3 Core Principles for Product Development from Thunkable’s Award-Winning Product Team

Thunkable's Head of Product, Mike Chang, was named an Emerging Product Leader by Ignition. In this blog, he explains core design principles.
Written by
Elizabeth Ventresca
Published on
April 18, 2023

Recently, Thunkable’s Head of Product, Mike Chang, was named an Emerging Product Leader by Ignition for his distinguished efforts in making Thunkable the best no code app builder! This recognition highlights product leaders across various industries tasked with the demanding job of bringing innovative solutions to market. To select recipients of this award, Ignition tracked several data points across early-stage companies: company announcements, website traffic, audience reach, and overall market impact. For Thunkable, this award reinforces just how much our Product Team has achieved in creating impactful experiences.

To continue giving our Creators an exceptional app-build environment, Chang and the Thunkable Product Team are always contemplating their next moves: pinpointing what features to release, driving small but impactful platform improvements, and bringing the latest capabilities to our users. To guide the product design process, our Product team abides by a few essential principles. Keep reading to discover their three core values, plus how they put them into practice with Thunkable’s recent product development innovations.

Balancing the Complex and the Simple

When deciding what features to put on the product design roadmap, a majority of the process can be derived from the following quote from renowned programmer Larry Wall:

"Make the easy things easy and the hard things possible."

At Thunkable, this means finding a perfect harmony between making the most out of existing features and introducing brand-new functionality.

Make the Easy Things Easy

Frequently used features in Thunkable, like components or live testing, are considered the “easy things” — what our Product team considers essential to every Creator. If just one of these features breaks down, overall product usability is greatly impacted, which is why there is considerable focus on this portion of product development. Also known as quality-of-life improvements, these upgrades seem small in comparison to flashy new feature launches but greatly impact Creators’ accessibility, usability, and satisfaction. There is immeasurable value in identifying pain points here and prioritizing time to create the most frictionless experience possible.

Make the Hard Things Possible

On the other side of the coin, our team also strives to transform unfeasible ideas into achievable goals. For Chang, this signifies the start of the rigorous process of innovative product design: interviewing Creators, identifying trends in the data, prototyping, and much more. “In these cases, we want to get something usable in the hands of people early on so they can work with it, and so we can collect feedback,” explains Chang. “From there, we can iteratively fix issues to continue improving the experience without overbuilding a new feature. This process allows us to rapidly move toward a great product.”

Luckily for our Product team, Thunkable has an engaged Community that’s excited to try out beta versions of new features and remains at the frontier of our product. At this stage, feedback is essential to keep iterating on new features to continue adding value to the user’s journey.

Set the Ground Rules

Since Thunkable is a predominately remote organization with employees in more than seven countries, streamlining communication in this environment can be tricky. With small windows for meetings, Chang says that clear alignment is essential to a Product Team working in a distributed fashion. “You really want to over-communicate because you don't really get a chance to have that in-person conversation or a way to course correct. You have to make sure you're communicating and understanding really well,” he states.

Similarly, the Product team works across many different time zones, with plenty of down time where they cannot check in with teammates. To circumvent this challenge, the team works off what they call “a common sheet of paper”: shared documents that act as a virtual whiteboard. These resources ensure everyone works off the same set of assumptions and goals for when instant communication is off the table. Another common practice is ensuring meticulous notes are taken in every meeting to make sure no detail is overlooked, misunderstood, or misinterpreted. That way, when questions inevitably arise, there is a common source of information that acts as a reference point for that moment in time.

Perfect is the Enemy of Good

Product development is a delicate balancing act between creating the perfect product and getting it into Creators’ hands quickly, a challenge the Thunkable team knows well. While research, specs, and wireframes can easily take up months, it’s most important to be responsive to a Creator’s needs, and the easiest way to do so is by getting the product into their hands. The best way is to get the feature out there, remain agile, and be open to learning the best customer experience. This approach allows the Product team to not only answer initial questions but raise new ones as the product development process continues.

Putting These Principles into Practice

With the incorporation of these values, Thunkable’s Product team has recently been able to launch several innovations, including our long-awaited Thunkable Organizations. This was an essential part of the roadmap because, as the team has witnessed firsthand, remote work has made the need for seamless collaboration more important than ever. This latest suite of tools makes it easier for teams to work together on client projects, educators to bring Computer Science to their classrooms, and businesses to propose mobile-facing solutions that involve multiple stakeholders.

Over the last few years, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) have seen a massive surge in popularity, and we were quick to jump on board! The Thunkable Team built a ChatGPT integration in a span of a few hours, made possible by our powerful Web API tool. This tool grants Creators the ability to turn exciting technologies into real-life applications using private or public API’s across the web, just like ChatGPT. Being able to leverage these technologies allows Creators to implement revolutionary features in mobile apps, like large language models, image recognition, and, of course, chatbots!

Interested in Joining our Team of Innovative Product Developers?

We’re constantly on the lookout for passionate individuals determined to build the future of no code mobile app development with us! If you’re interested in opportunities at Thunkable, check out our job openings here.

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Written by
Elizabeth Ventresca

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