Chapter 3. Product Design

In the previous chapter, you saw how to come up with startup ideas. In this chapter, I’m going to discuss how to design a product around those ideas. In the first half, I’ll explain why design is an essential skill for any profession and introduce a number of tools and techniques that everyone should know. In the second half of the chapter, I’ll focus on the product design process at a startup, which is all about building a minimum viable product (MVP).


As far as the customer is concerned, the interface is the product.

[Raskin 2000, 5], Jeff Raskin, The Humane Interface

For someone browsing the web, Google is a text box and a page of results, and not the bots that crawl the web, the algorithm to rank pages, or the hundreds of thousands of servers in multiple data centers around the world. For someone who needs a ride, Uber is a button on their phone they can push to order a car, and not the real-time dispatch system, the payment processing systems, or all the effort that goes into recruiting drivers and fighting with regulators. And for someone using a smartphone, the iPhone consists of the parts they can see (e.g., the screen), hear (e.g., a caller’s voice), and touch (e.g., a button), and not the GSM, WiFi, and GPS radios, the multi-core CPU, the operating system, the supply chain that provides the parts, or the factories in China that assemble them. To a customer, the design of the product is all that matters.

Joel Spolsky called this The ...

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