The Department of Product


Thursday, 12 January, 2023

Instagram ditches Shops, Apple’s new synthetic audio voices, how to design permissions in SaaS products and the hidden costs of API-driven business models

Thursday, 12 January, 2023
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Hello product people,

Instagram has confirmed that it will simplify its in-app navigation by removing ‘Shops’. The company says that starting in February, the company will push the compose button back to the center of the app, removing the Shops functionality entirely. According to reports by The Information, the move is part of Meta’s shift away from ecommerce towards ‘new north star goals’ that are more explicitly tied to advertising revenues.

Meanwhile, amidst speculation that Apple is due to finally launch its VR headset later this year, the company has quietly rolled out a new feature which could become a central part of how we experience audiobooks. Digital Voices are synthetic voices designed to help authors generate audio books using AI – and the results are impressive. 

The voices have been designed in-house and are tailored to be used for different genres. Jackson is described as a ‘Fiction / Romance baritone’, for example whilst Helena is a ‘Nonfiction / Self-development soprano’. It’s all rather dystopian with some critics suggesting that as synthetic voices and content in general becomes more prevalent, humans will seek more authentic human experiences. You can check out the voices here and decide for yourself.

In other news this week, Zoom has kicked off its 2023 with the launch of a bunch of new product features. In a blog post by its product marketing manager David Ball, the comms giant unveiled new features including customizable meeting templates, threaded messaging and – for the days when you really would rather not be seen on camera – a series of Metaverse styled avatars. 

Finally, if you’re looking for ways to deploy AI technologies into your daily workflow, why not give yourself a leg up and use this tool to introduce GPT-3 into your PRDs?

Enjoy the rest of your week!



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Your product briefing

UX – How to design permissions in SaaS products

We’ve all seen those hideous versions of permissions systems where you can customise every last inch of who can do what. It’s often extremely overwhelming for users who have no clue where to start.

If you’re designing and introducing a permissions based system for the first time in your product, simplicity is an important principle to stick to if possible. Try to avoid building for every single potential combination and instead prioritise a simple way to get most things done.

This is much easier to do when you’re building permissions from scratch as part of zero-to-one products, but even if you’re working on older products with a bunch of legacy designs based on previous decisions, it’s still possible to inject simplicity into your permissions by migrating users onto new, simpler roles. (Department of Product)


Strategy – What the big 5 tech companies are doing with AI

The story of 2022 was the emergence of AI, first with image generation models, including DALL-E, MidJourney, and the open source Stable Diffusion, and then ChatGPT, the first text-generation model to break through in a major way. It seems clear to me that this is a new epoch in technology. Given the success of existing companies with new epochs, the most obvious place to start when thinking about the impact of AI is with the big five: Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft. (Stratechery)


Tweets worth reading

Contrary Research on the hidden costs of API-based business models

Management – How to build a core design team

Design may have been an afterthought to product development in past years, but it’s now widely understood to be a crucial early stage component. The explosion of consumer apps – and their influence on enterprise software – has put the end user at the center of all stages of product development, and design is key to building a product that resonates. (Greylock)


Industry data – Stack Overflow’s developer survey

2022 marks JavaScript’s tenth year in a row as the most commonly used programming language. But, it’s a different picture for those learning to code. HTML/CSS, Javascript and Python are almost tied as the most popular languages for people learning to code. People learning to code are more likely than Professional Developers to report using Python. (Stack Overflow)


New product features – Github launches new code scanning feature

GitHub’s code scanning is powered by its CodeQL engine, and while it supports a wide variety of compilers, so far the feature is only available for Python, JavaScript, and Ruby. That should change soon, said GitHub’s Walker Chabbott, as the company now seeks to expand the support to additional languages by summer. (TechRadar)


Productivity – 7 iPhone apps you’ve never heard of that will make your life easier 

From post it note management to help with your laundry, curated by Marius Hauken, these 7 apps will help you get your 2023 off to a productive start by reducing the little bits of friction you didn’t know you experienced. (Marius Hauken)


Content discovery tools – Refind

Get smarter every day. Every day we pick 5 links from around the web that make you smarter, tailored to your interests. (Sponsored)


New product launches – Google launches HD maps for cars

Google’s HD map is now available to automakers using Google Automotive Services. Volvo and Polestar announced that the HD map will soon be available in the Volvo EX90 and the Polestar 3. (TechCrunch)


Tools – A handy tool for ensuring you choose accessible UI colors

Design an accessible color palette for digital products in minutes instead of days. Colorca gives you smart defaults to jumpstart a new color palette and tools to review text/background contrast instantly. (Product Hunt)


Other product news in brief

  • TikTok is launching sleep reminders for digital addicts
  • Microsoft explores adding ChatGPT into its Office products 
  • Apparel startup Stitch Fix re-hires former CEO Katrina Lake
  • Brother of former Coinbase product manager sentenced to 10 months in prison for insider trading
  • Some Microsoft Teams features will move to a premium only subscription
  • Apple’s VP of services is reportedly leaving the company
  • The Surface Duo phone is no more



Become more technical in 2023

Learn about web technologies and the end to end development process – not how to become a developer – so that you can have more informed conversations with your engineers.


Web Technologies for Product Managers (starts Jan 28th)

As a product manager or non-technical professional, you’re not expected to be able to write code yourself but you are expected to have an understanding of technology. By the end of the 5 weeks you won’t be an engineer; you’ll be a product person with a deeper understanding of web technologies.


Program instructor: Abhishek, Lead PM at Square

Format: Live online 

Availability: admissions open now 


You can find out more or secure your seat for the upcoming program here.

All yours, all free. Enter your email to receive your briefing.

Product Briefing – November 9, 2023

GPTs for everything, Google Maps gets Immersive, Netflix’s QR codes
Plus: Slack’s CEO exits, How to use conjoint analysis, a new tool for reading API documentation

Product Briefing – November 2, 2023

Google Slides’ superpowers, a Sublime second brain, Pinterest’s PMF
Plus: Tech salary report, how to manage API integrations, Spotify, Instagram and LinkedIn MAUs in context

Product Briefing – October 26, 2023

Discord monetization strategies, Slack ditches X, Spotify growth
Plus: 50+ product analytics tools, Microsoft impresses, Google Meet gets appearance enhancers

Product Briefing – October 19, 2023

Netflix’s $8 billion quarter, Figma in limbo, Synthetic UX research. Plus: YouTube’s major release, a new way to manage your calendar, the Web Technologies Report 2023

Product Briefing – October 5, 2023

Google Docs’ new competitor, AI wars, App industry benchmarks
Plus: Airbnb’s ML patent, DoorDash’s swipe for restaurants and Uber expands to returns

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