Are We Oversimplifying Product Management at the Expense of our Customers?



If you enjoy reading up on the latest practices and trends of product management as I do, you will probably notice a growing trend to simplify product management. You will see statements like:

  • Focus your product on doing one thing really well
  • Giving too many options increases complexity and reduces usability
  • Onboarding workflows should get the user to your products goal in as few steps as possible
  • The role of a Product Manager is to say no

It is easy to see why these are very attractive positions. The most valuable company in the world (Apple) positioned itself as prioritizing simple over complex. I am not advocating for making unnecessarily complex products, and in many cases, I would agree that simple is best; however, I would like to explore, is this right solution for everything?

Understanding your target audience

Assuming you have already identified your products goals/vision, when designing any product, you should always start with who is your target audience. Are you developing a health monitor for the elderly? Are you creating a tool for developers to manage product development roadmaps? These two questions are very different.

In the example of a health monitor for the elderly, we know that their past experiences in life and cognitive capabilities have not lent to being able to deal with complex technical devices very well (on average). Ever tried explaining a smartphone to your grandmother? I am going to guess explaining something like the difference between an app and a website or SMS and email, was quite complex for what you might consider to be mundane and obvious. Now, lets take this same health monitor and target it for elite athletes. I would imagine that if you told a strength and conditioning coach for the New England Patriots that you want one of their players to wear this monitor and we will only have it alert when there is an anomaly, they will tell you the device isn’t for them. Why is this the case? At these elite levels, they need to know everything from heart rate variability to hydration and from stress to sleep. This would be the only way they can tell if they should put the player out on that critical 4th down play!

In my second example, product managing a development roadmap can be extremely simple or extremely complex. For instance, planning a roadmap for a single purpose phone app is very different from creating a product which manages data for health care systems or processes hundreds of thousands of financial transactions every second. So, if you were to create an application which you believe is going to revolutionize product management, you are going to have to give some options and it is going to get complex quickly.

Not all Product Management strategies are created equal

Product management has become somewhat of a sexy role in the tech industry. The lure of creating a product that hundreds of thousands if not millions of people use is incredibly gratifying. To say you are able to make a difference in someone’s life is some of the best feedback you can get in any job. What has created this surge in job offerings? I suspect it has a lot to do with smart phone apps.

Apps are a revolutionary concept which has simplified interactions with digital products and services. Here you have a limited power device on limited real estate and a fairly consistent engine to run on. It is no surprise that doing one thing well, or limiting options for a user to select becomes very important. Focus can drive usability in a major way. However, there is a growing number of enterprise products, Kickstarter campaigns for hardware devices, raspberry pi projects, 3D Printing, etc. Are we to say that the digital app mentality will work with these products which are no longer limited to a fixed device standard? Are the digital product managers the vocal minority when sharing their experiences and strategy ideas?

Who are we really simplifying our product for?

Whenever I read about simplifying product management, I can’t help but get the sense that the PM is just trying to make their job easier. I am all for optimizing for maximum output, but we need to be honest with ourselves; by saying no, are we really doing it for the customers’ benefit or ours? Sometimes, to make something seamless and easy for a customer, you have to do some heavy lifting on the backend. Think about google, when you go to, it is the most simple and basic form. One field, enter what you are looking for. Have you ever thought about how complex it must be to make something so simple give you thousands of results in under 1 second?

Companies like Apple and Google are not on top because they are basic, they are on top because they are extremely powerful and simple to use. They give you the flexibility to be as basic as you want or as advanced as you need. With power, comes complexity, deep thinking, and careful planning. Let’s look at Twitter for instance. When Twitter started, it was a simple SMS application for communicating with a large audience. Now, Twitter could probably stay relevant for a little while that way, but they have to continue to innovate and bring new features to keep the product fresh, compelling and competitive. Why do you think you are suddenly seeing more inline pictures, autoplaying videos, periscope, etc.? If it wasn’t for Facebook, Twitter might not have had to add these features.

Simplicity is great for launching a product, but let’s not act like you can sustain a long-term business with the “do one thing well” mentality.


I am not advocating that we should create unnecessarily complex and hard to use products. This leads to bugs, crashes, complex design strategies, difficult maintenance and unsustainable documentation needs. I do feel that we should be creating simple, easy to use products. What I would like to leave you with is the question, is simple, limited and small right for my customer or am I just trying to make my own life easier at the customer’s expense?

What are your thoughts on this matter? Let me know, I’d love to hear your experiences.

Proper Design In a Nutshell

It took me a long time to really grasp this concept, but design isn’t just about making something look pretty or trying to cram as much stuff into as little space as possible to show how many concepts you know. Design is far more than that. Aside from the fact the following graphic is centered around PowerPoint, the concept remains the same for all aspects of design. Whether you are creating a website, writing a blog post or decorating a house, your goal should always be, how can I make the most impact without losing your message with as few details as possible. Sounds easy right? You might be surprised to know that this takes practice and patience, but most of all, the ability to constantly review your work and think to yourself, what else can I remove without taking away my core message.

Graphic Design

A great example of this is Apple. By no means am I an apple fanboy and I often dislike many technical decisions Apple makes, but the one thing that very few people can argue against is that their products look attractive. One of the reasons for this is that they are constantly looking at their products and thinking, how can I remove something without decreasing its abilities. It is the reason why their products have very few buttons. From the mouse to the iPhone, they have managed to make 1 button accomplish many tasks. When products and services are simple, they become more attractive, easy to use and easy to maintain. Why do you think I redesigned this website?

Guide to Become an Entrepreneur – Get Feedback and Learn From Others

Up until recently I have always toyed with the idea of creating a company and becoming an entrepreneur,  but wasn’t sure where to start.  I wasn’t certain how to build a business or where to get feedback and find answers to my questions.  After all, most people I know are not trying to start anything new, but instead they’re content with working their regular 9-5.  I put this list together with what helped me, to help others get started and more importantly, gain feedback and learn from other experiences.

Social Networking

twitter I am sure you have heard this a thousand times, social networking is a great way to interact and find people to help you on your journey.  If you are on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ and are finding yourself not understanding why you are not reaping the benefits, look at how you are interacting.  Are you just posting questions that only your followers can see?  Are you adding hashtags hoping someone sees you in a search for #entrepreneur? If so, you might be doing it wrong.

Try this instead.  Get out there and ask someone a direct question.  Social networks are not only meant to be a place for you to say what comes to your mind and hope someone listens.  Social networks are meant to be, well, social.  When trying to start Pixel Precise LLC I was crippled by the idea of launching and worrying about copyrights, legal, how to claim a company with the state, etc.  So I took a leap of faith and asked Jay Adelson, Ex-CEO of and host of podcast AskJay I was watching at the time,  a direct question on twitter.



TED  Ideas worth spreadingPodcasts are great, you can learn a lot from watching 1 a day or even just a few  a week.  They are designed to fit busy life styles (< 30min per episode), you can load them onto your phone or tablet, and they are often to-the-point without all of the fluff that comes from TV programming. Even if a show isn’t dedicated to business you may find some value in them.  The podcast FilmRiot, is like this; I am not a film guy, but I learn a lot about what sort of hard-work goes into podcast production by watching this show.  It has the added benefit of being very entertaining as well. Who knows, maybe one of these days I will need to create a video for my company and will be able to utilize these great tips!

If you are looking for something that is a little more to the topic of business, I would try TED or AskJay.  Ask Jay is no longer in production, but there are still ~70 episodes of tips and answers to viewer questions.  I know I have asked myself a few of those questions before.  Next is TED Talks. Ted is a wonderful podcast that is still in production where people from all over the globe give amazing talks about their experiences and provide you with groundbreaking research at no cost to you!

Entrepreneur Communities

EntrepreneurMy first choice is Reddit, these people are brutally honest and you can remain anonymous to protect your ideas. Okay, I know what you are thinking, “Reddit? Really? Isn’t that the website with cats and memes?” Well yes, but it is also the home to, a sub-community solely focused on helping other entrepreneurs be successful.  Think of it as a forum to ask questions, get feedback and learn from other experiences.  If Reddit not your thing, give Google+ Communities a try.  It has a cleaner interface without all of the (cat) distractions. Also, Google+ Communities have multiple different pages around similar categories. So if one doesn’t work for you, there is an option to either create your own or try another one that suites your needs.

Design Communities

forrstThe times are here, you can’t honestly run a business without some sort of online presence.  That means you will have to buckle down and design logos, websites, etc. Two popular and prominent communities are Dribbble and Forrst.  Personally, I use Forrst. Here you can post designs and get honest feedback on how you can do better. Starting out, you don’t need many friends because once you post, many people will see your content and provide you with feedback and tips.  As for Dribbble the concept is similar, admittedly I haven’t had as much luck with feedback when starting out.  Maybe you will, you can always use it as a way to gain inspiration and find out what others are coming up with for creations.

Business Websites

Fast CompanyThere are many business websites out there, but one I really like is Fast Company.  Fast company always has compelling articles, sections on leadership and design, and there is the always interesting 30 Second MBA.  The 30 second MBA is a series of videos from different CEOs who talk about a business related topic 30 seconds! If you are looking to supplement yourself with more content just like Fast Company, try Inc or VentureBeat. Both are similar in content and appeal.

Local State Website

Step by Step Guide to Starting a Business in MassachusettsI won’t get into too much detail here because depending on where you are from, the information may be different. That said, I live in Massachusetts and I found this helpful how to start a business guide on my states website.  I am sure if you look around, you will find something similar for your location.  I was able to use this guide to find out how to get an LLC for my company Pixel Precise.

How Dating Posts Can Work Against You ( SEO )

Too long didn’t read version >>


For those of you who may not know, I run a website called Recently, I had a story go viral after my post on Heath Ledger’s Inspiration for the Joker was high on the Google ranking for anything related to Heath Ledger and the Joker. My post had been around for months and saw a little traffic here and there. Once the internet took hold if it suddenly it popped up everywhere including some pretty mainstream sites as “new.” Hardly anyone gave credit where credit was due but, I am not here to complain about that.

What I found very interesting was, my post was suddenly marked old by Google and fell very far down on the ranking. The people who knew where the post came from, had to search for Heath Ledger, the Joker and afternooncrash in order to find they post they were familiar with (I watched my stats like a hawk). This concerned me because now all of a sudden, my traffic started going down and those other sites were apparently more relevant to Google.

Technical Solution

Was the date of the post really the issue, or was it something else like the popularity of the website? I had a hunch and did some research, that is when I came across an article by where the author stated:

“Dates on Recent Posts But Not on Older Ones – I saw one blogger do this last year (I’m afraid I don’t remember who it was). They had hacked WordPress so that dates appeared on recent posts (within the last 3 months) but anything older than that did not have time stamps either on the post or comments. This meant that the blogger benefited from new posts looking new and took the potential distraction of old posts away from readers. I don’t know exactly how the blogger did it but presume they set up a rule that looked at the date of authorship and then determined whether the date would be displayed or not.”

This idea sounded exactly like what I was looking for. With a quick Google search I found a post on which showed exactly how to do this in WordPress.

It is as simple as replacing the following line in my single.php file:

<?php the_time('F jS, Y') ?>


$today = date('r');
$articledate = get_the_time('r');
$difference = round((strtotime($today) - strtotime($articledate))/(24*60*60),0);
if ($difference >= 30)
<!-- Aged Gem -->
} else {?>
<!-- Fresh Gem --><strong><?php the_time('F jS, Y') ?></strong>


Finally, what does this all mean? Once I implemented this code to remove dates from older posts, suddenly my post found its way to the top of the Google search and, traffic is starting to flow again.

Now, if you are posting time sensitive material then you probably won’t want to do this. However, if you material isn’t time sensitive this is an excellent solution to keep your recent content relevant by containing dates and showing your readers that you are regularly updating the site, as well as, keeping your older content relevant and not automatically buried by Google because you were one of the first people to discover the content.

For more information on dating content I suggest you check out the article on

As always, I would love to hear what you have to say in the comments! Send me all of your success or failure stories.

How Are You Getting Involved?

I am a firm believer that one of the most important things you can do is to build a network. Your work will only do as well as your network unless you get lucky and have a social power user resend you work to a massive audience.

I would love you hear what you are doing to get involved, i.e. what sites do you visit, conferences / meet-ups do you attend, social networks are you involved.

Some suggested topics I would love to hear about, but not limited too, are Boston, web design, entrepreneurship, small business / enterprise services, or just to get people with a passion for what they do to hang out.

Comment below and let’s share ideas!