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Product principles: What, why, and how (with examples) 2024

This article is a comprehensive guide to what product principles are, why they matter, and practical examples to help you implement them in your own projects.

February 2, 2024
Team Blitzllama

Product development often faces chaos as teams struggle to align their efforts. Confusion arises when product goals clash, leaving owners and managers perplexed. Unclear guidelines lead to inconsistent decisions, hindering success.

In this challenging scenario, product owners and managers feel the weight of disarray. They need a clear path to navigate through the fog of conflicting priorities. 

Simplicity is key, as they seek straightforward solutions to bring order to the chaos. This article delves into the essence of product principles – what they are, why they matter, and how to implement them. 

By establishing and adhering to these guiding principles, product leaders can bring clarity, consistency, and purpose to their teams, fostering a smoother path towards successful product development.

What are product principles?

Product principles are fundamental guidelines shaping the creation and evolution of a product. They serve as a compass, directing decisions and actions throughout its lifecycle. Clear and concise, these principles align teams and stakeholders, fostering a shared understanding of the product's purpose. 

They prioritize user needs, emphasizing simplicity and functionality. Consistency in design and communication is key, ensuring a seamless user experience. Flexibility remains paramount to adapt to evolving requirements. Transparency in decision-making maintains trust within the team. 

Ultimately, product principles empower owners and managers to make informed choices that align with the product's vision, facilitating its success in the market.

Now, let's explore the practical utility of these principles in the next section.

Why are product principles useful?

Understanding the inherent value of product principles is essential for any product team. This section outlines the tangible benefits these principles bring to the development process, offering insights into how they enhance decision-making, foster collaboration, and contribute to the overall success of a product:

Why are product principles useful

1) Solve decision-making dilemmas

Product principles serve as a compass in navigating complex decision-making scenarios. They offer a clear framework, allowing product owners and managers to evaluate options, prioritize initiatives, and make informed choices. 

When faced with dilemmas, these principles become a reliable guide, enabling efficient decision-making that aligns with the overall product vision. 

By adhering to established principles, teams can streamline the decision-making process and avoid unnecessary delays or debates, ensuring a more decisive and effective approach to product development.

2) Foster alignment and collaboration

In a collaborative product development environment, principles act as a unifying force. By articulating a shared vision, these principles bring together diverse team members with different perspectives and expertise. 

This alignment fosters a collaborative atmosphere where everyone understands and works towards common goals. Clarity on product principles minimizes misunderstandings, encourages open communication, and enables teams to collaborate seamlessly. 

This shared understanding not only enhances team cohesion but also accelerates the pace of development by leveraging the collective strengths of the team members.

3) Ensure focus and consistency

Product principles play a crucial role in maintaining focus and consistency throughout the development process. They act as guardrails, preventing the product from straying into irrelevant territories or succumbing to feature creep. 

By adhering to these principles, product owners can ensure that every decision and feature aligns with the overarching goals. This focus eliminates distractions, reduces the risk of deviating from the core objectives, and ensures a cohesive product experience. 

Consistency, guided by these principles, is key to building a product that meets user expectations and stands the test of time.

4) Empower teams for autonomy

Empowering teams with autonomy is essential for efficient and agile product development. Product principles serve as a blueprint for autonomous decision-making within the broader vision. 

They provide teams with a clear understanding of the boundaries within which they can operate independently. This autonomy not only speeds up the decision-making process but also instills a sense of ownership and responsibility among team members. 

By having a set of principles to guide them, teams can confidently make decisions aligned with the product's vision, fostering innovation and adaptability in a rapidly changing market.

With a clear understanding of the advantages, let's break down the key components of product principles in the following section.

What are the major components of product principles?

Product principles are not a monolithic concept; they consist of distinct components that collectively contribute to their effectiveness. This section dissects these components, providing a comprehensive overview of the key elements that constitute robust product principles:

What are the major components of product principles

1) Specificity

Specificity is one of the cornerstones of product principles. It emphasizes clear and unambiguous communication. Be precise about product goals, features, and user expectations. Avoid vague language and ensure that every aspect of the product, from its purpose to functionality, is explicitly defined. 

Specificity enables a focused approach, reducing ambiguity for both the development team and end-users. Clearly articulated specifics serve as a guide, steering the product towards successful realization of its objectives.

2) Emotion

Products are not merely functional entities; they evoke emotions. Consider the emotional impact your product aims to achieve. Whether it's joy, trust, or excitement, understanding and integrating emotions into the product experience is crucial. 

Humanize the design and functionality to resonate with users on a personal level. A product that taps into emotions creates a lasting connection. Recognize the emotional journey your users undertake, and align your product principles to deliver an experience that leaves a positive and memorable imprint.

3) Relevance

Relevance is the linchpin that connects your product to its users. It demands an acute understanding of the user base and their evolving needs. Regularly reassess the product's alignment with market trends and user expectations. 

Prioritize features that directly contribute to solving user problems and enhancing their experience. A relevant product is a valuable product. Stay attuned to the pulse of your target audience, adapting and refining the product principles to ensure ongoing resonance in a dynamic market.

4) Prioritization

Prioritization is the compass that guides product development decisions. Clearly define the most critical features and functionalities that align with the product's overarching goals. Establish a hierarchy that ensures the team focuses on the essentials first. 

This active prioritization prevents scope creep and optimizes resource utilization. It's essential for product owners and managers to communicate a well-defined roadmap, ensuring that the team is aligned in delivering value incrementally, addressing the most crucial aspects of the product at each stage.

5) Concise

Conciseness is the art of distillation in product principles. It involves articulating complex ideas in a clear and brief manner. Avoid unnecessary details that might cloud the product vision. Streamline communication to convey the essence of your product principles succinctly. 

A concise approach fosters better understanding and adherence to the outlined guidelines. Clarity in communication minimizes the risk of misinterpretation and facilitates effective collaboration among team members. Embrace brevity to ensure that your product principles are easily comprehensible, enabling swift and accurate implementation.

Now, let's move forward and explore the practical steps involved in building your own set of product principles.

How do you build your own product principles?

Building personalized product principles requires a systematic approach. This section offers a practical guide, breaking down the process into manageable steps. From identifying core values to aligning with organizational goals, readers will gain actionable insights on crafting product principles tailored to their team's unique needs:

Build your own product principles

Step 1: Gather your team:

Building your own product principles begins with assembling a diverse and committed team. Ensure representation from different functions, fostering a collaborative environment where ideas flow freely. Leverage the collective intelligence of your team to establish a solid foundation for your product principles.

Identify team members' strengths: Understand the unique strengths and perspectives each team member brings to the table. A diverse set of skills and experiences can enrich the formulation process.

Foster open communication: Encourage open dialogue and active participation during collaborative sessions. Create an atmosphere where team members feel comfortable sharing their insights and opinions.

Establish a unified vision: Ensure alignment on the overall vision for the product. A shared understanding among team members contributes to the coherence and effectiveness of the principles developed.

Step 2: Identify core values:

Delve into the fundamental values that will guide your product's development. Identifying core values helps create a strong foundation for the principles that will shape your product.

Reflect on organizational values: Consider the values inherent to your organization. These may include integrity, customer-centricity, or innovation. Align product principles with these overarching organizational values.

Incorporate team perspectives: Gather insights from team members regarding their personal values. Understanding the values that resonate with individuals can contribute to a more authentic and meaningful set of product principles.

Prioritize key values: Distill the identified values into a prioritized list. Focus on the core values that will have the most significant impact on shaping the product's identity and guiding its development.

Step 3: Define customer needs:

A successful product is one that meets the needs and expectations of its users. Understanding customer needs is pivotal in formulating principles that resonate with your target audience.

Conduct user research: Invest time in thorough user research to gain insights into your customers' preferences, pain points, and aspirations. This empirical approach ensures that your product principles are grounded in real user needs.

Align principles with user experiences: Craft principles that directly address the identified user needs. Ensure that each principle contributes to enhancing the overall user experience and satisfaction.

Regularly update customer profiles: Keep customer profiles updated based on evolving market trends and user feedback. This ongoing understanding of customer needs will inform the continual refinement of your product principles.

Step 4: Craft clear and concise statements:

Translate your team's collective insights and values into clear and concise statements that serve as actionable guidelines for product development.

Use simple language: Avoid unnecessary complexity in language. Use straightforward and easily understandable terms to communicate principles effectively to all team members.

Focus on actionable guidance: Ensure that each principle provides actionable guidance for decision-making. This clarity empowers team members to align their efforts with the established principles.

Make principles memorable: Craft principles that are easy to remember. Memorable statements facilitate consistent adherence to the established guidelines throughout the product development lifecycle.

Step 5: Get buy-in and iterate:

Obtain buy-in from your team to solidify their commitment to the established principles. Additionally, recognize the dynamic nature of product development and be prepared to iterate on your principles as the product evolves.

Facilitate team discussion: Engage your team in discussions to ensure a shared understanding and agreement on the formulated principles. Address any concerns or suggestions to enhance collective buy-in.

Encourage feedback loops: Establish feedback loops within your team to gather insights on the practical application of the principles. Use this feedback to iterate and refine the principles based on real-world experiences.

Stay agile in refinement: Embrace an agile mindset when refining your principles. Be adaptable to changes in market conditions, user expectations, and organizational goals, ensuring that your principles evolve alongside the product.

To reinforce these concepts, let's examine real-world examples of product principles in the next section.

Real-world examples of product principles

Putting theory into practice, this section presents real-world examples of product principles from successful companies. By examining concrete instances, product teams can glean inspiration and insights, seeing firsthand how these principles shape decision-making and contribute to product success:

1) Slack

Slack's product principles are all about making work life simpler, more pleasant, and more productive. They guide the development of every feature and decision within the platform, ensuring it remains user-centric and impactful. Here's a breakdown of each principle:

Don't make me think: This emphasizes intuitive design and functionality. Features should be simple to understand, use, and navigate without requiring significant mental effort. Slack aims to minimize cognitive load and streamline workflows.

Be a great host: Slack sees itself as a host, welcoming users and ensuring they have a positive experience. This involves anticipating their needs, providing a helpful and friendly environment, and constantly striving to improve their experience.

Prototype the path: Experimentation and iteration are key. Slack encourages rapid prototyping and testing of new features to gather user feedback and optimize the product continuously. This ensures features address actual needs and don't get stuck in development purgatory.

Don't reinvent the wheel: When possible, Slack leverages existing technologies and integrations rather than building everything from scratch. This saves time and resources while ensuring users can access familiar tools and workflows within the platform.

Make bigger, bolder bets: While avoiding unnecessary reinvention, Slack isn't afraid to take risks and innovate. They aim to push the boundaries of what a work communication tool can be and introduce features that can truly transform how teams collaborate.

2) Airbnb

Airbnb's product principles center around creating a world where anyone can belong anywhere, and they do this through a blend of focusing on community, building trust, and fostering belonging. Here are some key principles guiding their product development:

Champion the mission: Everything at Airbnb should contribute to their mission of creating a world where anyone can belong anywhere. This means designing features that facilitate connections, encourage cultural exchange, and promote inclusivity.

Be a host: Airbnb wants everyone, from employees to users, to feel like hosts. This translates to creating a welcoming and supportive environment, prioritizing clear communication, and going the extra mile to be helpful.

Embrace the adventure: Curiosity and the spirit of exploration are core values. Airbnb strives to push boundaries, experiment with new ideas, and create products that make travel and hosting exciting and fulfilling.

Be a cereal entrepreneur: This principle encourages resourcefulness and creativity. Airbnb empowers employees to take ownership of their work, find innovative solutions, and build something exceptional with limited resources.

Do things that don't scale at first: This emphasizes the importance of starting small and focusing on quality over quantity. By nurturing authentic connections and building trust early on, Airbnb lays the foundation for a scalable and sustainable platform.

3) Google

While Google doesn't explicitly outline a single set of "product principles", its approach to product development is guided by several key values and philosophies that permeate its creation process. Here are some of the most prominent ones:

User-centricity: Google puts users at the heart of everything. Every feature, decision, and design choice is driven by the goal of understanding and solving user needs in a simple, intuitive, and helpful way. This is reflected in their famous motto, "Focus on the user, and all else will follow."

Focus on simplicity: Google champions clean and minimal designs that are easy to navigate and understand. They prioritize uncluttered interfaces, clear language, and intuitive functionality, reducing cognitive load and making their products accessible to everyone.

Speed and iteration: Google believes in agile development, emphasizing fast iteration and constant improvement. They embrace experimentation and rapid prototyping to quickly test new ideas and features, gather user feedback, and adapt their products based on real-world usage.

Innovation and disruption: Google isn't afraid to push boundaries and challenge the status quo. They strive to develop innovative solutions that break new ground and redefine what users expect from technology. This is evident in their commitment to cutting-edge research and development in areas like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and quantum computing.

Democratization of information: Google aims to make information readily accessible and valuable to everyone. This is reflected in their commitment to free and open access to information, exemplified by products like Search, Maps, and Scholar.

Respect for privacy and security: Google recognizes the importance of user privacy and security. They have implemented robust measures to protect user data and give users control over their privacy settings. This commitment is reflected in their Privacy Policy and Transparency Report.

Ten Things We Know to Be True: Google also published a set of "Ten Things We Know to Be True" that broadly outlines their company philosophy and values. These principles, which include things like "Great just isn't good enough," "Focus on the user and all else will follow," and "You can be serious without a suit," further influence their approach to product development.

4) Intercom

Intercom, known for its customer communication platform, embraces a set of principles that guide their product development and ensure it remains innovative and user-centric. These principles cover various aspects, from prioritizing customer value to focusing on small increments and flexible design. Here's a breakdown of some key ones:

Start with the problem: Understanding the core problem is paramount. Intercom emphasizes constant exploration and refinement of this understanding to stay on track and avoid creating solutions that miss the mark.

Think big, start small, learn fast: Ambitious visions are encouraged, but the path begins with smaller, coherent solutions that allow for rapid learning and iteration based on user feedback.

Ship fast, ship early, ship often: Shipping isn't the final step, but a catalyst for learning and improvement. Frequent releases enable Intercom to gather data, refine ideas, and deliver value to customers quickly.

Deliver outcomes: Shipping is just the beginning. Intercom focuses on ensuring features lead to concrete outcomes for users, driving adoption and measuring actual impact.

5) Gusto

Gusto, the HR platform for small businesses, operates under a set of well-defined product principles that guide their development process and ensure their offerings remain user-centric and impactful. Here are the five core principles that Gusto lives by:

Products are human: This principle acknowledges that technology is built by humans and therefore reflects their perspectives and quirks. Gusto emphasizes the importance of empathy and a deep understanding of their users' experiences to create products that resonate and feel personal.

Be opinionated: Gusto takes a strong stance on how work should be done and the future of HR. They believe in building features based on their conviction about what users need, even if it goes against established norms. This decisiveness helps them push boundaries and create innovative solutions.

Only do things that are worth doing really, really well: Gusto prioritizes quality over quantity. They focus on a smaller set of features and ensure each one is meticulously crafted to deliver exceptional value and a seamless user experience.

We are sherpas: Gusto sees their role as guiding and supporting their users along their HR journey. They provide clear instruction, anticipate challenges, and offer assistance to help users achieve their goals. This commitment to service fosters a strong relationship with their customers.

Listen: Gusto recognizes that great ideas can come from anywhere. They actively encourage listening to feedback from users, employees, and the broader community to inform their product roadmap and improve their offerings. This open and receptive approach helps them stay relevant and adaptable.

6) Box

Box, the cloud content management platform, also relies on a set of guiding principles to shape its product development. These principles prioritize security, user experience, and innovative solutions that enhance content value. Here are some key ones:

Protect our customers' data above all else: This principle is unwavering. Box prioritizes security features, rigorous data protection practices, and compliance with the strictest regulations to ensure their users' content remains safe and secure.

Make content infinitely better when in Box: The aim is to go beyond simple storage. Box strives to add value to content by enabling features like collaboration, workflow automation, AI-powered search, and integrations with other productivity tools.

Be insanely simple: Usability is paramount. Box prioritizes intuitive interfaces, clear navigation, and minimal complexity to make content management effortless for users of all technical backgrounds.

Build horizontal software for the masses: Instead of targeting specific industries, Box focuses on creating broadly applicable solutions that cater to the needs of diverse businesses and individuals. This horizontal approach aims to reach a wider audience and offer solutions relevant to various use cases.

Think 10X: Incremental improvements aren't enough. Box aims for significant leaps in value with every new feature, seeking to offer solutions that drastically improve user experience and redefine content management capabilities.

Don't build features just to check a box: Every feature must have a clear purpose and deliver tangible value to users. Box avoids implementing features for the sake of ticking boxes or following trends, focusing instead on solutions that address genuine user needs.

Build for mobile-first: Recognizing the increasing importance of mobile access, Box prioritizes mobile-friendly design and functionality, ensuring a seamless experience across all devices.

7) Miro

While Miro doesn't explicitly outline a single set of "product principles" like some other companies, their approach to development is guided by several key values and philosophies that are reflected in their product and resonate with their overall mission. Here are some of the most prominent ones:

User-centricity: At the core of everything lies user focus. Miro prioritizes understanding and solving user needs through intuitive design, collaboration features, and a flexible canvas that empowers teams to work and brainstorm effectively.

Embrace the visual: Miro recognizes the power of visual collaboration. Their platform is built around a visual workspace where ideas, information, and processes can be easily shared, organized, and manipulated visually, fostering better communication and understanding.

Democratize collaboration: Miro aims to break down barriers and make collaboration accessible to everyone. Their platform is designed to be easy to use for people of all technical backgrounds and skill levels, enabling seamless teamwork regardless of location or expertise.

Continuous innovation: Miro is constantly evolving. They embrace experimentation and iteration, using user feedback and data to refine their features and introduce new functionalities that keep pace with changing needs and trends.

Empowering creativity: Miro sees itself as a tool that sparks creativity and unlocks potential. Their platform provides users with the freedom to experiment, brainstorm, and explore ideas in a visually engaging and interactive space.

Open and extensible: Miro fosters an open ecosystem. They integrate with various tools and services, allowing users to customize their workflows and leverage existing resources within their collaborative environment.

Building a community: Miro is more than just a platform; it's a community. They actively engage with their users, providing support, resources, and opportunities for connection, fostering a sense of belonging and shared purpose.

Now that we've seen examples in action, let's explore best practices for implementing product principles effectively.

Product principles best practices

To ensure the seamless integration of product principles into your team's workflow, it's crucial to follow best practices. This section consolidates practical advice, offering tips on communication, iteration, and adaptability. By incorporating these best practices, product teams can maximize the impact of their principles and drive successful product development:

Product principles best practices

1) Narrow the problem

In product development, success often lies in narrowing your focus. Concentrate on a specific niche where the pain is most palpable and the need for a solution is intense. 

Resist the urge to solve the problem for everyone. By honing in on a niche, you can tailor your solution to address the unique challenges faced by a specific group. 

This focused approach allows for a more efficient use of resources and ensures that your product resonates deeply with those who need it the most.

2) Understand your customer

Effective product development requires a thorough understanding of the customer. Identify the individuals who are directly affected by the problem you are solving. Know them intimately—understand their needs, preferences, and pain points. 

This customer-centric approach ensures that your product is designed with precision to meet the specific requirements of your target audience. 

By aligning your solution closely with the customer's perspective, you increase the likelihood of creating a product that not only solves a problem but resonates with those it serves.

3) Focus on frequent and intense problems

Not all problems are created equal. Prioritize those that are both frequent and intense. Customers are more likely to seek a solution for problems that significantly impact their daily lives and occur regularly. 

By addressing these high-impact issues, your product becomes an essential part of the customer's routine. This creates a demand that extends beyond mere curiosity, as customers are not only willing to pay for a solution but actively seek one. 

Concentrate your efforts on solving problems that matter deeply and consistently to your target audience.

4) Define fundamental KPIs for business success

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) play a crucial role in steering a product towards success. Define 5–10 KPIs that are fundamental to the business. These metrics should offer a clear and concise view of your product's performance and impact. 

By focusing everyone across the company on these KPIs, you create a unified goal that aligns teams and departments. This collective focus facilitates a more streamlined and efficient approach to product development, with each team contributing to the improvement of these critical metrics.

Regularly measuring and refining these KPIs keeps the entire organization on a path of continuous improvement and success.

With these best practices in mind, you're well-equipped to harness the power of product principles in your team's journey.


In essence, clear product principles serve as guiding lights for successful endeavors. They elucidate purpose, align teams, and drive decisions. Understanding what product principles entail is pivotal, as they decipher the "why" behind product strategies. 

The significance lies in their practical application – a roadmap for product owners and managers. Emphasizing simplicity and user-centricity, these principles foster a cohesive approach. By integrating them into daily operations, teams streamline processes, ensuring that products resonate with end-users. 

In conclusion, product principles stand as actionable tools, translating vision into tangible outcomes, and empowering product professionals to navigate complexities with clarity and purpose.