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Posts Tagged with “Product Development”

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 35: Build Video


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


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 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 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.


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.


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).


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.)