ProductFTW #17: For Whom Are You Building

I love upgrading my software. As someone building software professionally, I am eager to see what everyone else is working on. My eagerness to upgrade is often to my detriment, as early versions often contain bugs or some major change by the developer that isn’t to my liking.

Man with a computer
That's exactly what I look like when this happens.

Last week, I upgraded my Zoom app to their new major version, 6.0, and found myself thinking about both bad upgrades (this was one) and the choices PMs make for their business that can conflict with their users.

To be fair to the PMs at Zoom, I have no data about Zoom user behavior and assume other people are like me. It’s 100% possible I am the anomaly. 

I spend a lot of my day on Zoom. As a consultant who advises CEOs on building complex fintech products and coaches leaders, I spend a lot of my day talking to clients. If I’m not doing that, I might be talking to potential platform providers who can help build solutions for my clients. Either way, there are a lot of back-to-back Zoom meetings.

Screenshot of the Zoom 5.x Meetings tab
The old Zoom, look at this lovely meetings tab

The old Zoom home screen would show you your current meeting with a Start or Join button and usually your next meeting. You could click “see today’s meetings” to see what was coming up. I found this feature useful because I often needed to jump to a meeting while another was in progress or wanted to start something a minute early, lest I forget.

Screenshot of Zoom 6.0 home tab
The new Zoom, clicking on this link should take me to that last view, but it no longer does.

The new Zoom only shows me one current meeting. If I click to see more meetings, I am taken to a new calendar tab from my home screen. I already have a calendar app called Vimcal. If not, I might just load Google Calendar. While I have Zoom connected to Google to show me my meetings, it is not because I want a third calendar app.

The Zoom Calendar tab
Now, I get this calendar view. It's not great and takes a bunch of customization to get here.

Here’s the conversation I imagine going on at Zoom:

Business Leader: “We should get more people to use our calendar. If they do, our app will be stickier. Also, we have that Calendly knock-off feature no one is using. People will use us as the one calendar/scheduling/meeting app to rule them all, and we’ll make loads of money on retention and upgrades.”
PM: “Okie-dokie, I can force people to look at that page.”

In contrast, in most meetings I attend, the person on the other side jumps from meeting to meeting. I have discussed the #1 feature we actually want in Zoom, which is a button that doesn’t just say “End” or “Leave” a meeting but “End and Go to Next Meeting” so easily. I love Zoom. I am already sticky. I want to use my home screen. I want to jump from meeting to meeting. I also sometimes want to join a meeting 1, 2, or 3 minutes early or while I am already in another meeting. Either way, I don’t want to have to find the app after leaving a meeting and then figure out how to go to the calendar and click a bunch of times to get a new join button (I did reduce this by switching my calendar view settings to agenda from grid).

I’m singling out Zoom, but I have often felt as a user that product managers are allowing a decision that appears to be good for the business to override a decision that is good for the user. We should build user-centric solutions that align with our users' needs. When users love our product, they stick around, renew, and refer. The best products are user-focused, and the business follows (within reason; I mean, users also want everything to be free).

I am sure that I have been guilty of this myself, as well. As a PM, we often have broader goals that the user isn’t aware of and try to drive people to those functions. You can’t force it; you must listen to your users!

To pick on myself for a moment, I had a grand vision for my Wallaby app that people could use for card management: rewards maximization, fee avoidance, or cash flow optimization. We spent lots of cycles on making this obvious and educating users. What Wallaby users wanted was reward maximization, which was pure and simple. We should have gone to meet our users where they were, not tried to drag them where we wanted them to be.

Software Architecture Guide

My brother is a highly-accomplished software architecture leader with a career that spans early-stage scientific software, two decades at Adobe, and his current leadership role at Autodesk. He published his first book this week: Effective Software Architecture: Building Better Software Faster. I am biased, but I have my hands on a copy and recommend it to all engineering and product leaders!

About ProductFTW

ProductFTW is a weekly newsletter about product management with a focus on real-life experiences in startups. We want to help product leaders be successful by giving realistic approaches that aren't for giant tech companies. We know you don't have a full-time product designer on each team. We know your software probably hasn't been used by millions worldwide yet. We're here to bridge the content gap from building your product and team to scaling it.

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