How to lead a product critique

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A product critique provides an effective feedback loop for continuous product improvement. This is necessary for any product development process, especially for teams following the Lean methodology.

A product critique framework highlights what is and isn’t working with a product. It also offers various perspectives on what aspects could benefit from improvement. When done correctly, a product critique makes it possible to make progressive changes before and after a product release.

Critiques help teams fail fast and iterate quickly during the product development cycle. They allow the team to pivot if necessary, before a situation becomes a bigger issue. 

 This article describes how to do a product critique effectively, questions to ask during a product critique, common mistakes and how to avoid them, and more.  

What is a product critique and why is it important?

A product critique is a product management method to assess a product from several angles, including usability, design, functionality, accessibility, and profitability. The critique employs usability tests, heuristic analyses, customer satisfaction surveys, quality assurance, and design evaluations. It may be an external, customer-facing exercise or an internal one limited to one team and key stakeholders. 

Gathering constructive feedback from designers, developers, product managers, and stakeholders helps strengthen collaboration because it allows everyone to voice their opinions and hear others’ viewpoints. Everyone has an opportunity to contribute. 

This feedback loop brings the team’s focus back to the value a product brings to customers, helping teams develop successful future product concepts that give the company a competitive edge.

How to lead a product critique

 Product managers lead product critiques. But knowing how to conduct one is also important for designers and developers. Here’s how to effectively lead a product critique. 

Gather a diverse group of people

Select team members and stakeholders with varying roles and expertise, but avoid people who have no stake in the project. 

Choose those whose insights will improve the product. For example, a developer assesses the codability of designs. A UX designer evaluates the usability of the product. Your quality assurance and customer success teams determine if a product meets user needs. Stakeholders understand and can help refine and articulate goals. 

Who to involve also depends on the current phase in the development process. For instance, stakeholder feedback is vital at the start of a project to encourage buy-in early and prevent roadblocks if their feedback is incorporated later in the project.

Define goals

Set specific goals, such as identifying usability issues, enhancing user experience, or assessing the feasibility of a design. Outline these goals to the team before the critique. Include an agenda and any wireframes, prototypes, or work the team will evaluate. 

Know your competition

A deep understanding of your competitors can help you unearth ways to make your product stand out. Study competitors' advantages and look for their weaknesses. Determine where your product will have an advantage over those of competing products. You will only gain a competitive edge if you know what others are already doing. 

A competitive analysis template can help with this step. Think of it as an investigation into your competitors’ flaws, allowing you to exploit them to your advantage. This investigation will also help you build effective product roadmaps.

Evaluate the data

Product critiques provide an opportunity to gather data from various sources, such as user feedback, analytics, and market research. However, it is important to understand the difference between qualitative and quantitative data.

Qualitative data is subjective feedback from user interviews, open-ended questions, and observational feedback from customers and stakeholders. Quantitative data is number-based and objective, which comes from product performance analytics. 

The first step in gathering data is to formulate your hypothesis so you know what questions to ask. That determines whether you need qualitative or quantitative data, or both. Then, pick the method you’ll use, such as user interviews, surveys, etc. Finally, gather your data and organize it in a roadmapping and prioritization tool such as Jira Product Discovery.

Evaluating these inputs ensures decisions are data-driven.

Brainstorm ideas

Product critiques provide an opportunity to develop creative ideas and solutions to problems. They also offer a chance for the team to contribute and collaborate. Brainstorming works best in groups no larger than five. 

A brainstorming template can help with this process. You can then take those ideas and store them in Jira Product Discovery for later use.

Develop strategies and implement

Ideas are worthless if you don’t execute them properly. It’s important to determine which ideas are feasible and which are unrealistic. This requires assessing whether your team has the skills and the technical prowess to implement an idea. 

Once you determine that an idea is feasible, it is important to create a plan or roadmap to prioritize ideas. This product roadmap template is useful in creating a product roadmap, which you can do with all the ideas you’ve gathered in Jira Product Discovery.

Questions to ask during a product critique

Understanding a problem requires asking many questions. Here are some key questions to ask during a critique: 

  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of the product? This question helps identify product flaws, allowing the team to address these issues. It will also highlight the successful aspects of the product that can become key differentiators.  
  • How does the product compare to its competitors? Knowing how the product measures up against the competition can help you gain a competitive edge.  
  • What customer needs is the product meeting? This helps the team determine whether a product is valuable to the customer and uncover unused features that might need re-evaluation. 
  • What features are customers looking for? Knowing what customers are looking for can help the team identify solutions based on how customers use the product. This question again considers the customer value the product generates. 
  • What changes can the team make to improve usability? Asking this can uncover which aspects of the product users find difficult to use. 
  • Is there potential for new product offerings? This process might uncover problems the current product doesn’t solve, leading to additional product ideas and offerings. 
  • How can we anticipate customer needs and market changes? This question allows teams to be future-thinking rather than reactive. 
  • What strategies can you develop to optimize the product? If a team uses a Lean methodology, this process allows them to look for areas for continuous improvement.

Common product critique mistakes

For a successful product critique, it’s essential to understand the process and invite the right team. Some common pitfalls can cause a product critique to fail quickly. Here’s how to deal with them. 

Having tunnel vision

Tunnel vision can result from confirmation bias. The way to combat this is to stay open-minded and keep your ego in check. It is important to examine data without fear of challenging or discrediting preconceived ideas about the product. 

Forgetting to prioritize the user’s needs

Sometimes, product teams focus on their ideas and forget users’ needs. Designers tend to focus on creating a beautiful design. Developers might focus on fixing code for features that no longer serve the user. To avoid this pitfall, use a customer journey mapping template to outline user needs for the team. 

Not implementing strategies

Another pitfall is a lack of strategic thinking when it comes to implementation. Avoid working on tasks without identifying a clear user need or building useless features. Follow a strategic plan to keep work on track while providing customer value. 

Tools such as Jira Software, Confluence, and Jira Product Discovery can help create and maintain a product roadmap to implement product improvements. Jira Software keeps your team aligned on project tasks and delivery. Confluence allows you to break down silos between teams, allowing for smoother collaboration and knowledge management. And you can gather all your product ideas in one place to simplify prioritization and roadmapping with Jira Product Discovery. Best of all, all these tools natively integrate with each other.

When teams may need a product critique

Teams can conduct product critiques at multiple points throughout the product life cycle. In the early stages of development, the team can critique early sketches and wireframes. This is the perfect time to involve key stakeholders. 

A product critique is also beneficial after creating a prototype. The critique can uncover flaws in the design and, depending on how extensive the prototype is, the code. Consider testing prototypes with customers to learn if the proposed solution resolves their pain points. 

Product critiques are also useful before and after a product launch, allowing for retesting to discover what is working and what is not. After a product launch, a product critique can incorporate usage data to evaluate performance and identify further areas of opportunity.

Use Jira Product Discovery for improved product critiques

Jira Product Discovery makes product critiques easy. It enables product teams to gather and organize their ideas. Teams can keep track of opportunities, features, and solutions in one place to easily prioritize which will drive the most impact. 

Product teams can use Jira Product Discovery’s product critique framework to gather feedback. Then, use those valuable insights to streamline the prioritization process. They’ll know where the team should focus improvement efforts. This process also helps the team build and maintain an effective product roadmap.

With Jira Product Discovery, you’ll bring structure to your product management. Better yet, you’ll be able to engage and align with stakeholders by seamlessly connecting your ideas to epics in Jira Software. Teams have context and visibility from discovery to delivery.

Product critique: Frequently asked questions

How often should you conduct product critiques?

Teams should complete product critiques regularly throughout the product development cycle, typically before and after a product launch or when the team has developed a prototype. Teams should aim to conduct critiques at least once a quarter.  

How do product critiques benefit product development teams?

Product critiques allow teams to analyze products to identify improvement areas, resulting in higher-quality products. 

Gathering constructive feedback from the team and stakeholders encourages collaboration. Everyone will feel they are contributing to the larger product goals and impacting the outcome.  

What is an example of a product critique?

An excellent example of a product critique is the iPhone prototype or M68. It looks more like a massive motherboard with a touch-screen iPod than current iPhone models because none of the essential components are in their finalized, easy-to-fit-in-a-pocket form. Using this prototype, the team can conduct a product to test usability and functionality.