Design great products with "User-centric" method

“User-centric” is a kind of laziness, and it is also a marketing need. Really great products often have deep values, and these values ​​​​are established by the product team. So, at a higher level, let’s pursue “product manager centricity”.


The concept of user-centered design has always been the golden rule of product managers. To put it simply, it is to locate target users, discover user needs, and design product solutions to solve user needs (pain points).

And some product books will also teach us that the process of mining needs can use tools such as Y theory and Maslow’s demand curve to deeply dig out the core needs of users, and the core is to design products based on user needs.

This is a very logical design thinking. As a junior product manager, it is actually enough to be able to do this. But if you are a higher-level product manager, it is very irresponsible to just be user-centered.

Why do you say that?

“User-centered” is a very lazy design method! Very lazy!

Talk about the most ridiculous, user-centric case.

Ford asked the user what he wanted, and the user said he needed a horse.

Ford asked why, and users said they wanted to get from point A to point B faster.

Thus, Ford invented the automobile.

Conclusion: Ford is user-centered and solves the core pain points of users.

Leaving aside whether Ford ever told this story, it cannot be logically consistent.

  • What if the user can’t drive? Haven’t got your driver’s license yet? Didn’t you kill him by giving him the car?
  • How much faster can a car in that era be than a horse? What if I’m going to the West to learn Buddhist scriptures instead of working in the city? Is a Ford car easier to use than a White Dragon Horse?

Here’s another story about the car.

Empress Dowager Cixi wanted to try the legendary “sedan” with four wheels full of joy. Once she got on the sedan (car), why was there a person (the driver) sitting in front? Brave slave, how can you sit in front of Aijia and drive on your knees!

If the user talking to Ford is Empress Dowager Cixi, can she still make cars?

So who are our users? Is it Ford, or Empress Dowager Cixi?

Cixi of course.

This is not to say that users are as stupid as Empress Dowager Cixi. This is due to human nature. Who would dare to ride in an unmanned car today?

In the same way, no one will accept new things immediately.

One of the disadvantages of being user-centric is that it is difficult to achieve product innovation.

Of course, part of the reason why Ford makes cars is that users have needs, and the other reason is that he has mastered the technology; the only reason why he does not give users horses is that he does not open horse farms.

The technical conditions are mature, the market conditions are mature (there were cars before the Model T, but it was not easy to use), of course there are policy factors, and even “environmental protection” factors (reducing horse manure emissions on the street) and so on.

So, why is user-centered design a very lazy approach?

Excessive focus on users will make us ignore many other factors.

User-centered is more of a marketing need.

We can observe that most of the great products and epoch-making products are not completely user-centered. It’s full of personality and unique, and even users don’t understand it at the beginning, but in the end-it’s really fragrant!

Isn’t our goal to make this kind of product?

The author’s original idea was to study how great products are made, which is obviously not user-centered.

Then let’s think about it, aren’t Apple’s products oriented by Jobs? Didn’t the success of WeChat incorporate Zhang Xiaolong’s (all kinds of weird) values?

So, can we say that truly excellent and great products should be designed with the “product manager” as the center?


When exploring the essence of a methodology, I think we should first study the phenomenon; that is, what are the characteristics of some great products? Can we learn something new from these properties?

The author summarizes some of the characteristics of some great products:

1. Have deep values

Great products have their own set of values ​​that are independent of the will of users.

Zhang Xiaolong of WeChat once said that WeChat’s “Four Values” are based on the value of users, let creation play its value, leave when you use it up (later said that you will come back when you’re done), commercialization is invisible (the WeChat team is really too difficult).

That’s what he said, and it can be seen from the “restraint” of the WeChat team that they are doing the same.

If WeChat is a building, then this value should be the cornerstone of the building. A product without correct values ​​as its cornerstone has no soul.

2. Independent personality

What is product personality?

You can understand it as difference, but the difference is relative to other products. Personality is the quality of the product itself, not to be different from others, but to become different because of insisting on one’s own beliefs.

Apple’s product personality is innovation and simplicity, so sometimes people are confused, why there are so many useful functions on Android phones, but iPhones don’t have them. This is really not a problem unique to the “Cook era”, it is also a problem in the Jobs era.

People will also say, why can Nokia block bullets, but the iPhone shatters when it is dropped? Because this is the iPhone, it is too difficult to block the noise of the world and “follow your heart”, but Apple did it, so it succeeded.

3. Do something valuable to users

It is undeniable that product design still needs to consider user needs, but it does not completely consider user needs from the user’s point of view.

Product managers are people who know users better than users. You know what kind of products are really valuable.

why do you know?

Because you are professional, you understand technology, you understand design, and you understand the market.

Zhang Xiaolong knows the trend of the mobile Internet era, so he does WeChat instead of mobile QQ; Zhang Yiming understands the value of recommendation algorithms, so he makes an information recommendation engine instead of a search engine; Li Xingping knows that Chinese netizens can’t type, so he has Got hao123.

Therefore, for product managers, as an expert and a person standing at the forefront of the times, we should discover something of real value and lead users instead of following them.

4. Create business value

What products are great products?

Of course it is a profitable product!

In a market economy, money is the most intuitive measure of value. Of course, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the product directly makes money, it can be drainage, so it is actually more accurate to use “commercial value”.

Commercial value and user value are two different things. A product with user value does not necessarily have commercial value; but a product with commercial value must have user value, either investment value or use value (this is the content of Marxist economics ).

Does Google Glass have user value?

Who doesn’t want a “hands-free” mobile phone, but the commercial value is not high, one is too expensive, and the other is that ethical issues have not been resolved (such as sneaking, addiction, etc.).

A product that can combine both commercial value and user value is a truly excellent product.

Furthermore, whoever establishes the value of the product is the product team; whoever gives the product its personality is the product team; whoever determines the value of the product is the product team.

Aren’t these great products the product design oriented by “product managers”?

A design thinking that starts from values ​​and considers product personality, user value, and business value is a “product manager-centric” design approach.


Product manager inner OS: I am too difficult!

Of course it is difficult. As I said earlier, it is enough for a junior product manager to be user-centric; but to go to a higher level, you must consider more things.

To really make a product manager-centric design, I think there are some basic conditions:

1. The product team has sufficient resources at their disposal

There are actually two meanings in this: one is that high-quality products must have high-quality technical resources; the other is that the product team must have the power to independently control resources.

If you can’t do these two points, you basically repeat the old steps, either doing what the user thinks or doing what the boss thinks.

2. Take a holistic view of the product

Take the user as the center, let us look at the product from the perspective of a child (or Xiaobai), so that I can design a better product experience. And centering on the product manager requires us to look at the product from God’s perspective.

In fact, a product is often just a link in a business process. From the perspective of system theory, a product is only one element in the business system, and it must have a relationship with other elements, especially for B-end products.

Qualified product managers design tools, and excellent product managers design solutions.

3. Focus on users, but also on non-users

Now there is a very strange phenomenon. The real users of many products are often not their original target users.

Douyin, for example, positions itself as a short video community platform focusing on young people. But if you use Douyin, I advise you not to be told by post-95s, because contempt and ridicule follow.

The users of Douyin were indeed very young in the early days, concentrated in the age group of 18-24, but now 40% of the users are 24-30 years old. Whether this is “unintentional insertion”, or intentional, we don’t know.

But putting aside user-oriented thinking, looking for blue oceans from a broader market, and turning non-users into new users may be a more conducive strategy for product development.

4. Regular trial and error

Trial and error here does not mean trial and error in the market, which is too costly.

I think that in the process of product design, we should try a few more solutions. If you are not afraid of being beaten or confident that you can win, you can not rule out the way of PK within the team. In fact, trial and error of multiple solutions is obviously a way closer to success. After all, there is no best solution, only better ones.

But I didn’t find that many people would do this, probably because they didn’t want to waste time, or felt that it was enough to meet their needs. In fact, if the design pace of the product is faster than the development pace, you might as well cause yourself some trouble, or find a better solution?


To sum up:

  • User-centered design ideas are relatively narrow, not conducive to innovation and easy to ignore other product factors.
  • A product manager-centered design idea should be established so that the product manager can endow the product with a soul, so as to make better products.
  • To be centered on the product manager requires the product manager to be trusted, have a big picture, and work hard.

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