One of the most common questions that Product Managers have to deal with is how they would improve the product they are managing. Let’s take Google Maps for example. In this blog, I will talk about the steps that I, as a Product Manager at Google would take to improve it. Also, I will assume this to be more of an interview scenario, so my approach will be how I would think about this in a relatively short 30–45 minutes call.
1. Clarifying Questions and Narrowing Down
It’s important to clarify some initial questions that can help us reduce the scope of the question. Some of the clarifying questions, in this case, would be –
- Are we improving the app or the desktop version of Google Maps?
Let’s assume that we are improving the mobile application for now.
- Is there a specific part of Google Maps that we are trying to improve?
Let’s assume that we are trying to improve user experience and increase user engagement on Google Maps
2. Keeping Company’s Mission in Mind
Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. So any improvements that we make to Google Maps should align with the company’s overarching mission. This could be a great guiding light for us when we think about the improvements.
3. Identifying User Segments
Google Maps has a huge user base with users falling into various buckets. Each user group uses Google Maps differently and hence, the improvement features would be different for different user segments. So it is important to consider the various user segments and then focus on one of them.
The different user groups (amongst many others) we consider based on their usage of Google Maps are –
- Gig Drivers
With the gig economy booming, drivers that work for cab sharing companies like Uber and Lyft form a major segment for Google Maps. Along with cab sharing companies, drivers also work for a lot of delivery companies like Doordash, Instacart, Walmart, etc.
2. General Users Who are Locals
We use Google Maps on an everyday basis to get from one place to another and to check the time it would take to get to the destination.
3. General Users Who are Visiting or Tourists
People who are new to a certain place or are planning a longer trip would use Google Maps for planning and to get from one place to another. They would also use the app to check for restaurants, hospitals, gas stations, etc.
Let’s pick the third user segment to improve the experience and hence, increase user engagement.
4. Pain Points
- A vacationer might not necessarily know where they want to go. Google Maps can help them explore places to go.
- While on a longer trip, finding places to get gas or to eat is often a hassle. This is something that we can focus on in our improvements.
These pain points tie in nicely with Google’s mission which is basically to
organize information and make it more useful. There is a lot of information
that Google already has. So using that information, we can help the user improve their experience of planning a trip
5. Potential Features
We are trying to help the vacationers get their trip in place even when if they don’t know where they want to go and make the process of planning a trip as easy and efficient as possible. So the features that I want to suggest for the ‘itinerary planner’ can be broken down into three buckets –
i. High-level aspects of the trip
Here, Google Maps will help the users decide high-level aspects like the when and where of their trip. If the users know when and where they want to go, they can directly fill in those details in the itinerary but if they don’t, Google Maps can suggest places based on the most recent reviews and other data that Google already has in its database.
The feature can also ask a few questions to the users to understand their needs and then suggest a place accordingly. If the place is more known for sightseeing or if it’s a place that is very close to nature, Google can suggest the best time to visit based on reviews and other weather forecast data that it already has.
ii. Finer details of the trip
The second bucket will cover some of the finer details of the trip like what the users want to do on the trip, where they will stay, what kind of hotel do they want, etc. A user might go to a new national park somewhere closer or go hiking or rock climbing. The users might also want to book an Airbnb instead of a hotel because it’s cheaper. This bucket would also include the places they want to eat at. With activities, hotels, and restaurants, each one of them can have its own sub-tab in the ‘itinerary planner’ and Google Maps can suggest options to users as they keep building their itinerary.
For users who might be more spontaneous and who might not want to plan everything before the trip, these suggestions can be made on the day of the trip based on the feedback received from the users. The feedback can be around the cuisine they want to have, how they are feeling at the moment, etc.
iii. Miscellaneous items for the trip
This section is essentially the final part of our ‘itinerary planner’. It will consist of all the logistical parts of the trip such as hotel bookings, flight tickets, an offline version of their map route, an option to share the itinerary with friends and family, etc. The fact that users can access everything in one place will make their life easier while traveling
6. Success metrics for features
The two main metrics we would want to track here around adoption and then retention
For adoption, we would track the number of users who have created a trip using this newly introduced planner. This metric would really help us understand if the users like the planner and if there is a problem to be solved in the first place. A secondary metric that could be tracked is how many users are using the planner’s recommendations to design their itinerary and if they find the recommendations to be relevant and useful.
For retention, we could track the number of users who come back to the planner and create a second trip using it. If a large proportion of users plan their second trip using the planner, this could be a good early indication of the usefulness of the planner. We could then iterate on it based on the feedback and suggestions received from the users.