Diamond Processing for Product Managers

Make your products shine by cutting the excess and taking the time to polish the user experience

Make your products shine by cutting the excess and taking the time to polish the user experience

When ring shopping for my now fiancé, I learned a bunch about diamonds. In particular, that it’s common to discard more than 50% of a raw diamond to get the best possible finished stone. I also learned that the final polishing stages (including the more intricate cuts and angles) are crucial to the end result.

I see two critical lessons for product managers. Most big ideas require you to throw away aspects to get to the core value and brilliance. Secondly, without proper polishing, you can’t showcase the qualities of the work and instead hide the brilliance under easily resolved flaws.

Let’s look a little closer. It’s easy to overcook a product and add layer upon layer of functionality and features to the point where the noise crowds out the best parts. When you find your product has grown to this point, you’ll want to discard the unnecessary features (there’s another product snack on this).

It’s possible (and necessary) to also take a sharp knife to your features during discovery. As Einstein put it, “If you cannot explain it simply, you do not understand it well enough.” Like in writing, the simpler solution tends to be the better solution.

This usually isn’t about removing unnecessary functionality for a good product manager — you’ll do that anyway. Often, it’s about simplifying the user experience and user flow, for example, taking non-critical elements out of the core experience and nesting them inside an “advanced” panel.

When shipping product, the polishing metaphor applies to the nice-to-have details that often get left on the cutting room floor of a fast-moving startup. Commonly, it’s interactions and UI details that the designer worked tirelessly to develop, but that can save development time if left out.

I’ll admit, in my experience, these tradeoffs are necessary (in a high-growth startup). Make these compromises thoughtfully, and above all — actually circle back and pay down the UX debt.

For big projects, be sure to spend time both cutting and polishing your diamonds.