Product Confidence: What is it and how to achieve it?

Ryan Coughlin

Six months ago a coworker noticed I kept using the phrase “product confidence” throughout design critiques and discussions. It got me thinking, what does product confidence mean?

My initial thought was that product confidence is a function of white space, type, and colors that support any given interaction to achieve a task. While those aspects help build product confidence, it needs a backbone to rest on.

How to identify it

The backbone of product confidence is clear intent, both in information architecture and interaction. A confident product:

  • Only cares about pertinent information in the correct format.
  • Has deliberate user flows.

When a user executes a set of tasks in an app, product confidence invokes a strong feeling of trust and clarity.


The original definition of product confidence started to evolve when Tyler, a designer here at thoughtbot, was working on a mobile insurance claims application. He was showing us wireframes that let a user start a new claim. Throughout the flow a user was prompted to supply a handful of information to submit a claim. We landed on a screen that prompted users to take a picture of the insurance card.

I asked him: “Why do you need a photograph, could a user type in the information?”

He replied: “The claims agent encounters a significant amount of typos and incorrect information when reviewing claims.”

A few things came from this:

  1. In research, we found it was easier for users to take a photo.
  2. Scanning cards has become standard practice.
  3. Typos and errors were mitigated by supplying a photo.

Manually inputting information was creating issues, slowing down process times and frustrating customers. There is an important human element at work here: the mindset of the user. Being involved in an accident leaves the user a bit shaken up, raising the probability they will make a mistake on the next field. By eliminating manual data entry for the user, the app helped increase both the user’s experience and the insurance company’s efficiency.

This made me revisit how I defined product confidence. A product with strong visuals can give a user “oh this is nice” first impression - which can help a user feel at ease, but in the end product confidence is a matter of thoughtful design decisions that address user needs.