The Lean Product Playbook :: UXmatters

Measuring Customer Value

Olsen provides several helpful tools for evaluating whether a possible product or feature would deliver value and how to prioritize the development of valuable products and features.

A vital skill for designing products is having the ability to articulate and measure the value of features and functionality. While, as UX professionals, we tend to be very good at describing experiences in terms of user empathy, we might be able to benefit from taking more quantitative approaches.

In his book, Olsen provides several helpful tools for evaluating whether a possible product or feature would deliver value and how to prioritize the development of valuable products and features. A simple grid that compares the importance of a feature against potential customer satisfaction with such a feature might provide a useful way of focusing and prioritizing product-development efforts. Olsen thoroughly describes the relationship between importance and satisfaction, as well as between must-haves and delighters. His methods could be especially useful in developing consensus within an organization.

Interactions Between Product Management and User Experience

In Olsen’s description of Product Management, a product’s user experience is at the top of the pyramid. Beneath user experience lies its feature set and value proposition—both of which relate to the underserved needs of the target customer through product-market fit. This construct does not minimize the role of UX design in product design. Instead, it illustrates the fact that a market needs to exist for a product to provide a competitive user experience. In fact, Olsen advocates the inclusion of UX research throughout the product-design process.

Olsen describes a continuum for assessing a product as functional versus delightful to use. He also recognizes the importance of usability and its applicability to product design, referring to “Olsen’s Law of Usability,” which he articulates as follows:

“The more user effort required to take an action, the lower the percentage of users who will take that action. The less user effort required, the higher the percentage of users who will take that action.”

I have seen this principle in action when considering the effort a user must expend to complete a lead form on a Web site. One business unit had a very comprehensive lead-generation form on a marketing landing page, with many detailed fields that made various inquiries. As it turned out, a business-development person would again ask the very same questions when contacting a new lead. When my team analyzed the form fields and the conversion rate for each field, we made the informed recommendation to remove roughly half of the fields. As a result, the conversion rate for the form nearly doubled, almost immediately.

The Minimum Viable Product

The concept of a minimum viable product (MVP) has gained traction in recent years. But achieving a common understanding of what constitutes an MVP has eluded many. Some believe that an MVP is equivalent to the first iteration of a full-featured product. Others think it is the same thing as a prototype.

Olson’s explanation of an MVP focuses on developing an experience that proves or disproves the assumptions of a given value proposition. For example, the original iPhone tested the theory that consumers were ready to invest in a premium smartphone. It is easy to forget that Apple eschewed many basic features of today’s iPhone models—such as the ability to install apps, copy and paste, send MMS messages, and change the wallpaper and lock-screen images—in favor of focusing on the core value proposition of the iPhone: integration of a full-featured mobile device with Apple’s ecosystem.


I’ve always had mixed feelings about the utility of personas. Frequently, teams use them as a method of cultivating empathy with customers. The challenge personas present is that they frequently include information that is irrelevant to design decisions and based on speculation rather than real research.

Olsen provides a reasonable critique of personas: They are most useful when they focus on a product’s painpoints, as well as the motivations that inform a hypothetical customer’s decisions about using or adopting a product. While demographic attributes could be helpful if a team intends to target a particular market segment, they are much less useful than considering customers’ expertise, knowledge, motivations, and attitudes.


The Lean Product Playbook provides a useful overview of product-management methods and even introduces some interesting methods for appraising user experiences within the contexts of markets and business strategy. Olsen does a good job of describing the various aspects of product management, while respecting the value that the different disciplines that participate in the product-design process contribute. 

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