Product launches are daunting. Hours upon hours of brainstorming, designing, prototyping, and testing go into creating something, so naturally, you want it to be a hit. But the risks are huge: roughly 95% of new products fail. So how do you lower your chances of releasing a dud? That’s where product critique comes in.
By taking the time to evaluate and analyze your product, you can spot its strengths and weaknesses and make informed decisions based on data. Not only does this improve the quality of your existing product — it also informs future product development and increases your chances of success.
In this article, we’ll walk you through how to do a product critique, step by step. We’ll cover everything from gathering feedback, to tips and tricks, to identifying opportunities to take your product to the next level. Whether you’re a seasoned developer or just starting out, this guide is for you. Let’s get started!
What is a product critique?
At its core, a product critique is a process of evaluating and analyzing a product to identify its strengths and weaknesses. You can do this at any stage of the development cycle, from ideation to post-launch.
During your product critique, you’ll gather feedback from various sources, such as users, stakeholders, and team members. You’ll then use that data to make decisions about the product. This feedback takes many shapes — from surveys, usability tests, and focus groups to customer feedback left on social media.
The aim of the game is to learn more about your users and their needs. This includes understanding who the product is for, what problem it solves, and how it fits into the market. With this information in mind, you can evaluate the product’s features, design, and functionality to determine how well it meets the needs of its intended audience.
As well as being an essential part of product development, a product critique is also a common interview tool for product designer roles. Typically, the candidate will have to analyze a product and then offer feedback and strategies for improvements, showcasing their objective evaluation skills to the best of their ability.
Why are product critiques important?
Every product developer wants something that’s a hit. The best way to achieve that is to make something that answers your customers’ needs better than anything else on the market. And the best way to do that? Listen to your users. Their approval can literally make or break your company.
First and foremost, product critiques let you gather a wide range of feedback from various sources, including users, stakeholders, and team members. This feedback is incredibly valuable in helping you identify areas where your product excels, as well as areas that could use improvement.
By listening to your users, you gain insight into how they are using your product, what they like and dislike about it, and what improvements they would like to see. This information helps you create a better user experience and ultimately leads to higher customer satisfaction.
Types of product critiques
There are a few different approaches to product critiques, depending on what you’re trying to achieve.
One approach is to conduct a usability test, for example, a cognitive walkthrough. Usability tests involve observing users as they interact with your product and collecting real-time feedback on their experience. You can do this in person or remotely using software that records user interactions. These kinds of tests are especially useful for identifying areas where users are having difficulty with your product, such as confusing interfaces or hard-to-find features.
Focus groups are another popular option. These involve gathering a small group of users to discuss your product and provide feedback in a meeting-style setting. They’re great for gathering qualitative feedback on your product.
Surveys are another option for gathering large amounts of data at a low cost. But remember, your answers are only as good as the questions you ask, and you might not get as full and detailed a response as you would in a focus group or user testing situation. For this reason, surveys are best when paired with a qualitative method.
Steps for a successful product critique
No matter what approach you take, there are a few key stages to conducting an effective product critique:
1. Define your goals
Do you want to identify areas where your product could be improved? Are you trying to gather feedback on a specific feature or aspect of your product? Are you testing the waters before launching something new? Defining your goals will focus your critique and make the most of your time.
2. Identify your audience
Who are you trying to gather feedback from? Identifying your audience will help you tailor your critique to their needs and ensure that you’re gathering feedback from the right people.
3. Create a plan
Once you’ve defined your goals and identified your audience, create a plan for how you’ll gather feedback. This could involve scheduling usability tests, creating surveys, or gathering a focus group. Make sure you define processes for data collection, analysis, and storage, right down to the tools and naming conventions you’ll use.
4. Gather feedback
The wider you spread the net, the more comprehensive (and accurate) your feedback will be. Aim for a range of sources, including users, stakeholders, and team members. This will help you get a well-rounded view of your product.
5. Analyze your findings
Once you’ve gathered feedback, it’s time to analyze it. Look for patterns or common themes in the feedback you’ve received (turning data into visual diagrams is a good idea here), and identify areas where your product could use improvement.
6. Take action
Finally, take action based on your findings. Use the feedback you’ve gathered to make informed decisions about how to improve your product and prioritize changes that will have the biggest impact on the user experience.
Questions to ask during your product critique
The types of questions you ask in your product critique have a huge impact on the quality of answers you will receive. Here are some examples of effective questions to ask users during your product critique:
- How did you hear about our product?
- How would you summarize our product in a sentence?
- How would you describe the overall feeling surrounding our product?
- Was it easy to sign up/get started?
- Did you understand what our product was about right away?
- How did using our product make you feel?
- Was the explanatory information helpful or long-winded?
- Did you skip any of the sign-up/onboarding tips? If yes, why? Were they helpful?
- How easy was our product to use? Did it feel easy to navigate?
- Were there any features you particularly liked/didn’t like?
- Did you enjoy using our product?
- How long did you spend using it?
- Do you predict you’ll still be using our product a year from now? If not, why?
- How often have you used our product?
- Would you recommend our product to friends? If not, why?
- How does it compare to similar offerings?
- Has your perception changed since your initial assessment?
- Is there anything else you’d like to share about your experience with this product?
Questions for designers, developers, and stakeholders:
- What are the main features of the product? Are they meeting the needs of our target audience?
- What problem is our product solving?
- What is the value proposition?
- What is our target market?
- Is the product easy to use and navigate? Are there any areas where users are struggling?
- What do users like most about the product? What do they dislike?
- How does our product compare to our competitors? What are our strengths and weaknesses in the market?
- Are there any technical issues or bugs that need to be addressed?
- Does our product comply with design and interaction principles?
- How does it align with our business goals and objectives?
- Are there any opportunities to improve the user experience, such as adding new features or improving existing ones?
- Are there any opportunities to improve the design or branding of the product?
- How can we use the feedback we’ve gathered to prioritize changes and improvements?
When to run a product critique
Ideally, you should run a product critique whenever you have a new product or feature that you want to get feedback on. It’s better to get feedback as early as possible, so you can make any changes before launching.
It’s also a good idea to run one when you’re planning a major update to your product. It’s important to know how your users feel about your product before you make any big changes so you don’t risk alienating your user base.
You may also want to consider running a product critique if you’re experiencing a drop in user engagement or if you’re seeing a lot of negative reviews. A product critique can help you identify the issues that are causing users to lose interest in your product or leave negative feedback.
The bottom line? It’s a good idea to run a product critique on a regular basis, especially if you’re in a rapidly changing industry. By gathering feedback from your users, you can stay ahead of the competition and make sure your product stays relevant.
What to avoid when running a product critique
We all want to receive feedback that’s constructive, honest, and helpful. But unfortunately, not all critiques are created equal. Here are a few characteristics to avoid when running your critique, so you can optimize your chances of receiving the most useful feedback possible.
A critique that’s biased doesn’t provide an accurate representation of your product. Perception biases, for example, can come from personal opinions, emotions, or other external factors that have nothing to do with the product itself. To overcome this, try to get feedback from a diverse group of users and encourage them to be as objective as possible.
A critique that’s untimely can be frustrating because it doesn’t address current issues or concerns. If you wait too long to ask for feedback, you may miss opportunities to improve your product. To overcome untimeliness, set up a regular schedule for product critiques, and stick to it.
A critique that’s selfish doesn’t take into account the needs and preferences of your wider group of users. If you’re only focused on what you want or need, you may miss out on important feedback. To overcome this, make sure you’re asking questions that are relevant to your users, and take their feedback seriously — even if it’s not what you want to hear.
When it comes to your interviewees, encourage them to be alert to highly personal factors that aren’t relevant to their assessment. For example, a user who reports not liking a particular shade of green because it reminds them of their ex isn’t providing useful feedback. On the other hand, one who doesn’t like this aspect because it’s difficult to read is. For this reason, encourage users to share their reasoning with their response rather than simply a yes or no. Not only does this help you sort relevant feedback from irrelevant; but it also helps you prioritize according to urgency.
If you only seek feedback from people who already love your product, you may miss out on valuable insights from users who have different experiences and perspectives. To overcome preferential feedback, try to reach out to a diverse group of users and encourage them to share their honest opinions, even if they’re critical.
A critique that’s incomplete can be confusing and unhelpful because it doesn’t provide enough detail or context to be actionable. To overcome incomplete feedback, make sure you’re asking specific questions that prompt users to give detailed answers. Follow up with additional questions if necessary to get a clearer understanding.
6 tips for a successful product critique
Now that we’ve covered the characteristics of a bad critique let’s focus on some best practices and tips for running a successful session:
1. Be clear about its purpose
Keep your eyes on the prize…and make sure everyone else does, too. Ensure all involved understand why you’re doing it and what you hope to achieve. This will help you gather feedback that’s relevant and helpful.
2. Choose the right participants
Make sure you choose people who represent your target audience. This will ensure you’re getting feedback from the people who will actually be using your product.
3. Use a structured approach
This helps you cover all the important bases. This could involve using a checklist of questions, breaking down the product into specific features, or using a standardized feedback form.
4. Encourage honesty and transparency
Make it clear that you want honest feedback, even if it’s negative. Encourage participants to be transparent and share their thoughts and opinions openly.
5. Follow up on feedback
Once you’ve collected your data, make sure you take the time to review it carefully and follow up with participants if necessary. This will help you address any issues or concerns that were raised during the critique.
6. Use the right tools for the job
Using the right tools can greatly improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your product critique. Project management software helps you organize your critique and keep track of feedback and action items, while online diagramming tools help you visualize data and provide clear and concise explanations of changes. These tools can be particularly useful when conducting remote critiques, as they can help keep everyone on the same page, wherever they’re located, no matter what time zone they’re in.
Product critiques are an essential aspect of evaluating and analyzing your product. By seeking out constructive criticism and feedback, you can identify areas for improvement and make the necessary changes, ensuring your product is set up for success.
Neglecting critiques, on the other hand, can result in a product that fails to meet expectations and ultimately loses customers. Incorporating product critiques into the product development process plays a key part in building a product that is not only successful but also sustainable in the long run.