Deep Dive into Product Sense

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What is Product Sense and how I can get it?

In my first article, I gave a high level overview of the three key areas a Product Manager needs to master in order to be a great PM. One of those areas is Product Sense.

To provide you with more clarity on what Product Sense is, I will first break this topic down into two smaller components: User Empathy and Design Thinking. Then I will provide advice drawn from my own experiences so that you may have tactical steps on how to train yourself at this.

Let’s start with understanding what Product Sense is. In my experience, Product Sense is an intuition that product managers build up over time, experience, and domain knowledge that lets them make product decisions correctly. Decisions that include design trade-offs and feature prioritization. Essentially, product sense is just an industry jargon that refers to a person’s ability to know their product’s users and domain so deeply that they can build an effective product to address user needs.

With this definition, I want to explain why User Empathy and Design Thinking is so important to honing your Product Sense. First, User Empathy allows you to effectively jump into the shoes of your users, go through their user journey, and understand their pain points. And second, Design Thinking would allow you to creatively think of potential solutions for user pain points and then use tried and true design principles to ensure that the solutions you are building for your users are useful, easy to use, and elegant.

From my experience, I have found these exercises extremely helpful in training my User Empathy and Design Thinking.

User Empathy

  • Take some of your favorite products and identify the different types (or segments) of users
  • Imagine yourself to be one of these segments and walk through their user journey either in your mind or on paper
  • As you walk through the user journey, think about what potential user pain points can come up

As an example:

For Youtube, on a high level, there are two different users: Creator and Watcher.

If I were to step into the shoes of an existing Youtube Creator going through the new video upload flow, I may go through this user journey:

  1. Sign in to Youtube
  2. Go to my channel page
  3. Click upload video button
  4. Select the video to upload from my computer
  5. Wait for the video to fully upload
  6. Add video description, photo, and relevant search tags.
  7. Confirm video upload

Throughout this user journey, as a Youtube Creator, I may encounter pain points such as waiting for a long duration during upload, not knowing what are the most relevant search tags, or uploading not from a computer but from a file storage service like Dropbox or Google Drive.

With the user pain points now in mind, you can go through a Design Thinking exercise by thinking of potential solutions for what you think would be the most important pain point to address. You can push yourself to think of as many solutions as possible within 1 minute and then down select to one single recommendation with clear reasons for why this is your final recommendation.

Take whichever solution you downselect to and do a quick sketch or mockup of what it would look like. During this mockup process, try to push yourself to come up with a quick design that follows these three high level design principles:

Design Thinking

  • Useful to the users by effectively addressing the core user need
  • Easy to use by ensuring the design is intuitive and fits within standard mental models
  • Elegant by showing consideration for aesthetics

I hope this article will prove to be a useful resource for honing your Product Sense. During my past recruiting experiences, I would easily do 2–3 of these exercises per week to keep my product sense from being rusty.

If you are curious about more resources on Product Sense, feel free to check out these helpful links as well:




Product builder. Curious learner.

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Alan Chen

Alan Chen

Product builder. Curious learner.

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