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Posts Tagged with “product design”

Idea: Flight Status Update, Auto-SMS

The Problem

Last Sunday I took a flight from Brisbane to Melbourne with 3 friends. After we took off (and after I had turned my phone off), the pilot announced that due to wind conditions, the flight would be arriving 25 mins early at 12:50pm.

Normally this would be good news, however we had organised a car to pick us up at 1:45pm (allowing for a 1:15pm arrival and collecting our luggage). Because we were unable to use our phones during flight, we were unable to send a message to the person picking us up to let them know we were going to be early.

The result was that we ended up waiting at Melbourne airport for about 40mins.


The Solution?

As we landed, I thought a simple fix to this problem could be to add auto-sms update system. As you check in or book your flight, the customer is asked if there is someone picking you up at the other end who could benefit from know if the flight is early, on time or delayed.


Flight tracking apps already provide people with arrival time information, but they require the person picking you up to be proactive or have the app installed etc. An SMS (or I suppose email) is a very cheap and efficient way to keep everyone informed. Like any good relationship, communication is they key. The value to the person flying and the person picking you up is potentially very high.



Photo 24-09-2014 11 32 34 am

The Opportunity

A quick scan of the ‘Domestic airline on time performance’ stats for August 2014 (which is put out by the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development in Australia), shows that:

  • 82.4% of flights departed on time
  • 83% of flights arrived on time
  • 1.8% of all flights were cancelled
  • Virgin Australia had the highest percentage of cancellations with  3.4%
  • Qantas had 1.1% cancellation rate
  • The Melbourne – Sydney route had the highest cancellation percentage 4.9%


Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 12.16.07 pm

Here are the definitions for on time departures and arrivals:

Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 12.19.36 pm

It seems fair to say that there are not a huge amount of flights that are arriving early or late or being cancelled, but there are certainly some and for the cost and complexity to build this, it could be worth the investment.

Why this may not get built

This idea is likely 5-10 years too late. It also could exists (does it?). A number of flights in America now offer in flight WiFI which makes this service redundant. Although in flight WiFi typically has to be purchased, which could mean this idea has some legs left in it.

On a Shelf


Five months ago Tony (@adeperio) and I started working on a product to solve a problem we both had. We weren’t happy with the LinkedIn experience and knew a lot of people who agreed. We formed a point of view that professional story telling was broken and needed to be improved.

Since February we, wrote 44 blog posts, did countless customer interviews, flew to America and met with people from IDEO, Betaworks, Expa, Designer Fund & Emergence Capital & launched a mobile app prototype.

Almost everyone agreed that the problem was a real one, someone put it this way: “There are 1 billion people on Facebook and 250 million on LinkedIn. The difference we call ‘The Ungraphables'”.

Tony and I worked on this in our spare time by the end of June, we both needed some time off for the project to reset.

For now, we’re putting it on hold. We uncovered lots of good insights and came up with some interesting solutions, but nothing that really stuck.

Below are some of the more significant or interesting blog posts. We’re still both really interested in the problem and are more than happy to talk more about. Lots of people are playing in this space and we will be keeping a keen eye on them.

For what it’s worth, I think this idea which didn’t get published was really interesting. Hiding your profile behind a button that you could ad to you existing site (mock up here).


(Post 44) – .GIF mock-up focused on projects

(Post 43) – Video of a stripped back UI

(Post 41) – .GIF Simple one screen story

(Post 39) – .PNG Simplifying the interface

(Post 38) – Video example of a professional story in a .GIF

(Post 33) – Customer interview insights

(Post 32) – .PNG New interface concept

(Post 27) – Video of a user test 2

(Post 26) – Video of a user test 1

(Post 24) – Video of a prototype

(Post 23) – Defining ‘Professional Value)

(Post 20) – Comparing people

(Post 18) – Telling your story in 5 cards

(Post 17) – The marketplace / competitors

(Post 5) – Graphic designer resume survey

(Post 4) – Verified information

(Post 1) – Connecting the dots

UPDATE: The day I published this, LinkedIn announced a new profile re-design on their blog.

Post 42: Examples in the wild, Wilson Miner

Screen Shot 2014-06-26 at 2.04.09 pm

Browsing around today I found product designer, Wilson Miner’s personal site. Elements are very similar to the interface we’ve been working on.

At it’s simplest, there is a photo, a coloured background and some text. Some of the words in the text are links to projects or work or companies.

In a way, Wilson has chosen to tell his professional story in a similar way to how we are thinking others could tell their own story with our product.

CD_MVP_V6_Wilson_Text2Wilson had a lot more text that they 200 characters that are in the other examples so I put this quick scrolling mockup together to get a feel for the experience you could have if we allowed the text to scroll over the top.


Post 41: One Screen Prototype


Previous designs have focused on a vertically scrolling interface where peoples experience and info is revealed below the higher level bio and photo info.

This mockup tried to keep all the info in one screen. Customers have a photo and 200 characters about themselves, but are able to make words in their bio tappable which revels more information about that part of their work life.

Post 41


In this example Erika signs up with Twitter, browses around and find our more information about Ryan’s work with IDEO and AIGASF.


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.


Post 36: Learning From Launching

We’ve been working on an idea for an application that could help people tell their professional stories on mobiles devices in a more human and engaging way.

We actually launched the app a bit over a week ago, but we’ve been too busy testing and reporting bugs to do a blog post.

Our attitude to this product has been one of ‘launch and let customers tell us how they want to use the app.’

Today we have enough people signed up to start seeing some ways we might be able to improve the product.



The image on above to the left shows how the app currently looks. One of the requirements when you create an account is to list your ‘Position‘ and ‘Employer‘.

Our assumption was that our target market would have trouble with this because a lot of them are involved in multiple projects or work/freelance for themselves. We think we’re right about that assumption.

Today there are 30 accounts on that app, 12 of which look like Anna’s above. Notice how her position is ‘Designer’ at ‘Freelance…’. Then she mentions that she is a freelance designer again in her bio.

It’s messy and confusing.

Our of aims with the product is to make finding people, and learning about their professional lives a more human experience.

So I proposed the solution you see in the right image. We remove the requirement to have a ‘Position‘ at an ‘Employer‘ and let you just write your bio mentioning your position and employer if you have one. This will only work if we can build the app to recognise names of employers and job titles and then record them as tags allowing people to search for ‘all freelance designers’.

In the mock-up I’ve marked the tagged items with an underline.

We think that version give people a nicer more fluid reading experience.

Just before I save the image above, I put a line of text under the availability indicator giving more context to the sign. The more I look at it the more I like it.

And greetings from NYC. First time in The States. Here for another week and then off to SF to get some more critical feedback on the product. Follow along on Instagram.


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).




Post 31: Putting design second, at first

Screen Shot 2014-05-05 at 3.26.00 pm

The image on the left is what the first version of our product will look like, the image on the right is what I want it to look like.

As a designer your instinct is to work on something until it is beautiful, effective and the simplest it can be. But when you’re working on a new product with no customers, well you don’t have that luxury. Especially if, like us, you don’t have any funding and you’re just trying to get feedback.

Design certainly is important in the early stages, but in my experience, too much attention to the look can hold up development and progress to the point where you loose valuable testing time.

Designers work faster than developers (mostly) and in our case I can’t code well enough to contribute, so my partner needs .png’s to work from. It’s no good him coding all day and then at day’s end, I send him a new set of screens that I’ve been working on that day saying “can we make it look like this…?”

It helps me to remember why we are building what we are building. It’s about learning and getting feedback. If they design is only 60% of the way there, well so be it.

Shipping less than perfect design will batter your ego and you’re not going to want to show your designer mates, but you just have to cop it — poorly kerned letters and all.

We both like the second screen you see above, but we both know it’s not worth spending time changing the code. It can come later. The focus is on launch.

Screen Shot 2014-05-05 at 3.29.20 pm