How to Run a Product Critique [With Examples]

Learn how to run an effective product critique to improve your product's design, functionality, and user experience. Discover benefits, best practices, and real-world examples.

Master the Art of Running a Successful Product Critique

Running a successful product critique is an essential skill for product managers, designers, and developers. A well-executed critique can lead to valuable insights, improved designs, and a more cohesive team.
In this guide, we will discuss the benefits of a product critique framework, outline a step-by-step process for running an effective session, and share tips for getting the most out of your critique sessions.

What is a Product Critique?

A product critique is a structured review of a product's visual design, functionality, and overall user experience. By gathering constructive feedback from team members and stakeholders, a product critique can offer several benefits.
  • Identifying areas for improvement: A product critique can help uncover potential issues with a product's design, usability, or functionality, allowing the team to address these concerns before they become more significant problems.
  • Encouraging collaboration: A well-structured critique session can promote collaboration among team members by encouraging open discussion, fostering creative problem-solving, and building a shared understanding of the product's goals and requirements.
  • Enhancing product quality: By incorporating constructive feedback from multiple perspectives, a product critique can lead to more informed design decisions, ultimately resulting in a higher-quality product that better meets the needs of its users.

Preparing for a Product Critique

Before diving into a product critique session, it's essential to properly prepare to ensure a productive and efficient meeting.

Here are some key steps to take during the preparation phase:
Establish Objectives
Clearly define the goals of the product critique session. Determine which aspects of the product require feedback, for example the visual design, and what specific questions or concerns need to be addressed. This will help guide the conversation and keep the session focused on the most critical issues.
Select Participants
Choose a diverse group of participants, including product managers, designers, developers, and other stakeholders who can offer unique perspectives and insights.
Aim for a manageable group size, typically between five and ten people, to promote meaningful discussion and avoid overwhelming the session. If there's a usability testing opportunity, selecting the right participants is a great opportunity to see different users' behavior.
Prepare Materials
Gather and organize any relevant materials for the session, such as a design critique template and mockup, prototypes, or user research data. Ensure that participants have access to these materials in advance, so they can familiarize themselves with the product, its visual design, and come prepared to offer thoughtful feedback.

Running an Effective Product Critique

Once you've prepared for the session, it's time to dive into the product critique itself. Follow these steps to ensure a productive and valuable meeting:
Set the Stage
At the beginning of the session, briefly review the goals and objectives of the critique, and remind participants of the specific aspects of the product that are up for discussion.
It's also a great opportunity to remind participants of the product's target market and business objectives. Encourage open, constructive feedback, and set the expectation that all opinions are welcome and valued.
Present the Product
Have the product manager, designer, or another relevant team member present the product, highlighting the key features, user experience, and functionality under review.
This presentation should be concise and focused, providing participants with a clear understanding of the product's current state and the areas in need of feedback.
Facilitate the Discussion
As the facilitator, guide the conversation by asking open-ended questions about the user experience and encouraging participants to share their thoughts, ideas, and concerns. Keep the discussion focused on the objectives established during the preparation phase and ensure that all participants have an opportunity to contribute.
Capture Feedback
During the session, take detailed notes or designate a team member to do so. Capture both positive and negative feedback, as well as any proposed solutions or suggestions for improvement. This documentation will be invaluable when it's time to review the feedback and make updates to the product.
Wrap Up the Session
Once the discussion has concluded, take a moment to summarize the key takeaways and thank participants for their contributions. If necessary, schedule a follow-up meeting to address any unresolved issues or discuss next steps.

Tips for Maximizing the Impact of Your Product Critique

To get the most out of your product critique sessions, keep these tips in mind:
  • Encourage constructive feedback: Remind participants that the goal of the critique is to improve the product, not to criticize individuals or their work. Encourage constructive feedback that focuses on specific issues and offers potential solutions.
  • Promote active listening: Encourage participants to listen carefully to the feedback of others and build on their ideas rather than simply waiting for their turn to speak.
  • Stay objective: As the facilitator, remain neutral and avoid taking sides or defending specific design choices. Your role is to guide the discussion and ensure that all perspectives are heard.
  • Be open to change: Approach the critique session with an open mind, willing to consider new ideas and make changes to the product as needed based on the feedback received.

Product Critique Example

One real-world example of critique evaluation leading to a successful product is the transformation of Instagram. Instagram, initially launched as Burbn, was a location-based app that allowed users to check-in, post plans, and share photos.
However, the founders, Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, soon realized that the app was too cluttered, and users primarily gravitated towards the photo-sharing feature.
How Did They Critique Their Product?
In a product critique, Systrom and Krieger analyzed the user feedback, app usage data, and the competitive landscape. They asked critical questions like:
  1. What user problems are we solving with Burbn, and how do users interact with the app?
  2. Which features are most popular among users, and what are the reasons behind their popularity?
  3. How does Burbn stand out in a saturated market of social networking apps?
  4. What are the risks and trade-offs involved in pivoting or simplifying the app?
Was the Product Critique Effective?
Through this critique, they decided to pivot their product and focus exclusively on photo-sharing. They stripped down the app to its core functionality, allowing users to take photos, apply filters, and share them with their network. In 2010, they rebranded and relaunched the app as Instagram.
This product critique and subsequent pivot helped Instagram become one of the most successful social media platforms globally, with over 1 billion monthly active users as of 2021. The transformation was driven by a clear understanding of user needs and a focused approach to delivering a unique and engaging experience.

In Conclusion

The Instagram story highlights the importance of product critiques in identifying opportunities for improvement, aligning the product with user needs, and adapting to the market landscape.

Systrom and Krieger turned Instagram into a social media powerhouse by continuously evaluating and iterating on their product.

Furthermore, Maven's online classes can help individuals understand the value of product critiques, learn effective evaluation and iteration techniques, and use Instagram's success story as a case study to improve their own product development strategies.
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