In this article, we’ll teach you all we need to know to answer product improvement questions.
A product improvement question is meant to evaluate your ability to think in a structured manner, in an ambiguous environment. Its main goal is to determine if you can discover your users’ pain points and address them with meaningful product improvement ideas.
Check out My Product Mentor if you want to know more about how to answer other types of questions and to prepare for interviews, as well as learn about mentoring which is the best way to advance your career as a PM.
1. Describe the Product
Your first task is to make sure that you have the right understanding of the product and what it does.
Spend a few seconds to describe the product and how it works. If you’re unfamiliar with the product, ask the interviewer if your understanding of it is accurate.
2. Clarify the Scope of the Question
This is your chance to narrow down the scope of the question by asking clarification questions.
For example, if the question is how would you improve Gmail, you can ask what they mean by improvement. Does it refer to more usage or revenue or something else, or can you make your assumptions?
You can also ask them, is there any particular platform they have in mind. The interviewer might answer your questions or they might say you can make your assumptions.
For the Gmail example, let’s assume that you’ve decided to focus on mobile since mobile users are growing rapidly.
3. Choose a Goal
Use this step as a way to narrow down the scope of the question even further.
You can do this as part of step two if you’ve asked the interviewer if they have a particular goal in mind or you can pick your own goal if they don’t have a suggestion.
If you’re choosing the goal explain the reasoning behind it. Some goals you might focus on are increasing revenue, the number of active users, usage, engagement, or retention.
In the Gmail example, let’s say that our goal is to drive usage of the product.
4. List User Groups
You will want to highlight the different user groups of the product that you’re improving. It’s important to remember that user groups should be distinct from each other and have unique characteristics
Let’s consider the Gmail example: Power Users and Young Adults are not two distinct user groups, but Power Users, Casual Users, and Occasional Users are three distinct user groups that you can highlight.
It’s also a good idea to describe each of these user groups in some detail.
For example, you can describe the GML power user as someone who checks their emails and sends and receives emails multiple times a day. They use their phone more than a desktop to check their emails. They care about efficiency and productivity, and they’re usually a young professional and have a newer phone that helps them be more productive.
By contrast, a casual user checks their email once or maybe twice a day, they don’t send and receive as many emails as a power user.
Finally, an occasional user is someone who checks their email once every few days and they send and receive very few emails. They usually use a desktop to check their emails and are usually someone who’s less tech-savvy.
5. Select One User Group
Here you should focus on addressing the needs of a particular user group with meaningful solutions.
For the Gmail example, let’s say we chose Power Users because they’re always looking for new features that make their lives better and are active on mobile.
6. Describe User Pain Points
This is your chance to show the interviewer that you empathize with the users of the product and can describe their pain points effectively.
Before listing the pain points, feel free to ask for a minute to think about them. One way to come up with a list of pain points is to think about the user journey from beginning to end – by doing so you can quickly think of pain points that the users will have when they interact with the product.
For the Gmail example, here are a few pain points that come to mind:
- They receive too many emails every day so they constantly determine which email deserves their immediate attention and which one doesn’t
- They worry about being late in responding to important emails.
- It takes a long time to type emails on their phone
- Their phone battery dies quickly because they use their phone for emails during the day.
An important aspect which you should keep in mind is to avoid mixing pain points with solutions. Remember that you’re still not solving problems at this stage.
For example, the fact that users must be able to type emails faster is a pain point, but enabling pre-typed answers is a solution that you do not want to discuss at this time.
7. Prioritize Pain Points
You should prioritize your pain points based on some meaningful criteria, such as impact to the user or potential value to the company.
For the Gmail example, let’s say that we focus on the following two pain points that we consider our most severe
- constantly trying to figure out the priority of emails
- spending too much time typing
8. List your Product Improvement Ideas
This is where you brainstorm a few product improvement ideas to address the pain points that you’ve prioritized. It’s your chance to showcase your ability to think creatively about new and practical ideas and make your products better.
When describing your ideas, try to present at least five solutions and include a couple of out-of-the-box ideas that present your ability to take a variety of approaches.
For example, let’s say that our product improvement ideas are either an A.I. tool that auto-prioritizes emails based on the user’s historical time to respond, or the ability for a Gmail user to flag emails as urgent before sending them.
You could also introduce a few gestures as shortcuts that prototype a user’s preselected or pre-typed answers or enable Gmail to gather information about unknown people by including links to their LinkedIn profiles to save time for the email recipient.
9. Prioritize your Solutions
Again here you should showcase your ability to prioritize your various ideas by evaluating them using some meaningful criteria such as impact to the user, implementation, cost, or time to develop. After your evaluation, you can prioritize your solutions.
For example, let’s say you decide that creating shortcut gestures offers significant benefit to the Power Users and its implementation cost is not that significant so we decide to move forward with that.
Note that you don’t have to come up with one particular solution as your prioritized solution – it’s OK to prioritize multiple ideas, but you should disregard the ones you have decided are not a high priority.
10. Define Metrics to Measure Success
You need to define metrics to measure the success of your product improvement ideas.
In some cases, the interviewer asked you to think of a couple of metrics that help you measure the impact of the changes that you’re proposing. If you’re asked to provide a metric pick one primary metric and a couple of secondary metrics to showcase your analytical skills.
For our example, you can say that the number of users who use the shortcut gestures every month is a great way to measure the effectiveness of a new feature. And secondary metrics could be the number of users who try this for the first time per month or counting the number of emails sent and received per user who’s adopted this feature and comparing that to a user group that has not adopted this feature.
11. Summarize the Answer
If there is time, provide a quick summary of the answer by going over the initial goal you selected, the user group you focused on, the pain points for that particular user group that was prioritized, and the solution or solutions that you’ve chosen to implement.
We’ve gone through all the steps you need to take to successfully answer product improvement questions.
If you’re practicing for a job interview, make sure you check out our guide on product manager interviews as well as look into mentoring, which is by far the best way to maximize your preparation time and ensure you have the highest chance of success of getting your desired PM job.