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Posts Tagged with “product design”

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 29: Designing Helpful Interfaces

Untitled-2Good interface designs should in theory help the customer complete a specific task with ease. For that to happen, the designer needs to understand what the task is the customer is trying to complete intimately, including understanding any potential potholes or things that might throw the customer off course.

Above are some screen grabs of our ‘Edit Card’ screen. This isn’t live yet, but I decided to take a stab at improving it based on my own assumptions of how a customer might move through it.


Adding & Explaining Something New

Displaying a persons work availability is something that has come up as an important feature in our user tests. It is however a new idea that if viewing for the first time, will likely not be 100% clear what it is/does.

To cater for this, I pulled the part of the form where you set your availability out of the main form and put it on its own to show that is it important/new. Beneath it there is also a short description of what this actually does/means.

There’s no data yet on how this design preforms, but I’ll follow up down the track when we find out.





Post 27: Build, Measure, Learn, Repeat

We are attempting to build a product that helps people tell their professional story on mobile devices. We’ve been working on it for a couple of months.

A few weeks back I wrote about what happens when you try and solve all the problems of a product at once – the business model, the mobile interface, the desktop interface, the company log in, the individual log in, etc. etc.

Basically I was trying to do too much.

The focus since then has been to design & build prototypes that mimic an experience that we think could be valuable for individuals and then showing them.

(You can watch the first prototype test here).

The video above is of the second prototype in use, and yesterday we shipped a third version (you can install it on your iPhone from this link

So far the feedback has been… meh.

No one has turned around and demanded we build this product. No one has bought a round of shots in celebration. There have been no high-fives.

“This is interesting, there is something in it…” is the best and most consistent feedback we’ve been getting. Oh and “This looks like Twitter.”

Untitled-1At the moment the whole app is based on exploring someone ‘cards’. Above are examples of the first card you might see from user. Surprisingly to me, while the first card looks horrible, the feedback has been that it is most interesting and potentially useful.

This is a tough point in the product development cycle. You have to keep making calls often based on gut instinct, whether you keep exploring or change tack and look at something else.

Right now, we think we need to keep pushing.

Tony & I really want a place to tell our stories online, so at least we know we will have two customers.

Oh – and this is actually live. You can sign up and create a card right now. It looks like crap, but we don’t mind. Go here —>

Photo 16-04-2014 11 17 25 pm



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 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.

Screen Shot 2014-03-18 at 11.45.05 am

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.