In my short tenure as a product designer, I’ve been through some interesting experiences with our products. Here are a few things I’ve learned …
“Believe it or not, many people don’t care how awesome your product is. Instead, they care about how awesome they are when they use your product.”
— Daniel H. Pink, author of To Sell is Human and Drive”
1. Sometimes You Need to Stop Building and Start Discovering
A lot of change happens over three years with a product. Every implementation puts its own spin on the motivation and uses cases which drove the product creation in the first place. Sometimes it can feel like we’ve been building features nonstop for years. When that feeling starts to creep in, it may be a good time for product and development tostop building and start discovering.
- Are the features that we are adding/have added the best way for our users to accomplish the tasks that they need to do? What would “even better” look like?
- Do all the pieces come together coherently as a whole? It might have made sense to add every single feature added over the years, but do they all work together in a way that makes sense for users?
- Are the original motivation and use cases still the same? If so, are we still helping users accomplish their tasks in the best possible way or is there room for improvement? If the motivation or use cases are different (or have significantly expanded), are we taking advantage of that opportunity to be of greater service to our users?
These days, as a product designer, my mindset is like someone re-assessing their closet after living in a house for three years. It still holds all the stuff I need it to (in other words, it is functional and does its job). But immediately looking at the closet, I know a few things. I want to take everything out, clean off the shelves, organize the contents, and strategically replace the necessary things and let go of the things that no longer have a purpose. I mean, who needs a flip phone in their closet in 2016? (On second thought, maybe I would get more done this year if I switched back to a flip phone. Hmmmm.)
So, it feels good (and right) to put the brakes on building ‘just another feature’ and really evaluate how the product has arrived at it’s current state. This brings me to point two …
2. Know the Pathway for How Your Users Become Experts at Your Tool
Kathy Sierra is my spirit animal. Her work on The Badass User has helped fuel my passion for user experience and user interface design. Discovery sessions with end users and with our internal team have presented moments where I could really put these ideas to work.
Kathy talks about thresholds in the life cycle of a user of a platform where they overcome certain obstacles and when they arrive at varying levels of expertise. Recently, we’ve been working a lot on what our pathway to expertise looks like for our users and what each of those thresholds looks like. This is an exciting process that will result in better products and more confident users.
As part of this discovery process, I have really enjoyed the ideas presented by Melissa Perri in The Build Trap (27 minutes). A few points that we have put into practice:
- The expected experience and actual experience users have could be very different. When we first launched our Bridge product, a home health to hospice tool, we noticed an adoption problem for certain implementations, but not for others. We thought about offering greater incentives for users to login, but something about that didn’t feel right. Instead, we interviewed a variety of users about their experience using the application. The information we gathered was very enlightening. We thought the implementation of this product would be simple and straightforward: 1) purchase, 2) train, 3) utilize. It wasn’t always like that for many customers. . I discovered that there’s so much more to getting our technology off the ground at an agency than those three things. There’s process and infrastructure to consider, engagement to manage, vision, culture, education; a lot of things influenced our users ability to use and succeed in our application.
- Share the compelling (and not so compelling) items discovered with your team. I am fortunate to work with a fantastic group of people. We regularly meet across our various functions and discuss ideas and goals for our company. We share frankly about what is working and what needs improvement. Same with our users. Our users are passionate and outspoken. We like that. All of their input helps us get better. As a product designer, I want to know the truth. Yes, sometimes it can sting. But you have to get past that. And anyway, it is not always bad medicine. Sometimes, the best feeling you can get is from hearing from a customer, “This is so great that you put this in here. I had no idea it was even possible to do that.” Communication. Sharing is caring, everyone.
- Know the pathway for your users to become experts. As Daniel Pink hit on in the opening quote, most people don’t really care about your product (sad but true). They care about how awesome they are when using your product (yes, awesome!). This is an idea we are taking to heart here at Medalogix. How can we empower our users to get the right things done more effectively? How can I make them look good doing it (and hopefully even enjoy the process)? What does it look like to grow and support expert users? Help me help you.
3. Remember Your Original Motivation and Explore Accordingly
I started down this journey of product design because I had a knack for sketching user interfaces. My skills have grown and developed since then. Our products have grown and developed since then. And most importantly, our users abilities to drive results has significantly increased since then.
Each stage has its moments of excitement, but what I have found to be most interesting after working and actively shaping a product that has had a dedicated user base for three years is the great amount of information to be unpacked.
At the start of a product life cycle, there are all kinds of assumptions on how users are going to implement and use what you build. But once your creations are out in the world, you get to see which of your assumptions hold and which ones crumble. For me, that is a fun process. It helps me adapt and stay fresh.
But one thing that hasn’t changed for our product is the original motivation. The original product was designed because we know that clinicians and agencies want to provide the best care possible for their patients. For us, that meant creating a tool that can help them identify patients who would likely benefit from hospice earlier (than traditional identifying methods) and leverage our technology to keep track of where those patients are in the transition process.
Because our original motivation is still in place, it has given us two opportunities: 1) to ensure our products always deliver in the best way possible on the mission 2) to look for new opportunities to help clinicians and agencies deliver excellent results.
If you are a product designer, what do you like most about understanding your users motivations? If you are a product user, what do you want product designers understand about how you use their products?