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Posts Tagged with “Design Thinking”

Post 37: Enhancing the story experience

One of the key design challenges we have at the moment is trying create an experience where the viewer gets a really good snapshot of someones professional story in these categories:

  1. Ability
  2. Skills
  3. Culture fit

(The third one is the most difficult and most important). Together, we believe there equal ‘professional value’.

In the mock-up below, there are some examples of potential features that could help solve the story telling/context problem.



1. Welcome Note
The idea popped into my head the other day of letting people ad a voicemail type recording to the top of their profile to add context. It could be something like “…Hey, I’m currently taking a vacation so might not response as quickly as usual.” Hearing someone’s voice gives you a lot more context than just seeing an email responder. Tech could be a SoundCloud plugin.

2. Quote & Image
I’ve noticed that so many people have quotes by their hero’s pinned up around their desk or workspace. Whenever I see some quotes I always try and read them. So a possible feature could be to let people add quotes to their profile. In the example above I placed an image of NYC behind to give it a bit more feeling.

3. Keynote
There are a few people I know who have given great keynote presentations at places like Creative Mornings, but the seldom appear on their personal websites. It could be useful for people to add a Youtube or Vimeo clip to their page.

4. Preferred Supplier
Okay, this last idea is a bit unfinished, however I thought it could be interesting to give people the option of listing the things and services they use professionally as a way of getting a bit more context and giving props to the brands they love. I’m always interested to hear if someone uses Spotify or Rdio and why? Or if someone flys with Virgin or AA. Or if someone uses Google Drive or Dropbox. I don’t know of anywhere right now where people list their preferred suppliers which might mean it wouldn’t be useful, but you never know.


User Interface Lessons From Grill’d


It was probably because I had just walked out of an intense workshop and my brain my fried, but when the young bloke at the Grill’d counter asked me if I  wanted my burger in a Traditional or Panini bun yesterday, it took me a few more seconds to answer that usual.

The guy behind the counter gestured down at the beers, buns and dipping sauces in front of me, asking me to select a bun. I looked down, saw the buns, then read the labels beneath them and for a split second considered ordering a ‘Herbed Mayo Bun’, until I realised the labels were for the sauces beneath them.

While I paid the man, I looked down again to see what had tripped me up. It seemed to just be a user interface problem. The sauce labels were above the sauces near the bread instead of underneath the sauces. This is what confused my tired brain.

So I changed them and took a couple of photos.

After our meal I showed the team the photos and explained the user interface issue they were having. We all agreed that the subtle change I made improved the over experience of the Grill’d customer.

I was encouraged to see later that day that the other counters had been updated to reflect the new design tweak (see below).

And that’s the story of how I almost failed to order the correct bun at Grill’d because either I’m an idiot or more likely, the sauce & bread were incorrectly labelled.

* FYI I ordered the Panini. Who actually orders traditional?



Post 35: Build Video


Post 34: Build Update

For those following along at home, this is a short video of where Tony (@adeperio) is at with the build of the first version of our product.

We will be launching this before the end of may, but only allowing 200 people to register initially.

To start with the functionality will be very limited:

  • Create a profile & upload avatar
  • ‘Discover’ – alphabetical listing of people in network
  • View availability of people in the network
  • Unique URL to make sharing easier

That’s about it.

Post 33: The Oxygen of Good Design

Last night I was reminded of just how important customer research is when you’re developing a new product.

At a small design industry event in town I showed a bunch of people our product and asked questions about how they use other products like LinkedIn and Behance.

Photo 14-05-2014 9 42 07 am


As a two person team, we have assumptions about pain points people have and we think we can solve them. But nothing is more energising to a team than hearing your assumptions come out of the mouths of your customers.

One person gave us the feedback above when I asked her how she used LinkedIn.

While this kind of feedback doesn’t point to a specific solution, it does prove that there is at least some kind of pain point here and in the early days of product development, its this kind of qualitative feedback than helps point you in the right direction.


Photo 14-05-2014 10 40 21 am

Speaking to at least 5 customers each week is a goal I’ve tried to hit over the past 3 months. People love talking about things that piss them off about products & services, and if you listen carefully you can learn about where you should be focusing your time and energy.

Listening to Seb tell me about how he found it difficult to add that he’d written a couple of articles to his LinkedIn profile gave us the idea add a feature that lets people include things like articles, presentations etc. on their profiles.

“But talking to customers takes up valuable design time!”
Getting up from your desk to have a coffee with someone on the other side of town, or driving out to a bar after work is a pain. It takes at least 90mins each time and it’s easy to say “I could be using that time designing”. Yes you could, but you could also be designing something that no-one wants. This is the counterintuitive nature of customer research. I’ve never spoken to a customer about a design problem and walked away with nothing. In 100% of cases I’ve learned something I didn’t know before, or found an important problem with my design. In the end, taking the time to talk to real customers ends up saving you a lot of time.


Team Moral & Motivation
I’ve worked in teams where they feel like the thing they’re working on isn’t actually something the customer wants. And in my experience, few things kill company moral quicker. Putting a team to work on a real customer problem is energising and focusing. A great way to discover real customer problems is to talk to real customers. Sounds simple, but few people do it or do it enough.

The guys at Google Ventures echoed something similar in a recent article on their blog where they dive into more detail than I have here and explore some of the common excuses people give for avoiding customer research.

Maybe its the way we are educated, or maybe its just uncomfortable, but most designers I know would rather sit behind their 27′ iMac clicking and sketching away than get up from behind their desk and go and speak to the people they are trying to solve a problem for.

More than anything else, I’ve found that real customer feedback is the oxygen that fuels good design solutions.


Post 32: Design Update

We’re exploring a product idea that helps you tell your professional story and/or communicating your professional value on mobile devices. For a designer, this might include links to your work on services like Behance, Dribbble & The Loop, your Instagram account and work history etc. Obviously everyones value and story differs greatly.

3 months ago, the idea was that everyone’s story would be like a deck of cards with a ‘face card’ showing an overview of your profile and then you’d have a card for each job, or service you used etc. Something like this mockup.


Over the weekend I sat down to take a closer look at how we might design the product to give people the best browsing experience when looking through a collection of peoples stories.

The solution I came up with is below.

You would swipe left or right on your phone to change profiles and up and down to go deeper into their story.

The ‘card’ UI element has been semi-replaced by a ’tile’ type element, similar to Pinterest.

So far the feedback has been strongly in favour of this design, although there is a lot more testing to do.

We like the idea that a customer can drag tiles around to create their own hierarchy. We also like the idea that we can partner with services like Youtube or Behance or GitHub to create custom tiles that people can add to their profile.

We are hoping to get some version of this design into the build we launch with (end of May , 2014).




Designing Transportation Systems

Recently I’ve become very interested in the technologies being developed around optimising and improving transportation for people.

From my very initial reading, it seems that in the next 5 years we will have commercially available self driving cars and in the next 20 years, entire networks of self driving cards that will be available to most people in the developed world.

This week Google released an update on where they are at with the development of their own self driving technology. (See above)

I’m particularly interested in the infrastructure that will be needed to be built to support this breakthrough. It doesn’t seem hard to imagine a scenario where you use an UBER type application on your smart phone to book a car to take you out to dinner or to work each day.

Exploring the businesses models around these developments is very interesting. It may be that our kids will never actually own a car, rather they might pay an annual fee to be able to hire a car on demand. Most of the time our cars sit idle costing us money, so an on demand service makes sense.


Self driving cars, apart from being safer, will also be more economic, being able to drive other people around while you are at work.

Above is a sketch of a multi story car storage and maintenance centre where the cars could also charge, assuming they are electric. Existing energy companies like BP, may in the future own these buildings which could be used by any number of cars made by different manufactures providing they have a standard charging interface.

I’ve not read enough yet about this work happening in this space, but I’m looking forward to learning more and sharing some ideas around how we might be able to design the transportation systems of the future.


UPDATE: There are a group of engineers and designers from Ann Arbor, Michigan, who have a goal to become the first city in the world to have a driverless car network. (See video below)

Interesting statistic: 80% of driver accidents are caused by human error. There are 1.2 million deaths globally caused by cars. Remove the drivers, and we save around 960,000 lives. This number of course assumes the driverless technology is evenly distributed globally which wouldn’t be the case initially, but its a goal to work towards.

Post 30: Customer test = areas to focus on

Today I’m working on designing solutions for 3 things I didn’t think I would be working on because I showed 3 people a prototype.

I’m as guilty as anyone of sitting at my desk for too many days in a row without showing people the product because its not quiet finished. Maybe I just need another day or two to get the UI right. You don’t. You needed to show someone yesterday.

After sitting at my desk for 1 day to many, I started a interview spree last week. FYI – going to an industry drinks night is an excellent way of showing lots of people quickly. Plus once everyone has had a couple of drinks, they tend to be more honest with their feedback.

Three of the interviews uncovered three areas of the product that deserve more attention and two which are of high importance right now (2 &3).


1. Messaging System
Interviewee: Senior Comm designer, IDEO Munich
This person hires lots of freelances. He understood the product very quickly, and had lots of questions. One very interesting one was “Where do I click to message the person?” Not can I, but where is it? This was fascinating to me. The person just assumed that because this was a mobile app, there would be messaging built in. Messaging hasn’t been something we’ve thought about, but it turns out, at least to one person, it’s something they would like to use.


2. Importance of About, Experience & Work Card
Interviewee: Basically everyone
Almost 100% of people I talked to this week (10-15) tried to press the icons that indicated more information about a persons work, experience and overview as soon as they got in the app. It was always the first thing. Now making designing these parts a priority.


3. Explaining Search
Interviewee: Account/studio manager, Melbourne
A couple of people asked about how search worked, but this person in particular went into detail. We think it’s a fair to assume that if people use this product, they will want to be about to search for profiles of people they are interested in. What we haven’t thought about is how that search will work. During the tests, people have asked a lot of questions about ‘how the search is organised’, ‘can I search by profession’, ‘can I search by availability’ etc. Right now our search screen UI doesn’t give any indication of how results are organised and that’s proving to be a problem.

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 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.