The best product discovery tools according to real product managers
The final chapter of this guide will highlight some tools that can help you do product discovery. As their job title suggests, product managers are often just as passionate about products that help them as the ones they work on. Below you’ll find some key tools recommended by real product managers.
When we asked product managers to tell us their favorite product discovery tools, responses varied. Some pointed to tech solutions that complement their methodology by providing vital insights and saving time. Others identified books that have been particularly influential in shaping their product discovery principles and methods.
So remember that you don’t necessarily have to create a complex workflow to handle product discovery. Depending on your approach, just one or two key tools and a book that really resonates with you could be enough.
Marc Davies, Product Lead at Oliva, sums it up:
Your overall approach to product discovery is the most important thing. A lot of tools can help a team that has a good attitude.
Marc Davies, Product Manager at Oliva
With that in mind, let’s take a look at a few top product discovery tools recommended by a range of real product managers.
Tools that help with product discovery
A large part of the product discovery process is about collecting and analyzing info about your users’ behavior. Here are some tech tools to help with user research and idea validation.
One tool that can deliver insights continuously and help user-centric teams run great research—Maze. Maze is a continuous product discovery platform with solutions for participant recruitment, product research, and reporting.
When you start research on a new product, the discovery functionalities let you create and send user surveys to get early customer insights. If you're pressed for time, this is a convenient method of collecting feedback without having to organize interviews or focus groups.
Later on, when you’re ready to test an MVP, you can upload multiple prototypes from Sketch, InVision, Adobe XD, Marvel, or Figma, create a usability test, add some questions for your users, and easily share it as a link.
Maze is a good way to get quick customer feedback and data on a prototype without the hassle of arranging in-person usability tests. The speed at which you can create and share a test makes it particularly useful for testing early concepts or ideas in product discovery without committing to any coding.
Product teams like the one at investment startup Freetrade often use Maze when they need customer insights fast.
If we were to look at the amount of reward you get from every type of testing, you could definitely say Maze is just minimal effort for such high rewards.
James Storer, Head of Design at Freetrade
For more info on how Maze works, head over to this page.
Product analytics are vital for product managers who want to build an accurate understanding of their users’ behavior. By collecting real-time quantitative data on how people use your product, you can validate assumptions, customer feedback, and new product solutions.
The right tool can help you track user behavior, collect data, and create dashboards easily. And one product analytics platform has emerged as a particularly popular and trusted solution among product managers: Amplitude.
Amplitude helps with analyzing customer journeys, tracking the key product metrics for your business model, and prioritizing which questions you should be asking when you start a new round of product discovery.
Here’s why Arjen Harris, Head of Product at Maze, finds it useful:
Amplitude is a great place to dive into when starting product discovery. It helps you find out which parts of the product are not performing how you expect them to, and get an understanding of which user behaviors drive certain business metrics.
Arjen Harris, Head of Product at Maze
For more on how quantitative data can help you develop the right products and features, check out our article on product analytics.
Product analytics is essential for getting statistically significant data to validate your assumptions. But numbers don’t tell you everything. To get a completely clear picture of your product's user experience, it can be super valuable to view real-time recordings of individual user sessions. That’s where FullStory comes in.
FullStory captures every click, keypress, and pause live on-screen—from the moment a user opens your product, to the moment they stop using it. This lets you and your stakeholders experience your product directly from your users’ perspective, so you can analyze the behavior that’s driving your data.
The platform also indexes these user stories in an easily searchable way, so you can watch multiple sessions of the same user or filter by a specific event. It even surfaces friction points for you based on the data it collects.
Nadine Krishnamurthy-Spencer, Product Manager at We Are With You, is a big fan:
If you can’t shadow users in-person, FullStory is a close second. I almost always come across some unexpected behaviors when digging into FullStory. It also lets you explore behaviors at scale, so you can see if other people did the same thing.
Nadine Krishnamurthy-Spencer, Product Manager at We Are With You
By comparing quantitative product analytics data and user session recordings, you can spot potential new product or feature opportunities before you start interviewing users.
So much of product discovery is about eliminating the risks of building and launching new features on your product roadmap. One way to test your solution ideas is to launch them in your product without the risk of releasing them for users—also known as ‘feature flagging.’ This is exactly what LaunchDarkly can help with.
While creating an on/off switch for a single feature is quite simple to do manually with code, managing multiple feature flags at once gets complicated quickly. LaunchDarkly lets you roll out unfinished features to specific users or test groups, then gradually expand its availability to more users—ideal for when you reach the ‘Prototype & test’ stage of product discovery.
Arjen finds it really useful as a way to test new ideas directly within the existing product:
I love LaunchDarkly. It’s great to launch an early alpha product for a group of users who are willing to test imperfect new features.
Arjen Harris, Head of Product at Maze
Testing quick builds of potential new solutions is the way to go during product discovery—it’s best to save as much coding as you can for product development, once you’ve validated what you’re going to build. Tools like LaunchDarkly save you time and let you try more things faster.
Books that help with product discovery
If you want to hone your overall approach or refine your product discovery philosophy, the right book can be the perfect tool. Here’s a few that product managers recommended to us:
Build Better Products by Laura Klein
To get a better idea of the mindset you should adopt towards product discovery, Laura Klein’s Build Better Products is a great place to start.
Klein has worked as a product manager, UX designer, and as part of a development team throughout a career that spans over 20 years in Silicon Valley. This gives her unique insights into how to build a product strategy from a customer-centric perspective, across every stage of the product development process.
The book includes numerous examples of product ideas that sound great but fail, with Klein examining these stories in a way that’s both informative and entertaining. Fadeelah Al-horaibi, Senior Product Manager at Slite, says it helped her build a strong understanding of the purpose of product discovery:
One of my favorite tools is this book. Laura Klein offers a lot of practical advice and approaches to tackle product discovery. She’s also hilarious!
Fadeelah Al-horaibi, Senior Product Manager at Slite
The Mom Test: How to talk to customers and learn if your business is a good idea when everyone is lying to you by Rob Fitzpatrick
One of the most important parts of product discovery is learning how to run unbiased user interviews. While this might sound obvious, product manager Nadine Krishnamurthy-Spencer still sees people getting interviews wrong surprisingly often.
When starting a new round of product discovery, Nadine finds herself returning to The Mom Test to brush up on her interview technique:
I learnt a lot about product discovery from this book. It’s aimed at entrepreneurs validating business ideas, but you can apply the same principles to your user interviews.
Nadine Krishnamurthy-Spencer, Product Manager at We Are With You
Fitzpatrick provides key insights on how to get unbiased feedback by avoiding asking about your value proposition directly—and how to tell if you’re doing this by mistake. There are also practical interview preparation tips and templates to help you make the most of each one.
Inspired: How to Create Tech Products Customers Love by Marty Cagan
Full of personal stories and accounts from product managers who worked on great products like Adobe, Apple, BBC, Google, Microsoft, and Netflix, Marty Cagan’s Inspired has a lot of takeaways about product discovery—it even includes a whole section on the topic.
A true product management guru, there are few better people to learn from than Cagan when it comes to building top-rated products. Sebastien Phlix, Product Manager at N26, sees it as an essential read:
Instead of getting hung up on fancy techniques, read ‘Inspired’ first and internalize the principles of product discovery.
Sebastien Phlix, Product Manager at N26
More than an introduction to the topic, Cagan’s book is the kind you can delve into again and again to help guide your team members on through any stage of product development—whether you're brainstorming ideas or analyzing the potential impact of a new feature on your business goals.
So in addition to picking the right tech tools to help with the actual practice of product discovery, keep in mind that you can also use books as tools to develop your product discovery ethos. Combining the two will improve your skills as a product manager in a holistic way, leading to more successful products at the end of the process.