The Product Friction Framework

I’d like to think I am good at product. If I am, however, it’s because I’ve been ruthlessly efficient at one thing: stealing secrets and methods from people a lot smarter than me.

The Man Who Lied to His Laptop is the name of a book written by Professor Clifford Nass of Stanford University. Professor Nass's research proved again and again that we respond to comuters and digital interfaces as if they were human. One important implication of the research is remarkably profound:

If we want users to like our software, we should design it to behave like a likeable person.

The "Father of Visual Basic" Alan Cooper corroborates this thesis with his list of what makes software polite. This list serves as the rules for level 1 of the Product Friction Framework.

Level 1

The 14 Rules of Polite Software:

  1. Polite software is interested in me
  2. Polite software is deferential to me
  3. Polite software is forthcoming
  4. Polite software has common sense
  5. Polite software anticipates my needs
  6. Polite software is responsive
  7. Polite software is taciurn about its personal problems
  8. Polite software is well informed
  9. Polite software is perceptive
  10. Polite software is self-confident
  11. Polite software stays focused
  12. Polite software is fudgable
  13. Polite software gives instant gratification
  14. Polite software is trustworthy

Product Friction Units

We measure Polite Software in units of "Product Friction", from 0 to 100.

A product at 0 Product Friction has been maximally designed to help users achieve their goals and inspired users to the point where they will overcome most challenges to use the product.

A product at 100 Product Friction has exhausted it's users, to the point where users are abandoning their current experience.

Example: Tesloop's Search Results Page

To understand how much Product Friction a product has, put yourself in the perspective of the user and evalute the site from top-left to bottom-right with the 14 Rules of Polite Software in hand. Go through the product's entire mobile or web funnel until you can't go any further.

  1. Starting Product Friction
    All products begin with 0 Product Friction. Assume the best.

  2. +10 Product Friction
    If the product violates one of the 14 rules of polite software, then add +10 Product Friction. In the example above, Tesloop's search results page breaks Rule #8: Polite software is well informed. That is +10 Product Friction.

  3. Sum it up!
    Tally up all the Product Friction to see where users are by the time they get to their goal.


Apply Level 1 of the Product Friction Framework to your product and email me the results at Good luck on the journey and enjoy!

Want to have a frictionless product? Request a teardown!