🔵 How to Do a Product Comparison (the ultimate product sense exercise)
AI tips & tricks too
Product sense is like the jazz music of the product world. Everyone says you need to feel it, but few can actually describe it.
At its core, product sense = intuition about how a feature will impact user behavior.
One way to build this skill is by analyzing an existing product experience and trying to figure out why the creators made the decisions they did.
This works, but it can be hard to know where to even start looking.
There’s a way to super-charge this exercise: Instead of looking at a single product experience, compare two similar experiences.
Suddenly, product decisions will seem to jump right out of the screen. By directly contrasting approaches, the unique goals and tradeoffs of each design are highlighted.
Review the Jobs-to-Be-Done framework as the building blocks for this analysis.
Go through this comparison exercise with two familiar experiences: replies and commenting on X/Twitter vs Reddit.
Look at how AI can help you find experiences to compare, and be used to “check your work.”
First, A Quick Refresher on Jobs-To-Be-Done
The jobs-to-be-done framework looks at products and features in terms of the core "job" the user is trying to get done. This frames the user's motivation in a functional way.
For example, when someone uses a hammer and nail to hang a picture on the wall, the real job-to-be-done is "mount an object on the wall" not "put a nail into the wall."
Some other examples:
Hiring a babysitter: "Have fun night out" not "find childcare"
Buying laundry detergent: "Get clothes clean" not just "wash clothes"
Using Uber: "Arrive at destination" not just "find a ride"
Focusing on jobs-to-be-done highlights the actual goal and motivation driving user behavior.
It’s a super useful tool for us to compare product experiences since it lets us consider:
Are these two different ways of achieving the same job?
Or, do these two ways actually hint at completely different jobs?
If you want to explore this concept in more depth, this is a decent quick article. I’ll also include more resources at the end.
Okay, let’s get into it.
Example: Commenting – X/Twitter vs Reddit
First, let’s take a look at these two features side-by-side.
(Side note: I know it’s officially called X, but I’m still in denial.)
Otherwise, I’ve included a video of each experience below for convenience.
Consider these questions as you explore these experiences:
What core social and emotional jobs are users looking to fulfill? (e.g. feel connected, enjoy debate, get informed)
How do features like threading and anonymity facilitate different kinds of conversations and interactions?
What environments and norms do the platforms create around comment exchanges?
I highly recommend you really do look at the experiences… Last chance…
Alright, here are my thoughts. Both features obviously allow discussions under posts, but with some key differences:
Threading - Twitter has simpler threading under tweets. Reddit allows complex threaded sub-discussions.
Voting - Reddit has up/down votes to highlight best comments. Twitter relies on replies and retweets. It’s not clear to me how Twitter chooses the order of replies.
Anonymity - Twitter ties comments to profiles. Reddit has pseudonymous usernames.
So how do these differences translate to different kinds of experiences?
Twitter's reply system is optimized for quick back-and-forth conversations. Tagging users and bundling replies under tweets facilitates easy dialog.
This enables Twitter's core purpose - ongoing discussions and commentary around events, interests, and personalities. The experience feels like a giant, crowdsourced conversation pond everyone dips into.
In contrast, Reddit's replies are designed for extended, structured dialogue. By nesting comment threads, complex topics can be unpacked. Anonymous usernames promote thoughtful exchanges.
This allows Reddit to function as a massive question-and-answer engine. In-depth knowledge gets shared across thousands of niche communities. The experience feels like tapping into the collective intelligence of forums tailored to your interests.
So, very distinct user experiences. Twitter feels fun, conversational, and reactionary. Reddit feels informative, focused, and conversational but less intimate.
All this from different threading UXs!
Finding Experiences to Compare
There are two ways to approach this:
Tactically compare product experiences similar to one you’re considering building. You should basically always do this before you build a feature.
Look for products to compare just as an exercise. This is a great way to expand your product sense outside of just your normal everyday work.
In either case, finding apps with features to compare might not always be easy.
Here’s a nice AI prompt you can use:
Please recommend two product pairs that have similar [type of experience] features that would be useful for me to compare and analyze. The goal is to better understand product experience design by contrasting how different products approach similar user needs.
Here are a variety of exercises you can also consider:
TikTok Vertical Video Feed vs Instagram Reels - Comparing short-form video feeds
Facebook News Feed vs Twitter Feed - Comparing approaches to social media content feeds
Amazon Product Reviews vs Best Buy Reviews - Contrasting crowd-sourced review systems
Apartments.com vs Zillow Rentals - Contrasting rental property search platforms
Etsy Product Pages vs eBay Listings - Evaluating handcrafted vs auction product detail formats
And then once you’ve done this exercise, you can use this prompt to see what the AI comes up with (DO IT YOURSELF FIRST!!).
Please compare the [feature X] implementations of [Product A] and [Product B]. In your analysis, include: A brief product background A summary of the key technical differences Discussion of how the designs impact user experience Insights into how the features align with product goals Evaluation of how they satisfy user jobs-to-be-done Focus on frameworks for analysis and insightful conclusions rather than comprehensive details.
I recommend using Claude.ai for this. It’s just about equal to ChatGPT and has a much more recent knowledge cutoff.
This exercise also demonstrates why blindly copying a competitor's features is often a bad idea. The experience you want to create may be fundamentally different than the one you’d copy.
Instead, focus on the jobs your users need done and craft the experience that's right for your product's specific purpose.
Spread the Word!
If you enjoyed this article, please share it with your friends.
Here’s my barebones referral program. I’m adding more tiers soon though with better giveaways, so you can get a head start now 🙂
The Jobs-to-be-Done Book (free download): Yep. An entire book on the subject, written by the creators of the idea.
How to do a Product Critique: Absolute classic on the subject, by the renowned Julie Zhou.
How to develop product sense: Free edition of Lenny’s Newsletter that’s a pure masterclass on this tricky subject.