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Archive for February, 2014

Post 14: AlphaApp Prototype

Early last year I hacked this product idea together in Balsamiq to show the guys I was working with.

I found myself sending and receiving screen shots and sketches of ideas via email with different people cc’d in.

This is super rough, but the basic idea is there – a place where you can share your ideas with friends and give feedback right from your smartphone.

The app was structured around creating ‘Projects’ which are either privately shared with your friends or publicly shared with the app’s community for wider feedback.

Customers upload sketches or .gif or .pngs to the app and wait for feedback.

If you’ve been following, I’ve been developing another app idea over the last month, and I can see how there are parts of this that could fit within it.

 

(This is the 14th post in a series as I explore some digital product ideas for 30 days. All my work is being published here on my blog. Click here to read the other posts, scroll down.)

Post 13: Connecting in a network

While talking to people over the last month, on of the most common things I hear people say when talking about the LinkedIn network, is how the whole ‘connecting thing feels gross and cheap.’

I know what they mean and you probably do too.

Being connected to someone or not is a vital part of the LinkedIn business model. If you’re not connection the person (or opportunity) you want, then they can charge your for the privilege.

Up until this point I hadn’t given much thought about how customers might connect with one another in this new network – or if they even need to.

But out of interest I looked at my own apps and did a quick audit.

It seems most allow their customers to connect in one of two ways:

  1. Following & Subscribing
  2. Connecting through a request which requires approval

(It’s worth noting all allow different levels of ‘open information’ before you need to connect or follow someone).

Connections1

 

There have been conversations this week about the architecture of the network and comments about Pinterest.

• Could you follow someones profile/career like you follow a board on Pinterest?

• Could you ‘pin’ people into buckets like you do with images on Pinterest.

• What happens to your network if you replace connecting with following?

• Of you take the connecting out of LinkedIn and replace it with following, does the product have as much or any value?

These all seem like important questions to consider while we move forward with development.

Connections3

 

All I can say at this stage is that the Twitter, Youtube & Instagram ‘follow’ pattern feels like a more human way of doing things. It’s less about who you’re connected too and more about who you’re interested in.

If you’ve ever designed a product, you’ll  know that this one idea has a huge and dramatic effect on the entire network so it’s something that will command a lot more time.

The answer to this question will of course come from thinking about what the problem is the app is solving and which connection method, if any, helps the customer solve that problem the best.

 

(This is the 13th post in a series as I explore some digital product ideas for 30 days. All my work is being published here on my blog. Click here to read the other posts, scroll down.)

 

Post 12: LinkedIn, who, when, why, where?

Today I took an in-depth look at LinkedIn; who uses it, when, why and where. The point of this is to try and see where there might be some holes in the product or opportunities to build new products and add value.

I was interested to see if I could validate some of my own ideas about the product, and also discover some new insights about who uses it, when, why and where.

All of my research in this post comes from the Melbourne based Beers, Blokes & Business podcast (@BeersBlokesBiz) from last week where they discussed LinkedIn for 56mins. (Listen here)

The opinions varied greatly, but I found some really interesting insights that I think are worth sharing and help shed some light on my work.

To give you some context, the guys in the podcast (I think) are all business owners, in their 30’s – 40’s, with an interest in technology and business.

As a way of structuring the info, I’ve divided the key quotes into Pro-LinkedIn and Anti-LinkedIn with a summary at the end.

 

Pro-LinkedIn

“I use it as a live rolodex that updates itself.”

 

“You’ve got to realise what LinkedIn is. It is changing to more of a content sharing, less noisy platform.”

 

“…It has replaced the CV.”

 

“When I was a Deloitte Digital we would give a client a list of the consultants who would be working on their project and their areas of speciality. The first thing they would do is Google their name and if LinkedIn didn’t come up first and match what we had said we had a problem. It was a great way of validating to clients what a team could do.”

 

“We got over 250 applicants for a design job in one week. I used Google to find them on LinkedIn so I could research them and cull. I’ll only interview 5.”

“I don’t have a problem with LinkedIn, I find it a great way of managing contacts.”

“The major advantage is for business development.”

“They do SlideShare better than anyone else.”

“The thing I really like is when someone changes gigs (jobs)  in my network and you get a notification.”

“Birthday notifications are good in LinkedIn. I normally email them directly.”

“It’s a great research tool and a place to find out things you want to know and need to know.”

“I had a customer write a review and I had a call from that recommendation on LinkedIn.”

 

Anti-LinkedIn

“I don’t use it a great deal, because people are trying to sell to me.”

“It’s a giant spam machine I can do without.”

“…I’m not saying it isn’t useful for business, I am saying that the majority of spam I get these days…I can trace back to LinkedIn.”

“I say ‘No’ to 80% of the people who want to connect with me.”

“There are faults with LinkedIn in the way it asks you to connect with people.”

“It is a bit of a numbers game, ‘The Race to 500’, 501 because then everyone things I’m popular.”

“That’s the thing that’s the problem! I don’t actually look at who they are and what job they’re in because that doesn’t matter to me. What matters to me is the humanity of them and they way they connect. I want to judge people on a human level. Shouldn’t that be what we’re aiming for?”

“LinkedIn makes it super hard to disconnect from someone.”

“The other problem I have with LinkedIn is the interface, it’s just horrible and counterintuitive and hard to use.”

“(the interface)…is a mashup. It’s had things added to it.”

“I don’t think it’s a deep enough snapshot. Its a static view of where you are in that point of time, ‘heres a rear vision mirror of where I used to work.'”

“That’s why it’s broken! Who want’s to be judged by a linear process of what you’ve done.”

“(when I was in advertising)…when someone applied for a job, the first think I would do was Google the, and if the first thing that came up wasn’t a platform or blog they owned, I wouldn’t interview them. It couldn’t be LinkedIn.”

“I don’t want to see what someone’s done, I want to see what they think. I want to get into their mind.”

“It’s a business networking tool, not a social platform.”

I found the guys thoughts really interesting (thanks boys!), and if you’re interested I’d encourage you to listen to the podcast. Some clear themes emerged that I had wondered about.

1. LinkedIn is great for contact management and business development.
I think LinkedIn does a great job of managing my professional contacts, but I can’t say I use it much for biz dev. However I know some people do so it’s encouraging to see support for that train of thought here.

2. ‘Connecting’ feels cheap or something.
There is something here around ‘connecting’ with people within the network… Too much emphasis on how many connections (and now) endorsements you have. It all feels a bit shallow.

3. If you don’t take the time to manage your connections/groups, you will get spammed.
I didn’t capture all of the discussion around spam, but while some of the blokes claimed to be spammed regularly by LinkedIn, there were equally others who didn’t have this problem, they felt because the carefully curated their connections.

4. The interface and user-experience sucks.
Not something I wasn’t already almost certain of, but they are a huge company that will hire some good design talent, or use what they’ve got already correctly in time.

5. Your industry will likely determine how you view LinkedIn.
I thought two of the most interesting insights from the podcast were around HR. Our ex-Deloitte Digital guy said that LinkedIn was really important to prove to clients that their consultants had the skills required. Whereas the guy who came from advertising said that he viewed having a LinkedIn profile was a negative thing for applicants.

And this is where this whole project starts to become really interesting. LinkedIn, whether it does a quality job or not, is the default, benchmark and go-to platform for white collared, well paid, university educated graduates. But there seems to be lots of other professional and even entire industries that struggle to see the value in the product as it currently is.

If there is an opportunity anywhere, I think it lies somewhere around here.

 

(This is the 12th post in a series as I explore some digital product ideas for 30 days. All my work is being published here on my blog. Click here to read the other posts, scroll down.)

Post 11: Professional Story Telling

If you had asked me this time last week what the problem was that I am trying to solve with all this work, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you. In fact a friend did ask me last Sunday on our way from Sydney airport to breakfast. I tried to string words together for 15 mins, but it was clear I didn’t actually have a good grasp on the problem I am trying to solve.

However, on Monday night I grabbed dinner with a developer friend of mine (and ex-house mate @adeperio) and after a few beers we actually managed to begin to define the problem.

Professional story telling.

Basically, we think that what I’ve been working on is a product that helps a set of customers tell the story of their professional life in an engaging way.

Facebook allows your to tell your personal story, but where do you tell you professional one? LinkedIn? We’re not sure their solution is for everyone.

We filmed this quick video looking of Tony’s LinkedIn profile viewed on an iPhone. As you can see, it’s mainly text, and not super engaging.

Photo 24-02-2014 9 55 58 am

This was the sketch I showed Tony to try and communicate where I was heading and this lead to a discussion about story telling. We decided that story telling for your career is broken. We could be wrong.

The basic hypotheses is this: there is a group of people who want to share their professional ‘story’ online with other people, but currently they don’t have the tools to do it.

LinkedIn seems to be there only option, but as I heard this week, “I f*&ken hate LinkedIn.”

A common think I keep hearing from people in this ‘group’ is “Yeah I have LinkedIn, but I don’t know why”, or “I don’t get LinkedIn, but I feel like I should have an account right?”

Defining this group of customers is still a work in progress. I had a stab in my last post Post 10: Carlos, Kate & SebI’ll keep working on that.

Late last week I bashed this rough prototype together using Proto.io. It shows how adding a card to your profile might work.

It feels like some of the pieces of this puzzle are starting to come together.

 

(This is the 11th post in a series as I explore some digital product ideas for 30 days. All my work is being published here on my blog. Click here to read the other posts, scroll down.)

Post 10: Carlos, Kate & Seb?

SUBTITLE: Defining customer segments

All great products/services solve a problem for a customer. You’re success will normally relate to how well you solve the problem, how early you were to the game etc.

As I spend time developing ideas around professional networks, I’m keeping in mind the people that I’m solving problems for.

In an email I sent yesterday I said, “…it could be like LinkedIn for the design vertical.”  In a similar way Doximity is a professional network for U.S. Physicians.

[What is a vertical? 1:32min explanation]

The problem I’m having is I can feel a common set of pain points that exist for customers who work within the ‘design/creative’ vertical, but they are very hard to define.

CD_Verticals3

Insert Carlos, Kate & Seb.

Carlos and Kate are two friends I know who fit well inside the design vertical. Both are practising designers with similar clients and business models.

Seb works at The Lonely Planet (probably has the best job in the world). He’s not a designer, but I can’t help but include him in my research because I’m sure he shares some problems in common with Carlos and Kate even though he comes from a (slightly) different vertical.

CD_Verticals2

If I add in my copywriting friends Willow&Blake, who also belong to a mini vertical, we get a more diverse ecosystem with potentially more common pain points.

Up until this point, I’ve been building something mainly for Vertical 1, bleeding into PP3. But my concern is that these areas alone are too small to build a business around. (Dribbble, who sit in Vertical 1, have 460,000 users, Dec 2013).

CD_Verticals1

My feeling is that the real opportunity lies in creating a product that solves pain points that are shared between the mini verticals or in PP4.

Trying to define these however is difficult.

Here are some similarities that the verticals share, but I’m not at a point yet when I can translate them into shred pain points and thus develop specific solutions (or a product).

  • Work would be defined as ‘creative’
  • Don’t wear suits to work
  • Don’t work regular 9-5 hours
  • Can and do work remotely if need be
  • Their work is far more diverse than what they studied
  • Add lots of value to their customers, but hard to quantify
  • Many freelancers in the vertical
  • Limited business knowledge due to failing education systems

It’s possible that what is happening here is that the difficultly I’m encountering defining common pain points between mini verticals is because the customers actually have a hard time defining themselves in a professional context. Are you just a graphic designer, or do you also offer social media and copy writing services and film editing and development?

Thanks to online training, YouTube and services like Freelancer, people in the ‘design & creative’ vertical offer all sorts of services and often more than just one or two. Does this mean the need/want their own network to cater for this?

The other option of course is that the pain points that are shared between verticals are too murky or aren’t strong enough or clearly defined enough to build a product around and I might be better to just look at a more well defined vertical like Graphic Design.

(This is the 10th post in a series as I explore some digital product ideas for 30 days. All my work is being published here on my blog. Click here to read the other posts, scroll down.)

Post 9: The Overview Card

CD_OverviewCard1

Recently I’ve been exploring some ideas around a hypothetical digital product that would give customers (focusing on designers and ‘creatives’) a way to present their professional careers online.

I’ve been using a deck of cards as the concept that is informing the overall structure off the product.

[Read more here: Post 3 & Post 7]

Today I mocked up a new ‘Overview Card’; something that would give the viewer a very quick and visual snapshot of the person. What they do, where they’re based, where they have or currently work etc.

The card is very ugly, I spent most of my time on the edit/settings screen (below).

The idea here is that you enter the edit screen and use sliders to set what elements appear on your Overview Card and how important (large) they are/will appear. This is something that is could and should be super dynamic and would change often over someones career.

Feedback is very welcome via comments below, email or Twitter.

CD_OverviewCard

 

(This is the 9th post in a series as I explore some digital product ideas for 30 days. All my work is being published here on my blog. Click here to read the other posts, scroll down.)

Post 8: Quick & Easy Saving

Do you use Instapaper or Pocket? I’ve got both, save shitloads of articles, and never read them.

Not being a heavy Pinterest user, I’m not sure if the same behaviour is happening over there or if Pinterest’s customers are actually going back to look through their boards.

I think the design of the ‘pinning’ function in the Pinterest iOS app is really great and I’m wondering if that’s something I would like to do with peoples profiles?

Already I find myself categorising people into lists/buckets in my professional circles. If it was as easy to save someone into a list as it was to pin something on Pinterest, maybe I would do it – and check the lists later.

 

CD_Pin

 

(This is the 8th post in a series as I explore some digital product ideas for 30 days. All my work is being published here on my blog. Click here to read the other posts, scroll down.)

Post 7: First Deck Mock-up

1

Yesterday I decided to build a few screen that would tell my own professional story. This was a good process, it uncovered a bunch of fundamental questions about the structure of the product which I’ll share later.

I’ve been playing with colours and type for the last 2 hours and it’s been pissing me off, so I just decided to grab some .png’s and share them for feedback.

 

Keep in mind, at this point I’m not interested in the colours and overall UI. I’m interested to see if any of these parts or screens interest you. What makes sense, what doesn’t etc.

All the information in these screens is correct.

(This is the 7th post in a series as I explore some digital product ideas for 30 days. All my work is being published here on my blog. Click here to read the other posts, scroll down.)

Post 6: UI Development

CD_5

With consumer tech products, actually all tech products, I think it’s important that the customer (user) can look at something and have an idea of how to use it or how it should work. App’s like Clear have certainly done it differently (and it’s worked well for them).

Today I’ve been developing some screens of a basic profile, trying to get it to a point where the customer would understand that:

  1. They are looking at a Profile Card
  2. They can swipe left or right to find a new Profile Card
  3. Their are 13 more cards ‘under’ this Profile Card that can be revelled

CD_5.2

CD_5.1

You can see here how I developed this UI in a couple of hours. The objective is still just to make something that can be shown to potential customers to see how they feel about the mock-ups. Is it confusing or making some kind of sense?

awesome_longshadow

 

It was this UI from Clique (by Focus Lab, NYC), that Marc shared with me on Twitter, that I used inspiration for the UI direction (thanks Marc).

That’s all for now 🙂 Feel free to leave comments & feedback below or hit my up on Twitter or email.

UPDATE: There was some feedback on Twitter that it wasn’t obvious that you could swipe the cards left and right. I’ve just reduced the size of the main card and added a small preview of the edge of the next cards to make that a bit more obvious.

CD_Version3

(This is the 6th post in a series as I explore some digital product ideas for 30 days. All my work is being published here on my blog. Click here to read the other posts, scroll down.)

 

 

Post 5: Graphic Design Resume Survey

Last week I asked for some examples of resumes from graphic designers. I was interested to see how people were categorising and presenting their professional lives, what information did they include and what did the exclude, what was the average number of pages etc.?

My thinking here is that my findings could act as a guide for what ‘cards’ to include in someones professional ‘deck’ (see Post 3).

Below is a screen shot of the spreadsheet I created with the results.

Graphic Design Resumes

I looked at 6 surveys from male and female graphic designers from Australia and America. NB: Green indicates that the section was included in the resume. Red indicates it was excluded and the text is how the person labeled that section in their resume.

Some Key Points

  •  For me, the most simple and easy to read were only 1 page in length. Anything over started to get a bit complex. The average number of pages was 1.8. 
  • There were common categories with only 2 of the 8 appearing on all 6 resumes. (They were ‘Design Experience’ & ‘Education’. 
  • The 9 most common categories were:
  1. Bio/About
  2. Design Experience
  3. Education
  4. Technical Skills
  5. Events Attended
  6. Referees
  7. Interests
  8. Exhibitions / Awards
  9. Other

I’ve found this information really interesting. It gives me a basis for the potential architecture of the product (if it continues in this direction).

It’s possible that all new users of the product would have these 9 ‘cards’ available to them for free.

One thing to keep in mind is that a resume from a designer would almost always come with a folio, so it’s reasonable to assume that there would need to be ‘folio card’ in there too.

I’d love to increase the sample size, so if you’re happy for me to read your resume, please email me: nrhallam@gmail.com

(I’m currently spending 30 days exploring some digital product ideas. All my work is being published here on my blog. Click here to read the other posts, scroll down.)