Want a killer product? Become more opinionated



“Convention over configuration” means that we should design a feature, API, or an entire product such that the most common user actions require the least number of steps. This is not an argument against configurations; they make a product flexible for a large number of use-cases. Rather, the product should be opinionated about the use-case and persona it is designed for by reducing the number of steps in that user’s flow. Opinionated products are better than flexible products.

WhatsApp vs. Signal

Let’s look at how company strategy influences feature-level conventions by comparing WhatsApp with Signal. They both do the same thing, but they differ in how they do it based on product conventions.

  • Anyone can see when you are online
  • Anyone can add you to a group without your approval
  • Anyone can see when you’ve received or read a message
  • WhatsApp will routinely upload your contacts, even those who do not use WhatsApp.
  • No one can see whether you are online
  • No one can add you to a group without your permission.
  • Signal does not collect any user data except your phone number.

Ant vs. Maven

“Convention over configuration” is not limited to products with a visual UX. For instance, let’s compare two Java build tools: Ant and Maven. I am dating myself with this example; bear with me.

Opinionated People Create Opinionated Products

People create products. If you want to build an opinionated product, hire opinionated product-people. If you are a PM yourself, lean into your opinions.



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