Instagram's Mike Krieger on Product Design

Mike Krieger from Instagram wrote an interesting piece at the 500 Startups’ Warm Gun Conference he called ‘Eight Principles of Product Design’ that follow nicely with Human Centered Design and the Lean Startup Methodology. He discussed how product developers can’t just do a few Google searches to try and understand their market. It’s critical that you spend time with customers, showing empathy to derive insights, themes and stories. Sounds an awful lot like HCD, no? What that means is that next time you want to get disruptive in the world of couponing, you better spend sometime at someone’s kitchen table watching them work their way through the Sunday paper.


Here are Krieger’s Eight principles for product design:


  • Draw On Previous Experience and Understanding 
    • When you are looking to develop a new product or business, first look to the areas you know best. It’s a bit like the Peter Lynch school of investing. Chase those ideas you’re passionate about and ensure you’re knowledgeable about the space.
  • Have A Hypothesis About How You’re Different
    • When you give your pitch, it’s pretty likely that someone will identify competitors that you’ll be gunning against. Figure out how you stack up, and why your product/business is different (and better)
  • Never Build Without Sketching
    • Before you start coding and throwing loads of capital at a solution, be sure you spend equal amounts of time sketching and prototyping. You’ll be happy you spent 3 hours drawing out your ideas and showing them people if you can avoid 3 hours of coding.
  • Learn In Weeklong Increments
    • If you start with a hypothesis, as any Lean Startup entrepreneur would, tackle it in small bites. Figure out one problem or hypothesis you’re going to test each week and take it on. Derive facts, make conclusions, and keep learning.
  • Validate In Social Situations
    • So you think you have a good idea? Check it by trying to tell friends at a bar. If you can’t tell a coworkers about it without getting weird or confusing, consider a new idea.
  • Know When It’s Time To Move On
    • As Krieger said, “I know ‘pivot’ has become a dirty word, but if there’s no unanswered questions left, then it’s time to move on.” It’s really that simple, pivoting doesn’t mean failure, so don’t ignore data that tells you that the problem isn’t real, or the market isn’t big enough.
  • The Wizard Of Oz Techniques For Social Prototyping
    • One of the beauties of the Lean Startup methodology is that you don’t need a full-fledged working product to do testing. Build the MVP and serve a bit of time as the ‘man behind the curtain.’ If your solution requires automation, consider pulling the levers and getting the work done manually to start. 
  • Build And Maintain A Constant Stream Of Communication With Your Audience
    • Going back to the first concept, be sure that you’re maintaining close ties with your audience. It’s not uncommon for people to tell you that something would be valuable, or that they’d use it. Maintain a close relationship with them and ensure that they are still interested in what you’re selling.