Product Thinking for UX & UI Designers

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What is product thinking?

The first time I saw the term “product thinking” was on Meta’s product design internship posting a few months ago.

I had no idea what it means.

Thus, I wanted to do some research and understand what it means. And now, I'll share what I’ve learned about product thinking.

Disclaimer: Check out the article “The Power of Product Thinking” written by Julie Zhuo, former VP of Design at Facebook. A lot of what I wrote here is from this article.

According to Julie Zhuo, here’s the simplest way to define product thinking:

The skill of knowing what makes a product useful - and loved - by people.

But product thinking is more than a skill.

It’s a habit, an eye, a mindset.


Because the very best product thinkers are voracious about understanding why things work. It’s a mindset they embrace. They seek to understand the broader question of why a product might or might not work for a broader set of people. And the urge to understand why things work may lead one to study:

Cool... but what kinds of questions do product thinkers ask?

Great question. Let’s delve into that.

Key concepts

Product thinking mindset questions

Here are the types of questions that get at the product thinking mindset:

  • Critique Product X — which decisions seem the most responsible for its success? Why?
  • How would you help Product X win over Audience Y if you were its leader?
  • Take Problem Z … What would you design to solve it?

(NOT) product thinking mindset questions

And here are the types of questions that DON’T get at the product thinking mindset:

  • What’s your favorite product?
  • How should Product X decide how much money to charge for Service Y?
  • How would you explain Product Z to a five-year-old?

To get you started

According to Julie, there are two main ways to develop your product thinking skills:

  1. Observations - surface-level understanding
  2. Inquiry - deeper level understanding

Develop observations

Observation is paying attention to people’s reactions when they encounter a product or service.

To develop observations, Julie breaks this down into three steps:

  1. Observe yourself
  2. Observe those around you
  3. Observe the world’s reaction

Let’s break them down one by one.

Observing yourself

Oftentimes, the easiest way to start is to observe yourself.

Thus, for example, next time you’re using an app, ask yourself questions like:

  • When do I feel delighted by this?
  • When do I feel annoyed when using this?
  • How can I make this better?

Observing others

After you build up the previous mindful habit, you can start to observe other people’s reactions. Ask yourself:

  • What’s their feedback about the product I recommended
  • When do they complain?

Observing the world

Lastly, observe the world’s reaction. Ask yourself:

  • What are the reviews saying?
  • What differentiates this product from those of its competitors?

Develop inquiry

Inquiry is asking the “why” behind your observations. Here are some ways to understand the “why” and build up your knowledge base:

  • Reading books about human thinking/behavior
  • Dissecting cultural phenomena through articles, discussions, blogs
  • Soliciting customer feedback in the process of building products
  • Asking others why they have the reactions they do

Build a product

Learning is one thing. Applying what you learn is another.

And what’s the best way to apply product thinking?

Build a product yourself or with other people!

Now, for future reference, when thinking about products, here is a handy template you should be able to fill out:

what is your product template

A quick rule of thumb

At this point, we went through quite a bit. So if you want a quick rule of thumb to proactively develop your product thinking, try the following suggested by Julie:

  1. Every week, try at least one new product, feature, or service.
  2. Every week, have at least one conversation or reflection about how a specific product decision impacts its intended audience.


If you take one thing from this article, it’s this:

If you want to develop product thinking, be voracious about understanding “why” things work.

Don’t take everything for granted. And start today by observing how you interact with the products you use. Be mindful and analytical.

And if you’re curious about building products, here are some more links to check out:

And that’s a wrap!

Thank you for being awesome and reading this far! :)

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out on LinkedIn, Twitter, or by email. Will love to set up a casual call and chat!

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