Product Management :: Product Marketing

31 March, 2011

Product Manager's Playbook

The Cambridge Product Management Network held a interactive session entitled 'What a Product Manager does on the first day / week / month / quarter in their new role' on 24th March, 2011 lead by me, Arthur Meadows.

The session was attended by Cambridge's finest and highly experienced Product Managers and together, we built a 'playbook' of recommended steps / milestones for new Product Managers as they start their new role.

The results are available here, Product Manager's Playbook. Consider this to be a Product Manager's personal project plan.

BIG Hint: This answers that age-old interview question: 'What will do if we hire you'. Also, this follows nicely on from my article 'How to hire a Product Manager'.

30 March, 2011

Advertisers spend £1 in every £4 on the internet

The Internet Advertising Bureau in the UK (in conjunction with PriceWaterhouseCoopers) publishes its bi-annual advertising spend study.

Here are some headline figures that made me think:
  • Online advertising’s share hits 25%, as advertisers spend £1 in every £4 on the internet. That represents £4 billion!
  • Social media boosts online display by 27.5% on a like-for-like basis to £945 million. 
  • There was nearly 200% surge in display advertising in a social media environment (on a like-for-like basis) and 91% year-on-year (absolute growth) in video formats. 
  • Paid-search continues to perform strongly with growth of 8% year-on-year on a like-for-like basis to £2,346 million, representing 57% of total online spend (61% in 2009).
  • Mobile advertising has experienced a 'staggering' 116% year on year growth (on a like for like basis), up from 32% in 2009. (Arthur: don't get excited, it is only worth £83 million, so 'staggering' is over egging it!)
Other stats
  • By December 2010, the UK’s active online user base had grown to 40.3 million. 
  • 47% of at home UK internet users access the internet with a connection speed of between 2Mb and 8Mb. 14% access online with a connection speed of over 8Mb. (Source: UKOM APS/Netview December 2010).
  • Social networks now account for 25% of the time spent online in the UK. 

25 March, 2011

LinkedIn has 100million users

Congratulations to LinkedIn for punching through 100 million users recently. I received an email from Reid Hoffman, CEO, as one of the first million users (actually I was one of the first quarter of a million users) to say thank you for spreading the gospel in the early days.

Here's the blog post announcing the milestone. And here's a page full of stats on LinkedIn's members. For me the most interesting is 1.3+ billion connections between our members - clearly it depends on how you determine what a connection is (does it include a post in a Group for example?).

All good news when you consider that LinkedIn has filed for IPO in January this year. Key figures: Net revenue in the first nine months of 2010 was $161 million, with a profit of $10 million.

14 March, 2011

Cambridge Startup Weekend

I attended the Cambridge Startup Weekend over the past weekend.
Startup Weekend is an intense 54 hour event which focuses on building a web or mobile application which could form the basis of a credible business over the course of a weekend.

There was a huge amount of enthusiasm and excitement at the event for building products and businesses. Here’s the format:
  1. 150 people registered to attend
  2. On Friday evening, 45 (yes, forty five!) people pitched their idea in 90 seconds or less
  3. Each attendee is given three votes to choose the concepts that they like
  4. The top dozen ideas or so re-pitch to the audience
  5. Each person in the audience then joins a team of their choice and starts
  6. Mentors and grey beards are on hand to provide guidance
There were a couple of ideas that I liked – interestingly enough, two of these ideas received virtually no votes. Of the ideas that won through to the second round, I couldn’t see any that would really have any commercial viability. (I admit that I didn’t contribute any ideas of my own.)

What WAS really apparent was:
  • All the companies need to start by concentrating on their business strategy first, before writing a line of code. From the judges’ questions, it was clear that this is what they were interested in.
  • The intersection of technology and markets is the heart of Product Management’s role. This event would have been more commercially successful if there were more PMs knocking around. However, their presence would have deflated the enthusiasm of the budding entrepreneurs which is the exact opposite of the required outcome!
  • Although, I arrived late at the adjudication ceremony and I didn’t get to see all the final presentations, it was interesting to see how the businesses morphed over the weekend.
In the end, I teamed up with a couple of PhDs doing digital identity from the University of Newcastle. See their announcement of Identity Deployment of the Year (IDDY) 2011 Award from Kantara. It was great because they brought me up to date on progress on DiD in the last 6 years that I haven’t been paying attention. I shared some knowledge with them about the early days of DiD.

Interestingly, not much has changed – the big problems in identity haven’t been solved. Many of the participants have changed their business model though. The industry body, Kantara, has taken over the mantle from Project Liberty - not quite sure why Liberty died.

10 March, 2011

User Experience Commandments

I was discussing some UI concepts with a buddy in California when I uncovered this gem of a site on Web Design: 10 Usability Tips Based on Research Studies.

Cameron Chapman refers to these as tips, but some of these are way more important: veritable commandments of interface design.

Here are my comments on these commandments / insightful advice or Tips that need clarification:

Tip 1: Forget the "Three-Click Rule" 
Old theory (well, 2001):
The idea that users will get frustrated if they have to click more than three times to find a piece of content on your website has been around for ages. 
Today's Common Sense:
The focus, then, shouldn’t be on reducing the number of clicks to some magically arrived number, but rather on the ease of utility...... - don’t let the arbitrary three-click rule stop you. 

Tip 2: Enable Content Skimming By Using an F-Shaped Pattern
Analyses the ‘Heat Maps’ of user attention. Either the ‘Google Golden Triangle’ - most clicks are in the top left and a couple on the right hand side (The right hand side is where Google makes their money, of course!).

Example of Google Heat Map

Looking at this heat map, one wonders why anyone puts anything on the lower right hand side of their side – I suppose to look balanced.

Jakob Nielsen, that guru of web design, whose own site now looks Neolithic in design discusses an F shaped pattern.

More on this research at

Tip 3: Speed Up Your Website
Microsoft’s analysis on their search engine, Bing, showed a correlation between website speed and satisfaction, revenue generated per user and clicking speed.

To get a handle on your site’s availability and speed, I used Webmetrics (Arthur's tip: they have a free trial). See also this case study that I conducted with them on the impact of moving to the cloud on page performance. (Declaration of bias: I used to work for Webmetrics)

Tip 4: Make Your Content Easily Readable
people only read 28% of the text on a web page and decreased the more text there is on the page.

Tip 5: Don’t Worry About "The Fold" and Vertical Scrolling

Hmm, this research is incomplete in my opinion. Cameron links to better article: The myth of the page fold: evidence from user testing.

In my opinion, content the above the fold must be interesting and engaging to warrant more browsing FULL STOP / PERIOD.

People would rather scroll down a page or two to find stuff, rather than having to click on yet another link and wait for another page to load.

So DON’T cram ALL your content above the fold on every page.

Example: if you have a long article to publish, it is much preferable to have the article all on one page, rather than break it across 3 pages. (Don’t you hate newspapers when they do this – it really hinders skim reading!)

TIP 6: Place Important Content on the Left of a Web Page

OK, this advice is correct, but again, doesn’t go deep enough. YES, put your important on the left (doh!), but web users have become so familiar with the 3 column model of websites that they zone in on the middle 50% of any website.

  • Left hand column is 15% wide and contains navigation and then ads
  • Middle column is 60% wide and contains the meaty content
  • Right hand column is 15% and contains ads exclusively.
So, my advice is to focus on the first paragraphs in your middle column – we’re back to the F-shaped Pattern above.

Tip 7: Whitespace of Text Affects Readability

Some obvious advice and some less obvious advice – see the post for the details - I won't cut and paste someone else's content verbatim.

Tip 8: Small Details Make a Huge Difference
… removing a button and adding a clear error message to avoid user errors in a checkout process increased revenue by $300 million in just a year. The first month witnessed a 45% additional sales attributed to the revision of the checkout process.
If you’re a start-up, there are SOOO many ways to improve any given site. It’s difficult to know where to start-up – you just gotta plunge in I guess…..

Tip 9: Don’t Rely on Search as a Crutch to Bad Navigation
Search, in this context, means search within a site not Google / Yahoo / Bing. Doh - obvious

Tip 10: Your Home Page Isn’t As Important as You Think

People deep link to you and your site.

Therefore, a higher focus on landing pages versus your home page can get you more bang for your buck in terms of conversion and user-retention opportunities.

07 March, 2011

How to hire a product manager

Having come back to the UK from US (where Product Management is much more mature discipline), I have been saddened (and, on occasions, appalled) by the level of ignorance of non-Product Managers about Product Management.

Having seen some pretty 'shonky' job advertisements for Product Managers, I thought I'd better lay out some guidelines for everyone's benefit: How to hire a Product Manager.

Comments welcome!