What is it?
A product framework is a document that defines our product: what problem the product is solving and its strategy to deliver value. It makes our ambition specific and explicit, by answering questions like: what market are we targeting? what needs are we (not) resolving?
The framework should serve as a foundation for all our product decisions: big and small. It should inspire us: after reading it you should have an idea of what we are out here to build.
While informed by research and development of both the product and its environment, the product definitions are hypotheses. As we learn more, we will edit this document to reflect our learnings.
What is it not?
It’s not our design, our roadmap, or our codebase! The framework informs those things, but is much more high level. It doesn’t contain prioritization, planning or the sequence of things, that we do somewhere else.
Why is it important?
When you're building something, you're as fast as the speed at which you're making decisions. A lot of decisions require a sense of direction from product. When that direction is not clearly defined, it creates a lot of discussion because everyone has a different idea in their heads. This slows us down and makes us inconsistent. It also makes it hard to see which ideas have more merit. Without it, often everything looks worth doing. This will help us decide what is worth the most.
When you know roughly what you're making, work becomes a lot easier and faster.
When we learn something that affects our products' direction, we can update this document. And then see if everything else we do still makes sense.
What does it consist of?
This is flexible. Good documentation is important, but I don’t think more documentation is better. The product framework should be concise and link out to external docs for more information. What the framework must include:
- What problem is our product solving?
- For who?
- What needs around this problem are emphasized?
- How are we solving these issues?
- What is our unique approach here?
- Some common use cases
Can you give an example?
I created a simple example using Slack, because we all use it. I obviously haven’t worked at Slack, so these are assumptions based on the things I’ve seen. We could start with the following things:
The core need what is the job to be done that your product is trying to cater for? e.g: Slack is helping you to keep everyone in the loop at work
We can frame this in different ways, you can also call this “the problem” for example.
Supporting needs what are the pains and gains around this job? which ones are we solving. e.g Gain of using slack: I have a good overview of what is happening in my team
e.g: Pain that slack solves: I don’t know everyone’s e-mail address
Target audience who are we building this for? what are their commonalities? e.g: Slack is focused on knowledge workers. People that work at their desks all day.
Value statement what value is your product providing to the users’ life? e.g: Slack provides a better way to work, by making conversations easier to follow and connected to all the tools you use
What takes/opinions does your product have, what are we promising the user? this doesn’t have to be a long list, can be one thing too.
e.g: Everything is a message wether you’re interacting with apps, people or groups, everything happens through messages.
e.g: Search over Organization instead of forcing users to organize stuff, they should be able to find everything to search. Slack can serve as your file system, but you interact with it in a different way that requires less cognitive load.
e.g: Keyboard first you should be able to operate slack without using your mouse, making it a power tool for its power users.
Optional: Use cases which use cases do we want to support with the product?
Optional: Offering What can you do with our product? what are the key flows/features?
Is this commonly used?
A lot of companies have this in some shape or form, but often it's spread around multiple documents and places. The term "Product Framework" isn't widely adopted. It's a generic term that I’ve seen used at some companies, I’ve also heard people call it a manifesto, or a product description.