Four letters, months of work to define them, already valuable to take key product decisions. We, Product People at Yousign, are glad to introduce you to our Product Principles.
Here is the story of their creation, written by Amélie, Marion, Antoine & Christopher.
What are Product Principles?
Product Principles are a set of guidelines setting the standard for all our product-related decisions.
They can be described by sentences or just one word, you can have a lot of them or a few of them (spoiler alert: the less you have, the better it will be reminded).
They are not a description of the Attitude of the Product Team (for example, over-communicate is a team principle) but a description of what is truly important when building your product and taking all kinds of product decisions.
Why do we build Product Principles?
My obsession, for the scale of our team, is Autonomy. We need to create the right context to let the team take the right decisions. And as Product People, we know we have to take SO MANY decisions every day.
Product Principles are meant to give autonomy to the teams, to let them know what is important for our product and what is not. They should guide every decision, whether big or small.
Fun fact, as a Product Leader, Yousign is the first place where I’ve explicitly stated principles. In my previous experience, I didn't use them as all the Product Leaders were trained by me and so Product Principles were part of the informal training. People within the team knew whether we valued speed over quality for example.
At Yousign, the context is quite different. The team is growing faster than ever (from 10 to 20 within months). We are also working on several products (API, App, Diversification). Without strong principles, we would have two futures:
- The first option, the Frankenstein's monster: all product people taking their own decisions, resulting in a product with no coherence.
- The second option, the decision bottleneck: all decisions need to go through the Product Leaders as we don't have the right framework to decide.
To avoid it, we started working on Product Principles with Antoine Visonneau, our Design Director. The first version was a looooooong list (more like a book, 10+ principles with long sentences) and that's where Antoine started to make his magic and helped us define them. Marion Ravut, our Product Marketing Lead, joined Antoine on the journey!
What are our Product Principles?
We learn from our users - We deliver value fast to get feedback and improve quickly. We value speed over sophistication and go for the lowest development effort to ensure the quickest time to market.
We match the effort to the impact - We set up the right metrics, track to evaluate success and iterate if needed. All based on data-informed decisions
We support growth - We deliver user-friendly features accessible to all and usable in total autonomy, ensuring they’re developed in a Product Led Growth mindset.
We do not compromise - User experience is our strength, whatever the feature, we deliver value and quality with a simple and functional, yet emotional design.
Principles definition: an iterative process
1 - Catch all the good ideas
The initial intention was to stop repeating the same things again and again, so we first compiled ideas and decisions that were in the air. Soon enough, this list grew a lot and had a bit of everything: how we work, how to structure screens, how to organize Figma files… so the first step was to separate high-level principles (applicable to the full product team) from lower-level guidelines (such as Figma file structure).
2 - Get feedback
We received a lot of good insights from the team: ideas for additional principles, feedback and references (design principles from other startups). For example, it was reassuring to see that Figma’s team made several iterations before reaching the final result: 3 beautiful principles, well written, on a nice typographic poster. That was inspiring.
3 - Make it short & memorable
At that time our list was 10 items long, hard to remember and somehow… boring. We decided that the principles should form an acronym. This would force us to make it short and memorable. We all agreed on the SIGN acronym, as it would carry our DNA, making it easy to remember. With only 4 letters, it forced us to remove everything that was not necessary and keep only the essence of how we build products at Yousign.
We felt we could further progress on the copywriting, as our wording had turned awkward, due to successive iterations and cuts. This is why we asked for help from Marion and her legendary writing skills.
Wording is key
Once the Product principles were defined, we needed to ensure that all Product team members would not only understand them but also easily remember them and apply them. This is where Product Marketing comes in.
It's not just about describing our principles, it’s about making them accessible and explaining how they apply to any decision we’re making every day, in the clearest, most concise and most memorizable way possible.
How? With two simple things for each principle.
A powerful, short catchphrase
Each catchphrase is an affirmation of the principle, a guideline, which systematically begins with "We". The idea with this "We" is first to gather all the Product people behind each principle so that everyone can identify with it. Then, this "We" shows we are in action; we are the actors of these Product principles, let's not be afraid to make them our own.
One sentence, applicable in all contexts
It is important to illustrate how each principle can be adapted in a concrete way to the different subjects managed by Product people at Yousign. Whatever the decision or context, it should be clear how to apply it. Once again, the "we" is omnipresent, we are in action, not contemplation.
Is it really useful?
The Product principles are constantly present in our daily work lives, whether for designing a solution, defining a launch plan, or dealing with an issue. Here are some examples of the decisions taken based on those principles.
Release features in batches to deliver value quickly to our users
When defining a feature, we endeavor to reduce the scope of the first release to the bare minimum without compromising the user experience. The goal is to first address the main customer needs, then iterate to tackle the specific cases.
For example, when we decided to expand our signature offering by adding a new signature level in Yousign, we split the feature into 2 batches, the first one covering only the primary needs of our users. We have thus been able to launch this new level and start capitalizing on it as soon as the first batch was finished. We’ve also been able to collect user feedback earlier and adapt the next iteration to better meet our users’ expectations.
Have the product tested by our users as soon as possible
Whatever the effort spent during the discovery phase, some customers’ needs are invisible until they have the product in hand.
That’s the reason why, before releasing the Workspaces feature to all our users, we decided to launch a beta version with 10 of our customers. This enabled us to identify that an important sub-feature was missing, and we were able to fix it before the full launch.
Define success metrics to be impact-driven
To ensure we build features that do have an impact, we define clear and measurable metrics at the beginning of each project, and we implement a tracking system as part of the feature to follow them during and after launch.
This way, we have been able on several occasions to identify a problem as the success metric was not reached and trigger another iteration to solve it. In the end, following our metrics allows us to develop a continuous improvement culture within Yousign.
Adapt our design system to our principles
As we establish a culture where speed, impact and growth are structural, we need to have a design approach that supports this culture.
As a result, we make extensive use of our design system and we put a lot of design effort into UX writing and illustration to provide a great user experience with very little development overhead. For instance, we increased the onboarding experience (and solved pain points discovered in user testing) with simple but engaging “empty states”.
References & inspiration
- Figma design principles
- Blablacar’s design principles in this article from the Design Crew
- Pennylane’s Product Management 6 Key Principles
- Applying Product Principles to Guide Better Product Decisions - Mind the product