The Department of Product


Thursday, 29 June, 2023

Figma's new mode and AR gets a niche use case. Plus: Shopify takes a gamble, a new tool for API integrations and Dropbox unifies search

Hi product people 👋,

As Meta and Apple battle it out for the future of augmented reality experiences, there’s one use case that neither of them have spent much time focusing on: reading. This week, we came across a new product called Sol, which focuses exclusively on the AR reading experience. Its beautiful design is reminiscent of something the teams at reMarkable tablet might create and the company behind the new device thinks reading is the perfect activity for a wearable. This innovative new take is a bold and admirable effort but AR hardware is not for everyone. Reports this week now suggest Google is said to be ditching its AR glasses project.

Meanwhile, as the API monetization wars continue, API management startup Merge is rolling out a new feature it says can help product teams manage their existing APIs and integrate with new third parties. Integrations is a new feature released this week that allows product teams to manage multiple API integrations in one place. Given Merge’s vast API network which includes the likes of Jira, Salesforce, Gusto, Microsoft and more it’s easy to see how a tool like this could be incredibly helpful not just for engineers but for all members of product teams. You can check it out here.

Another company who unveiled a bunch of useful new features this week is Figma. Their annual conference is a showcase of all the new things the company has in the pipeline and this year didn’t disappoint. Relevant highlights for product teams include Dev Mode and Variables. 

Dev Mode is described as a ‘browser inspector for your design file’ where users get access to a CSS box model and a DOM tree. Variables are for advanced prototyping which allow designers to store values and use them anywhere. Some designers have commented that this year’s announcements were a little developer-centric, but Figma says the new features are designed to help product teams bridge the gaps between design and engineering. 

Finally, if you like to listen to music with no lyrics to help you get in the zone at work, we came across this YouTube channel this week which we’ve been loving. 

Enjoy the rest of your week!

The Department of Product Weekly Briefing

Essential reads for product teams

How to use the Gestalt principles of design

The Gestalt Principles of Design are a set of concepts and guidelines drawn from gestalt psychology, which theorizes that the mind tends to process organized groups of things as a whole, rather than a number of individual things. These concepts can help to integrate a better understanding of perception into the way we arrange information, so that we can communicate more effectively. (Christopher Butler)

Slack’s chief product officer on mastering product-led growth

Noah Weiss is the Chief Product Officer of Slack, overseeing the product team’s strategy and development. Over his seven years at Slack, Noah has led various parts of the product organization, including the self-service SMB business and product-led growth. (20VC)

Tools you can use

  • PasteApp – a new way to copy and paste

  • Resume Kit – get a resume built by HR experts

  • Validly – automated user interviews

  • Layer – annotate any website and leave feedback for designers

  • Snap Calorie – take a photo of your food and find out how many calories it has

How to conduct a heuristic evaluation

A heuristic evaluation is a method for identifying design problems in a user interface. Evaluators judge the design against a set of guidelines (called heuristics) that make systems easy to use. (NN Group)

Talks worth watching

In this mind blowing talk, a private gathering of leading technologists show how AI can be used to reconstruct your visual memories


Monetization Chartpacks – How companies are making money in 2023

In this first part of the series on monetization: how Duolingo makes money, Zoom’s revenue broken down, how Adobe makes money, how a pivot to subscriptions impacted its business and lessons you can apply to your own product.

Plus, tools and resources to help you stay on top of how companies are making money.

(Department of Product)

🚀 New product features, launches and announcements this week

TikTok has announced a new monetization feature called “TikTok Creative Challenge”. It allows creators to submit video ads to brands and receive money based on the quality of the performance. “Submissions should be high-quality, well-edited, original content”, TikTok said. 

Zoom has unveiled a new feature that tracks participants’ heads. The new product scans faces in a room and displays the perfect headshot for everyone joining the call.

Generative AI tool Midjourney has launched V5.2 with improved aesthetics, sharper images and a new zoom out feature.

Shopify is expanding its Shop Pay product to enterprise customers who don’t use Shopify. The bold new strategic decision comes as the ecommerce giant recently gave up on its logistics efforts. Shopify’s hypothesis: expanding Shop Pay to non-Shopify stores means conversion on Shopify stores will rise as brand awareness of Shop Pay increases.

Meta has launched a new VR video game subscription service as it leans heavily into gaming to differentiate from Apple’s Vision.

Dropbox has unveiled a new AI-powered, universal search tool designed to surface results from all of a user’s sources. Dropbox Dash integrates with Google Workspace, Notion, Microsoft Outlook, Salesforce. A recent McKinsey study said knowledge workers spend almost nine hours a week searching for files and content. Dropbox will hoping this eliminates some of this wasted time.

Spotify has released a radically overhauled version of its desktop app. One of the major changes is the new library which can be expanded or collapsed, along with a split screen view.

📊 Product data and trends to stay informed

The global advertising market is set to hit $1 trillion by 2027. TV advertising will continue its slow decline, with internet advertising and video game advertising on the rise. Read the full PWC report 2023

Indonesia is a streaming service growth hotspot. One in three Indonesians now use streaming services and the number of hours watched is growing 40% year on year. 

WhatsApp Business now boasts 200 million monthly active users, up from 50 million in 2020.  

Researchers claim that they can now predict whether a song will be a hit with 97% accuracy. Predictive behaviour models could be applied to other industries outside of music. What if you could predict the likelihood of user journey conversions based on design prototypes alone?

Reddit’s revenue grew 38% YoY to ~$670 million in 2022, a steep drop of 2021’s 100%+ growth. 

Roblox paid out $580 million to creators via its developer platform as it gears up to launch a new immersive ad format.

Recommended newsletters

🤖 The Future Party – the latest news and trends that shape the future of business.


 – deconstructing designs to surface lessons that help you recreate elements of their success.

Other industry news in brief

Buzzy social startup IRL is to shut down after an internal investigation by the company’s board of directors found that 95% (19 million) of its 20 million users were fake. 

Apple’s machine learning leader Ali Farhadi is leaving the company to re-join the Seattle-based Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence.

TikTok’s COO V. Pappas is stepping down.

19 million fake users on a mountain
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Product Briefing – November 2, 2023

Google Slides’ superpowers, a Sublime second brain, Pinterest’s PMF
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Product Briefing – October 26, 2023

Discord monetization strategies, Slack ditches X, Spotify growth
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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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