Product Manager Skills: Master Prototyping
Fitbit fmr Product Lead on Product Manager Standouts (Part 3)
To be recognized as a product manager who makes a difference, you need to have the pulse of your users. In addition, you need to have a sense of what needs to happen next. The best way to make this happen is to become a master at the prototyping phase. Simply put, this is what will enable your big idea to become the next big thing.
I’ll share a story from Fitbit that illustrates how product managers can make a big idea actually happen. First, we set out to make sure that people were on their feet as much as possible. As a result, our mantra became “sitting is the new smoking” – which sounds extreme, but staying seated for prolonged periods can actually lead to negative health results. For example, your metabolism slows down and you have a much higher risk of cardiovascular disease or diabetes if you don’t move around enough.
With this in mind, we set out to find new ways to encourage Fitbit users to keep moving.
Now, you might think that the majority of Fitbit’s users are very active and workout regularly. Conversely, we found that our users were actually not getting more than 5,000 steps in on a daily basis. Furthermore, we found that our most active users would be relatively inactive for upwards of 12 hours a day after an intense workout. As a result, our goal was to figure out a way to get all of our users to move around once every 30-60 minutes. Based on proven science, the sweet spot for daily activity is taking 250 steps several times a day.
As a product manager, you should know that customer empathy and user sentiment means everything to the success of your product. In the case of Fitbit, we only needed to look at popular topics on our forum to understand what our users wanted. The number two most-requested feature was an “activity reminder” or “idle alert” to ensure that our users kept moving regularly.
Today, most people are very comfortable with their wearables “reminding” them of what to do.
That said, it might surprise you to know that the executive team pushed back on this idea. From their perspective, the introduction of reminders would highlight a negative aspect of the user’s daily routine. In other words, they didn’t want Fitbit to represent a product that demotivated or punished users for not moving around.
With this in mind, we had to figure out the best way to graphically illustrate a user’s activity. We experimented with several prototypes and found that standard graphs or heat maps were very jarring for users. Simply put, it’s not very satisfying to see a dropoff in your activity. Ultimately, we found that users like challenges that fit into their schedule. As a result, we built a series of badges that rewarded users for accomplishing goals that aligned with when they wanted to actually move around.
In the end, you can’t get your steps in at every meeting or when you’re in the car. Instead, you have to adapt to your user’s preferences to deliver an experience that provides delight and positive reinforcement.