Learnings as a Product Designer — Notes from echo – Prototypr

My perspective comes from starting off as a Brand Designer moving into User Interface Design, followed by Experience & Interaction design. Currently digital Product Designer/ Whatever I Manage To Do @echoplans.

My Introduction to Product Design
I've pretty much designed-to-deliver in the past and like every designer, I've had that one project which opened the world of designing-to-implement to me. All I had done till that day seemed, for the lack of a better word — superficial. After that eye-opener, I had to look for similar opportunities.
Enter echo plans — Working at a start-up as a part of product, is wildly different from working at a multi-disciplinary design studio. Here, I could actually see, hold and use the product I designed (will always be designing). Which opened up a whole other set of things I could do. What I did & how I learned as follows-

1. Go.to.the.user.always.

Initially, we had a bare bones product (see below). We had built it on a bunch of assumptions and a lot of reading. Turns out we had jumped the gun, it was so futuristic-ally design (pause for chuckle), that our users did not understand how to actually begin before getting to the futuristic state. Its difficult to make such revelations without in depth user feedback.

Our futuristic state, sadly.
Learning: Think of the user, as the user, before going to them. For any new (unfamiliar) product — always, always, always onboard to the concept first.

2. Analyze feedback as accurately as possible & what to do with it

Since our initial launch was with F&F, it was easy to get feedback. However, interpreting the feedback correctly & precisely the fact that it was F&F made things a bit tricky. You should ideally define your below, mid and above average range of feedback intensity and classify inputs based on that.

The stage you have to be careful about is after the analysis of feedback — what to do with it? There can be a number of ways to tackle issues, which then will be the that solves the problem? Well, there was only one way to find out — test out a prototype with users.

Snippets from the prototype
Learning: When in doubt about your feedback analyses, test out prototypes (AB, if possible) with different user groups.

3. Know when you need a UI overhaul

A lot of times while testing, you get vague and subjective responses. The user is reviewing the product as a whole, not just the experience or usability. These distinctions may seem technical to users and it does not bode well to try and ask them to segregate responses based on those. Its fairly difficult to gauge if the "feel" of the product isn't right. This usually means the product doesn't convey the mood or perspective that it requires to be viewed in.

Iterations for the plan info screen
A result of knowing that UI required work
Learning: When it comes to UI, try and get a sense of the underlying tone of user feedback (yeah, gotta be a psychologist), rely on instinct when it comes to communication.

4. Make it smooth, technically

A lot of times, we have wondrous projections of our designs in our mind which is not how it turns out once built. When you're designing a product, you have to share your mind (projections and all) with the tech. Which also means understanding the platform & methodology used. A relatively poorly designed product is a better hit than the one that is buggy and doesn't have accommodations for all scenarios.

About the video below — since it's a full screen video it is advisable that readers on desktop open the link separately & view.

This should fit in the whole of your mobile device screen, sorry desktop people — medium stretches my smaller sized video
Learning: You cannot understand your limits or possibilities without understanding the language of the technology. Great UI isn't everything, a product should perform well above all.

5. Everything is your business, every idea should be a strategy

You can no longer just think about just a UI adjustment or introducing a teeny new feature. At the flicker of the faintest idea you HAVE to completely reassess the basic concept of the product as well as —the position, feel, tonality & mood; followed by how you would market it, onboard it, what to show on instagram once released, how well it can be explained in a twitter pitch, how to stitch it in the existing UI, what is the optimum time to release it, will the tech be able to build & test till that time & so on…(yea, there can be more but I'm gonna reign it in a bit for now at the cost of sounding full of myself)aaaand above all what your team thinks about it (toughest).

Learning: If your brain goes into a crazy frenzy when you chance upon a new idea for the product and you need to talk to a bunch of people who know much more than you, you're on the way to product design.

6. You have a sudden desire to learn to code, understand social media, be on the lookout for any useful tech news & be a marketing guru

The more time you spend on a product, the less you think you know. Especially coming from a design background I had very little knowledge of the above mentioned factors and how they are an integral part of your product & the perception of it. To understand the importance of this and to work with members of your team who take care of these various aspects; you will feel the need to grasp the underlying concepts and how they contribute to your product.

Some of the things I learnt to manage
Learning: After being sufficiently involved in your product you might feel out of your depth. This is a positive indication, your vision and scope have just been broadened and it is essential to take advantage of this and learn as much as possible.

7. It's a good thing to not be able to recognize your product

Note: This point is most relevant to my personal experience with echo, please interpret it with an empathetic spirit.
I've mentioned in an earlier post that we followed a rapid iterative process to develop echo (read it here) and a lot of the iterations you'd make in your product might not be completely in sync with what you were thinking starting out. That's okay. Change is good if your users like it. I thought to mention this point specifically for designers since we tend to attach ourselves to an initial idea and are reluctant to let go. This inertia may lead to a stagnating product, which usually forebodes a downward curve on the growth graph.

3 versions of the 'make plan' journey
Learning: Be flexible, diverging from initial thought processes/ideas is not necessarily bad. Listen to the team, very different suggestions may bear equally different results.


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