to a goal, the greater the chances of success. Either in product development, a new venture or a personal goal.
It’s never too early to start proposing new solutions and it’s never late for rethinking the way you work. Sometimes we come across situations or obstacles that have long been in the way. Other times we find that we know very little about a particular subject and need to study further.
The best way is not always the most comfortable to follow.