Product Principles, similar to a mission statement or company values, provide a single point of reference when there’s a need to right the ship. They should provide inspiration and imagination, hard stops and lofty ambition and they hold you accountable when needed.

Different Principle Types

As products and services interact with all parts of the business and customers, we suggest integrating a variety of Principle Types. Below is a list of types to consider when defining your own:

  • Design Principles (Dieter Rams 10 principles)
  • Product Design Principles (usability, problem solving, customer experience)
  • Guiding Principles (personal mantra, standards we keep)
  • Company Values (beliefs to guide company actions, unite employees, define brand and inspire their audience)
  • Customer Values (what do they expect from you and your product, what do they hold you accountable to)

Why do we need Product Principles?

“It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are”
Roy E. Disney

It is critical to define what the product will mean to you, your team and stakeholders. Create principles you and your team will stand-by throughout the journey. Having agreed upon principles will support you during tough decision making and minimize outside influence. They are important throughout the product life-cycle and help guide the team.

Life Without Product Principles

They are an often overlooked opportunity to start on the right path. Teams who dive in and begin with the best intentions assume they have aligned goals and core values. Later they discovered goals and values are misaligned. This misalignment can turn into debates, create sides/factions and result in standoffs.

Without principles it’s easy to veer off course. These deviations can lead to philosophical or ethical disagreements later, as well as increased ambiguity in decision making.

Steps to Define Principles

We’ve included some high level steps to get you started on defining your product principles below:

  1. Based on existing research and team discussions. Collate, identify, and categorize key beliefs significant to your team. Include team passions for creating better outcomes for customers
  2. Select 3–5 principles supported by your research and detail the importance of each principle
  3. Confirm you’re linking back to customer values, company mission and personal beliefs.
  4. Promote and display your final Principles, ensure they’re accessible and easy to reference
  5. Refer new team members when they on-board.
  6. Review when making decisions and assess regularly to re-align when necessary.

Final Thoughts

There’s a need for constant refinement and improvement in Product Development & Service Design. Defining a list of principles as a team ensures people have shared expectations and values. Over time, you may need to re-evaluate and evolve the principles, but do so with caution, so as not to change your core underlying beliefs.

Further Reading: