Design critique as a PM

We were lucky to have hosted Vindhya as our guest for last week's AMA. She is recognized as Product Manager of the Year by Hacker Noon Awards 2019. Has worked on Next Billion Users, built for India, worked in consumer high growth teams, in SaaS products that focussed on India & products that dabbled outside India too. So let's dive into all the AMA fun!

What is the best designed product that you have come across?

Big fan of everything from Drops. It's very differently designed. It's not a cut-paste of material designs. Great illustration and amazing interactions built-in with the view of what user might do. A language learning app that is pretty different from duo or Babbel. They also have an app called script to learn how to write in the language

What is the design approach you suggest does it change from industry to industry

When you say the design approach, are you asking how to think about design when you are bringing a product to life? The best approach is to mimic what is working out there. Choose a palette that fits your brand and story you want to tell.

Look at patterns that have worked in the industry.

Don't overanalyse and ship something away from current trends because you don't want to stand out immediately but you want to have a specific thing your users associate with hence try and come up with branding over design. There are definitely trends that industries are leaning into Like saas tools usually had more hero images with a heavy illustration.

Neuromorphic is subtly coming back to mobile. Geometric patterns ( check is going places too. Charts now have a linear transition and various interactions(with a boom in fintech) Just check ten brands in your industry the patterns will emerge.

What are the things you've learned in your PM journey that you wish you knew when you started?

I wrote about this -

But apart from that my biggest learning has been that No PM teams have great process & it is always chaotic. Everyone has an opinion in the hindsight but not really while building. I think I also spent too much trying to think of newer strategies when in reality, you just need to framework better rather than do try and be a thought leader.

What are some of the books/podcasts/blogs (online resources) you would recommend?

TBH I read varied amount of things, So this list keeps changing, Right now I listen to  This is product management ( podcast), I'm reading Subscribed (a book on how to make subscriptions work because I consult at The Morning context). My last opened blog read is - so recommend all. I don't believe one channel ever gives you all the answers you need. But I recommend these for now. And more here -

What advice do you have for someone new to Product Management like Associate PMs?

PM is the least sexy job now. Be sure you want it because the core of the job is what you want to do for a long time. If you are just deciding - I would say explore product marketing, sales more - because the more skills you have as PM can definitely be used elsewhere & these fields have no defined leadership yet, so a space to make it up to the top. But even after this you still want to do, I will say - Read all the common books ppl tell you to read & then read more on why this is wrong. No one wants to hear your opinion on Inspired by Marty Cagan, this is done too much. So find contrary opinions to truly grow yourself with an opinion you can now earn. Don't throw jargons to sound smart

What advice would you give to a fresher with 0 experience but a lot of passion for trying to break into PM and what route would you suggest

- Masters


- Wait it out and keep trying

I don't have an MBA & I didn't do masters either?

So biased.

But I would say no PM roles need this. It was a trend maybe 6 years back. No more.

Of course, the easiest path is to go to ISB, IIM and have Msft scoop you. If you have time & money, do it?

I don't think PM is a really difficult space to break into. This I tell you as someone that runs a PM course. It requires you to analyse & think in user terms & with some adjacent skills that you will build. I would say if you are not able to crack an interview, ask HR what the feedback & build on this skill. The only reason you probably aren't able to break in is that you don't know what is "expected" from your answers. There are various blogs/books out there to better you here.

Start with @Suhas Motwani blog on this & @Floydimus blog on this. Very curated resources. If you don't know where to start at all - I would say read How to crack a PM interview. That is what I did.

How do you hone your product sense? If design critique is one way, how do you approach this method?

Product sense is a mind training exercise for sure. Read about redesigns - Check This will give you an insight into how people think of a problem. Write forward-looking features. You will not be 100% right, but do this to improve on yourself. Example - "What should slack build to improve their AppStore"

How does somebody transition to mobile PM and how does someone & gain core competencies there?

Firstly, stop thinking about being a PM that needs transition. IF your core is strong enough you don't essentially need a bridge course to do this. I moved from B2B to B2C, to B2B2C so from experience I don't think there is a rule book to this. But every company you go to has a different way they analyse - Data (for mobile its tools like Mixpanel & in some B2B it's Kibana), Approach to PM ( For B2C/mobile this is usually a combination of user research, interviews & data), Roadmapping ( a combination of competitor analysis, mobile trends & industry movement) - So for these I would say read up Mary meeker trends, analyse most apps in the domain you are applying to, learn how to think about a feature( in terms of users, personas etc. )

How as a PM I can get good at design & position myself as somebody who has experience in design. It’s common feedback I have received for my interviews and major problem I face when asked to do wireframes for a particular product for a take-home assignment

Very interesting question. This is usually the feedback when they don't see depth in your answers. When you think about design as a PM you have to think about Information hierarchy, affordance, practical use case, design <> data match to some extent, and strong inputs. For example, don't say " This colour is not nice" You have to ask yourself why you said that and go back with actionable feedback like - " This colour is not allowing the users to consider this action as primary action btn. We can also see that the copy on this btn is in red which across our app is seen as a warning signal. So the conversions might be affected" Says what you hate, what you think can be improved & why you think that.

How do you go about searching for a role in EU?

Look for companies that intrigue you enough & reach out to the folks there.

Do some excel sheet for this (I don't have one) to see what industries & what people you can talk to. See who will sponsor your visa & have that conversation up front. But also by yourself figure out what visas work for you. EU is a lot friendly than the US so this information is very easy to consume. I had a friend that took a job seeker visa and just hit up ppl saying - "Hey I'm in Berlin, with a valid visa can I come interview" worked well actually.

Have seen many EdTech platforms lure users to the website first & then make them switch to their apps. Kind of currently facing struggle on getting everyone on app, any good reads, resources, apps to get inspiration from etc available on learn more about Web-to-App transitions.

Great Q - These old articles I just went back to!

But specific feedback:

  • work on SEO & ASO, still very nascent on Frontrow.
  • - going here scrolls to teachers vs sticking up on hero image.
  • A/B test the copy to move them app store.
  • When someone taps on a course, prompt to check on app via a modal. ( this will get annoying if too many are done. So put some logic - For NUX, FTE something like that)

When you move someone from one experience to another just prioritise the main action over another. If you are trying to acquire users & also move them this - This is a hard thing to achieve.

What's your take on No code apps. Do you think this would become a mandatory skill to have for PMs in the future?

No. we are far from this unless you are working in zero to one. At stages where you even need a PM you will be at a better scale, so while you should know how they work, in its capabilities right now you won't ship something scalable and usable. Unless you have neither of these having a PM is a waste of your resources.

Which users will you migrate first when you are building an enhanced version of your product? And why?

1) New users 2) Existing users

This depends if we are acquisition phase or retention.

Generally make it work for existing users & then worry new users unless you have a pressing issue.

At TMC we have a new credits thing - Where we give every user free starter credits so you can read anything you want - So we moved new users on this first since they are exploring the website right now & they see the value, older users were dormant and this would not suddenly make them come back so we did this a day later. So go define goals before you take an action.

Curious to know which tools you use for low-fidelity wireframes?

I make everything on Figma. Idk if they are good enough but easier for me to visually see. If I have to quickly mock something on a call - I paper pen or I literally write a doc.

It will have things like


Hero Image ( Carosoul 3 image ) eg image : (link)  ( 68px - HR grtoesk semi bold) - "Give people better education)

CTA - primary action (color pallete - Blue 1) - Join here

CTA - secondary (color pallete - white border 1px ) - Explore more

What are the points to consider while creating a CV for PM role?

  • Show impact, somewhere or take up gigs that can do this for you example

"Helped scale a product community - TPF by helping the team with growth. Grew from 200 people tp 1500 within three months"  PM bits don't have to always be in tech.

  • APM roles are looking for - your understanding of design, product & thinking (its the same for PM also) you generally have same rounds they are just ok if you don't perform greatly well since the expectation is low.
  • For CV I would read -
  • If you have zero connections I would say apply at early-stage startups & tell them a specific problem they might have and how you can take ownership & deliver - This usually at least gets you a conversation. You are also in a community here so if you have a startup in mind maybe you can ask folks here for a connect.

Good luck.

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