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Archive for March, 2014

Post 25: Evidence

Screen Shot 2014-03-28 at 9.35.22 am


What evidence do you have that people want to use what you’re making? A lot, a little, none?

It isn’t always the case, but if you’re working on a new business idea or designing a new product, sometimes there can be evidence in the market from your customers that supports the need for a new solution.

This isn’t always true though. You know the saying, “That don’t know the don’t know.” People didn’t know they wanted Twitter before Twitter was built. It’s unlikely that Jack Dorsey was getting SMS’s from friends on a daily basis saying ‘Look as my awesome breakfast.’ The founders of Twitter had to build it for people to realise they wanted it.

This morning I checked out my friend Estelle’s personal website.

In the About section she had written a short bio and then listed out the places that she had worked and courses she’d done.

This is by no means evidence that the product we are working on will work. However it is an encouraging sign that people want to show and tell their professional story online.

Our challenge is to build tools that help people do it easier and more beautifully.


Post 24: F is for Focus

Last week I started to feel overwhelmed by this project. I’d been building parts and pieces of it in no particular order, but started to find it difficult to see how they might all fit together.

My dev partner (@adeperio) started asking me questions about the product structure that I couldn’t answer easily enough.

To tackle this problem, I decided to spend two days sketching out and then eventually building (in Balsamiq) the majority of the product as well as I could.

It was a useful process that gave me a much clearer idea of how the different parts could fit together.


After my first pass at this, it looks like there could be 4 key features to the product.

  1. Newsfeed & content consumption
  2. Search & discovery
  3. Notification & network activity
  4. Cards, lists, settings & profile

(A couple of days ago I posted a video showing how search might work.)

User Tests: Start doing them now!

The horrible admission I have to make is that I’ve only recently done my first real user test of the product, using the Balsamiq mock-up above. #idiot

On Saturday night I showed a friend (and potential customer) the mock-up and asked him to complete a few key tasks.

It was a disaster.

He knew about the idea prior and was very underwhelmed at what I had built – from a UI point of view that is. Because I’d spoken to him about how important the UI would be for this product, to see some crappy colourless Balsamiq screens was a bit of a let down.

We spent too much time critiquing the mock-up UI rather than the product architecture. My fault again.

I realise now that the mock-up above was really just for my personal benefit and probably wasn’t designed to run tests on as it doesn’t envision what’s in my head.

That being said, as with every user test, I did get some very useful insights and a jolt back on course about what should be built next.

There was one of those, “This is great, but how and why are people going to use it to start with?” conversations. And you sit there and try your best to sound like you have a plan.

Fortunately this time I was semi-prepared for the question and had a reasonable answer.


Following, buckets, lists, cards, blah, blah, blah, features, iOS, HTML5… are all things that get talked about, but what is the one most important thing that you are building first? And why?

For this product, its reasonable to assume that if we can build something that helps customers tell their professional story in a beautiful, unique, engaging way, they are going to want to share that with other people.

This is where we start. (The pink high-lighted area in the image above).

All other discussions about following and friending etc. are off the table.

The focus is on building something that helps people tell their story in 5 cards or less.

Mobile first.


We will add the other shit later.

Taking two days to map out the whole product was good – its helped us get to a point where we know what to do. And most importantly, why.

Post 23: Thought experiments in product design



How do you define Professional Value? Should it or can it be defined?

Trying to solve thought experiments like this from time-to-time can be a really useful way of dissecting your business/product.

The product I’m currently working on might help people communication their professional value, and it also might help customers make decisions about someones professional value.

Therefore it makes sense that I try to have the best understanding of what professional value actually is.

This is my second attempt at understanding it.

In a previous post I didn’t include Culture Fit, but on reflection this was a foolish omission.

Once you start to put structure around ‘loose’ concepts like professional value, you can start to reverse engineer the problem to help define features.

For example – if we decide that professional value is in-fact made up of a combination of skill, experience and culture fit, then we have a starting point for product features when we ask the question: “How do we help people communicate their professional value?”

Instead of tackling this question from every which angle, you can attack it with a bit of a strategy.

To answer the question above, we might list each element that we think creates professional value and then list a feature(s) that might help a customer complete the take.

  1. Ability & Skill > For visual people, add portfolio upload feature;
  2. Experience > Allow people to import logos and list details of the companies they’ve worked for in the past;
  3. Culture Fit > Give people the options of adding a Spotify or Soundcloud playlist to their profile

Do you agree with the equation above?




Post 22: Adding peoples cards to lists

Based on my last post which was a static illustration (below) of the above video, I wanted to show what it could be like adding a persons card to a list.

This design patter is heavily based on the Pinterest ‘add to board’ iOS pattern.

The idea is not to develop a new UX, rather make something that can be used to get feedback on the concept.

Thanks to the talented Dan Pike from The Letter D for the profile pic (he’s not a junior designer…at all.)


Post 21: How Motherbird might use this product

SUBTITLE: Company User Journey, Product Structure & Paid Enterprise Accounts

Writing and thinking about potential product features like the compare cards feature I wrote about yesterday has forced me to consider how this product actually fits into the daily lives of the customers.

Do individuals check it daily, weekly, monthly?

Do companies open it just on Fridays, or only when they’re looking for talent?

To explore it I’ve illustrated an example of what I think a user journey might be from a company/employer stand point (the top right of this quadrant).


I’m using my friends company, Motherbird, a Melbourne design studio, but I think that this user journey would apply to a lot of companies, and certainly not just in the design & creative world.

If the guys at Motherbird are anything like me, they’re constantly on the lookout for talented people to hire, even if hiring isn’t on the short term agenda.

The customer behaviour I think this product most closely mimics is that of Pinterest.

I have a Pinterest board which I update (infrequently) with images of beautiful houses that will hopefully one day serve as inspiration for when I build my own place. I add images to it today, even though I’m not building a house today.

The question I’m interested in exploring is; would companies and employers ‘Pin’ people into lists/buckets/boards for future reference for a time when they are ready to hire?

You might be out at a industry drinks night, meet a front end developer you thought was cool, but you don’t want to follow them on Twitter or Instagram, so you find them in this new network, and add them to an existing list you made called ‘Front End Developers: Melbourne’.

This way you are able to keep tabs on them and their work.

Each time they update a card in their profile, leave a job, get a new one, complete a course etc., you get notification.

It’s really an investment into your business.

Do companies really want to start from scratch each time they want to hire someone new?

In the story above I mentioned the ‘Enterprise’ version of the product. Let me explain.

We’ve been talking about creating tools to help individuals tell their professional story better – more context, more quality etc., and recently doing that all in 5 cards.

I’m sure that everyone’s career goes much deeper than 5 cards worth of information.

5 cards might be enough to get a good feel for a person and it might allow you to compare different people, but if you want their entire history, how do you do that?



One idea that’s been looked at this week is designing the product so that the details of their career, where they went to school etc., is ‘hidden underwater’ (see above).

This could be information that the user sets to private or even information that businesses need to pay to access. Not sure.

There have also been some interesting discussions about what value there would be in this network for businesses.

Finding talent is certainly one of them.

It would be interesting to find out if businesses would pay for an Enterprise version of the app that gave them the ability to follow and put people into lists privately.

App_OptionsThere could be a bunch of other features available to paying customers too. Most of it is around granting deeper access to the individuals in the network.

This could be subscription payment model?



Post 20: Standardise & Compare

Have you ever tried to hire a designer? I’ve mentioned this problem a few times in the past few weeks, and it keeps coming up mainly I think because it’s such a painful problem for a lot of people.

A typical application can include a LARGE .pdf folio, a .pdf resume, links to personal website and links to 3rd party sites like Facebook, Dribbble & Behance. Some companies can get 500+ of these for a single job.



Last week I published this video on YouTube showing a prototype of the product I’m working on. A couple of people (thanks Zac & Theo) suggested that it could be useful and/or interesting to compare people’s cards.

Zac even pointed me to the Apple website as an example of a place that allows you to compare products well.

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A comparative analysis of anything is best suited and really only available to you when the things you are comparing are close to equal.


It is possible to compare things that are structured differently, but the time taken to evaluate them increase as the differences increase.


As Theo and Zac correctly pointed out, building a system that requires customers to complete a similar set of outcomes (e.g. fill out 5 cards) opens up the possibility for quick and useful comparisons.



What you ask customers to create then becomes an art and science problem. Leaving, the cards in this case, completely blank with no required structure is no good, but likewise holding their hand too much means you end up risking looking like LinkedIn.

Screen Shot 2014-03-18 at 12.03.55 pm

To try and determine what requirements should and shouldn’t be included, I’m asking people I know that are looking for work or who are just interested in the product, to fill out 5 cards from this .ai template to see if there are any consistencies that are worth formalising.

In some circumstances I’m actually sharing these with the people they are looking to gain employment from to see if they find reviewing 5 cards any more valuable than reviewing a resume or portfolio.

This is helping me validate assumptions like:

  1. Viewing summaries of peoples careers on cards on mobile devices is a value adding experience;
  2. Individuals are able to adequately ‘tell their professional story’ or communicate the key points of their career in 5 iPhone sized cards;
  3. Giving individuals semi-blank canvas’ will allow for more personal information to be communicated – increasing the amount of context about the person that is communicated

There has been a bit of work happening around what information would people want to see outside of these 5 initial cards?

That’s the next blog post.


Post 19: Prototype Video

One process I always find useful when building new things is trying to illustrate the journey a new customer may go through when first coming into contact with your product.

NB: This works for physical and digital products

Today I spent some time sketching out a couple of path ways in my notebook (the colour was added in Photoshop afterwards).

These sketches helped me build a clickable prototype in Balsamiq in 2 hours.



1. Exploring a possible sign up process. Decided by the end of it that forcing the customer to being building their profile straight away, without letting them experience the product first, may not be the best option.



2. The second sketch tried to resolve the problem noted above. Sign up happens, but then you are placed at the central product screen when you can play around, but are heavily promoted to begin creating your profile.



3. These sketches are more like feature explanations. One showing a button to make your cards private (something a new user might want to do). The other showing the rough workings of someone creating a new list or bucket to store people cards.



Post 18: Restrictions & Simplification

Yesterday I posed the question, “How might we help people better communicate their talent and experience online?”

Overnight a couple of ideas collided and produced an interesting outcome.

When I showed James Noble from Carter Digital the product last week, he said he liked it, but it was missing something and encouraged me to make it simpler. e.g. Could a persons profile just be 3 cards?

On Sunday I watched my mates crowd around each others phones as they compared their individual profiles on Tinder (an app to help you ‘find interesting people nearby’). Tinder lets you choose 5 Facebook photos to tell your social story.

The discussion was basically, ‘what 5 photos are you using on Tinder that gets the most responses from women?’

A few of the boys have dogs, and the group decided having a dog in your set of 5 photos was advantageous to attracting women.


A potential issue with the product we’re working on is that in theory a customer could add unlimited cards to their profile and then it becomes almost as hard to look through their profile on LinkedIn.

A new question could be: if you had to tell your professional story on 5 cards could you? And what information would you include and what would you leave out?

  • You last 3 jobs?
  • Your best 2 pieces of work?
  • A video of the last film you created?
  • A quote about how you view your industry?
  • A selfie?!

Now I start wondering how much of your professional industry is relevant when doing higher level searching? Do I need to know where you went to school and your first 3 jobs to make a decision to shortlist you? Probably not.

Maybe this product’s main purpose is to just give people a place to browse other peoples professional stories, then shortlist or bucket them.

More information could be received on request?

(This is the 18th post in a series as I explore some digital product ideas. All my work is being published here on my blog. Click here to read the other posts, scroll down.)

Post 17: What is professional value?

A marketplace analysis.

Yesterday I got a few emails about a product called Dropr (The easy portfolio for all creative heads). The week before I got emails about Sumry (The resume reimagined).

We started asking questions about the product we’re working on and how it compares or fits within the marketplace.

At the moment, when I describe the product, I talk about it as a ‘profession story telling’ service and later, discovery for employers.

This lead to me consider what is actually important about someones professional story? What makes you valuable a professional contributing to the economy?



Yesterday I quickly I jotted this equation down in my notebook. I’m not sure if this has much credibility. The idea is fairly simple. Someone with great ability and talent with little industry experience lacks value as does someone with years of workplace experience, but little talent.

Having both makes you valuable.

Does this apply to all industries? I’m not sure.

It does allow a nice, HMW question (How might we…) to appear.

How might we help people better communicate their talent and experience online?

So going back to the product I mentioned earlier. It may be possible to plot the services in the marketplace based on how they address the above equation.



There are 12 services that I could think of that were relevant to this diagram. A few notes:

  • LinkedIn is by far the leader in the the experience category, but they are making a move towards talent & ability by allowing customers to add things like Behance Portfolios & post original content.
  • The bottom right quadrant is very crowded with services that allow customers to share their talent and abilities.
  • The Loop, Behance and Dribbble all offer different levels of talent and experience story telling, but all 3 have a heavy focus on talent in the form of portfolio display.

None of this means that the yellow square in the top right represents any great opportunity. I may be that companies aren’t in that space for a good reason. Maybe it isn’t possible to do?

For now though, that is the space we are exploring.


Post 16: Who buy’s your shit?

Defining Customer Profiles

Who are your customers? Knowing who your customers are and understanding the problems they have intimately is an important part of any business.

While exploring my new product idea, the customer(s) have been very roughly defined in my head, so this week I took some time to try and define, categorise and understand them better.


It can be difficult to find the natural categories that customers fit into. The process that I find most useful is spending 30min going through my Twitter and Facebook feeds and saving the profile pictures of anyone who I think could benefit from the product (I aim for 50-100).

Photo 5-03-2014 10 12 40 am

These get printed off on A4 paper, laminated and roughly cut out. Then it’s just a matter of moving faces and logos around on a table into defined groups until you find a natural fit.

I find the process very valuable because it can provide some much needed structure in the early product development phases, as well as giving you some indication of the type of people and companies and their behaviours and motivations which can inform early product feature decisions.


On my second attempt at rearranging the profile pictures, I landed on 4 mains categories of customers and I was able to represent them on a 4×4 quadrant diagram (above).

The 4 categories are:

  1. Service providers not buyers (individuals)
  2. Service providers and buyers (individuals & business)
  3. Service buyers not providers (individual & business)
  4. Neither buyers or providers of services (individual & business)

With some structure around the customers, it’s now easier to list out common attributes that each group has, as well as the pain points specific to each group. This information allows us to narrow in on features that will hopefully solve these problems.

After showing this to Tony (@adeperio) we’ve decided to build an minimal viable product (MVP) that focuses on solving 1 or 2 problems for the customers on the right hand side of the quadrant.

We’re hopping to have it live in 1 – 2 weeks.

(This is the 16th 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.)