Understanding Pain Dream Fix

I absolutely love this image. It clearly communicates how we should be thinking about developing and marketing our products. The customer is focused on their pain point and looking to the open market to provide them with their solution. Your product isn’t what they want, the end result is. Your customer doesn’t want your vacuum cleaner, they want a clean apartment. They don’t want an iPhone, they want the solutions it brings: the mobile business management, staying in touch with friends and family, etc.

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Pain Dream Fix

“Pain, Dream, Fix” is a strategy originally used for creating great sales copy and has become something that many designers, both physical and digital, use every day. It puts you in the mind of the user and helps you to empathize with their current pains, think about their dream without the pain, and present them with the solution that would make the pain go away. Let’s take a minute and use this strategy to understand Mario’s and his problem:

As you can see, without this strategy it would have been difficult for Mario to find success. As a product/solutions developer, if you fail to understand the user, you risk distancing yourself from them. You are trying to sell them a solution to a problem they don’t have. Once you use “Pain, Dream, Fix” to accurately identify the pain points and envisioned the dream, the fix becomes an easy sell. You can offer the right solution because you truly understand the users struggle and what they see as the ideal outcome.

Henry Ford famously said,

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

Not only did Mr. Ford bring people the “faster horse” (pain fix), but be brought them something completely different while solving their pain. He brought them the dream.

Image from Samuel Hallick’s book User Onboarding which I highly recommend that you get.

What movies I’ve watched and books I’ve read

Getting two weeks of vacation from work means getting time to catch up on things I’ve been meaning to watch, read and do. Here’s what I’ve enjoyed the most the past two weeks:

Books

Magazines

Movies (I’ll let the trailers speak for themselves)

I am Professional Because I am Personal

Just like all small business owners, I want to improve everything about my business. I want to find new ways of connecting with audiences, use better tools to work more efficiently, and manage my cash flow with expertise. So I hunt for the perfect solution that will result in amazing client satisfaction, increased income, and more time to invest in my personal growth. I work most evenings and spend my weekends and holidays with business on my mind.

However…

When it comes to my personal development, I fear change. Something close to guilt creeps in. Taking that day to relax creates moments of introspection. Should I be taking this time? I know it’ll make me more productive tomorrow, but…

My walks in the forest make me think more clearly. They help me consider new, creative solutions to the problems I’m tackling, but that feeling shows up again. Why would I find it difficult to enjoy the life that I have worked so hard to have? Meditation, focus on clear communication, a laid back attitude, better relationships with those I love – these things would surely allow me to live a happier life and could only affect my business positively. Right?

Perspectives change.

I recently read Fredrik Eklund’s book, “The Sell”. For those of you who haven’t read it, Fredrik is a Swede that moved to New York and became the number one real estate broker. The book was pretty good, but there was a specific passage that stuck with me. He talks about the brokerage he was working for wanted all of their brokers to have a professional Facebook page in addition to their personal ones. That way, their clients would connect to the professional page and leave their personal one alone. I’m pretty confident that this isn’t a unique situation in the corporate world. Fredrik had a take on it was very different. He refused to create a separate profile with the words:

“I am a professional because I am personal.”

It makes so much sense. I am a professional because I am personal. It doesn’t matter if you’re a global company with thousands of employees, or a one-man company like me, it simply makes sense. People hire me. They want my skills. I know I am not the best UX designer in the world, but I am the only one with my background, skills, and experience. My way of working with my clients, my communication methods, and my personality define me.

This is what makes me… me.

Sometimes it can be hard to find the balance between your professional and personal life. The managers at Fredrik’s last workplace couldn’t understand that the two actually can help each other. Whatever makes you feel better in your personal life – Do it. It will surely bring about positive change to your work life as well. Find a way to take that day off that you desperately need. If you need to change your working environment for a few hours, make it happen. Even if you think staying at home every day will bring positive change, then seriously consider changing your career.

…and I am content

I am writing this on a plane to Stockholm. I am meeting with a potential client in the banking industry that I would love to work with. They do amazing stuff by operating primarily with individuals who trade stock (think: Robinhood.com), so it’s an area that’s close to my heart. Often when I go into meetings like this, I feel the need to dress up. On this occasion though, I think I will stick to who I am. A real person in jeans and a t-shirt. I have decided to stay confident in who I am, what I do, and how I do it. This is what it’s like doing business with me. I am professional because I am personal.

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A t-shirt and jeans sort of guy with an awesome dog.

I am happy to say that I am taking two weeks of vacation starting July 10th. Here’s to making these weeks just about personal development and relaxation! I will be back around the 27th more enthusiastic, more personally evolved, more relaxed, and an even better businessman.

MVP – Is Your Product Really Minimum AND Viable?

Our tech community loves the term MVP (minimum viable product) to describe the first version of their product. Unfortunately, many ambitious product launches show that they are neither viable or minimum. They prove to be far too complicated to really connect to the user. Staying true to the core functionality of a product may be difficult, but it is necessary to finding success.

While we were preparing to launch Dispatch, we understood that the main goal of the app was to provide effortless, private communications to the users. However, during the development process, we had many intense conversations about features we couldn’t live without. This process of over-complication threatened to derail the product before version 1 (or .01!) had even shipped. We had even taken time to build wireframes and designs for several features that we thought would be rolled out soon after launch, but hadn’t covered basics like profile management! Features like a to-do feature, geo-tagged videos, and a heat map were put on the back burner to ensure a successful launch.

We did what every team does when creating new products. We tried to think of everything. But until you’ve launched, you need to slow down and consider the user and how they will use it. Here are some tips to make it easier for you to launch your product and keep MVP in mind.

1. Build an MVP

Focus on which feature(s) is the true core of your product. For example, Twitter’s core is the ability to post updates to your followers. Had Twitter focused on direct messages, hashtags, images, and videos would they have found the success that they enjoy today? Those features add value to the end product, but if the user doesn’t fully understand the core use, what good is it? So I recommend you focus on the true purpose of the product and can clearly communicate it to others. Hint: You should be able to to say this in once sentence.

2. Execute it

Put your product in the hands of your users, let them experience it, and listen to them talk about it. Their real life scenarios will give you a deep understanding of what value it brings to them so that you can understand where it succeeds and where it fails. Use a diverse group of users to give you the best view of how it would be used in the wild.

3. Learn and Iterate

Using the information you’ve collected, you now know if your product performs as designed and what additional functionality your users want. Now you can correct any mistakes and begin adding features (like direct messages on Twitter) to round out that experience!

I know how exciting it can be when you think of all the features you could implement. Make sure to staying reasonable and anticipate the needs of your user. Keep a close eye on development times and the associated costs for each of these features to see if it is really worth it in the long run.

“Is this enough? Maybe if we add and we’ll attract a larger user base. Right?”

Staying true to your initial product is difficult and can be frightening. Letting these doubts drive your product development may harm your product in the end. I sincerely believe it’s better to be loved by a few than liked by many.

How designers can earn a seat at the table

Spot on from Marc Hemeon in this AMA on how designers can earn a seat at the table and gain more influence. I thought all of his answers were really good but this stood out to me.


Hello Noam!!! Damn. Excellent question!

For context here folks, Noam is an incredible human, founder who exited to YouTube, where he became the Director of Product for YouTube and was responsible for many consumer facing parts of YouTube.

As you know, I have always struggled with wanting to have more influence in a company as a designer, at YouTube I always felt the PMs had much more power than the designers and I would get frustrated more designers werent mentioned in the press when a redesign would roll out or a new feature would be talked about – I always wanted a list of designers and engineers names attached to these articles as well. For example this Wired article has a photo of you, Kurt, Nundu and AJ only :( http://www.wired.com/2012/08/500-million-youtube-channels/ When that article came out it bruised my ego a bit – I felt I had a ton of influence on the YouTube leanback experience and wanted some accolades. I realize now how immature and wrong my attitude was.

I now have a massive appreciation for the amount of work it takes in an organization to create new products and features, especially at large companies like YouTube and Google. Heck, even at small companies like North (just 5 full time people) – we can’t do anything without each other. There really is no room for entitled credit hogs who are just in it for their own ego and increase in social capital.

Designers can earn and maintain a seat at the table a few ways: 1. Be easy to work with and listen to everyones feedback (no matter how whacky it is). Don’t raise a ton of objections when you listen, take notes and truly listen.

Have an opinion. Never criticize a product or UX feature without at least having an alternative to present and share. No one likes a complainer

Present design ideas in the way your stakeholders need to hear them. Do you need to do a 1:1? through it in a keynote presentation? Get buy in from your UX Director first before sharing with others? Do you need to print everything out? Do you need to make a prototype? Every company culture is a bit different and all humans learn differently – I have seen a ton of good designs get looked over because they were communicated poorly. Take the time to flex your communication style in a way others can understand.

Actually solve the problem – don’t just make it look pretty, solve the darn UX problem! I’ve found everyone can get behind a smart UX solution. Designers tend to try to solve design problems with shiny UI and not UX

Give others credit – No designer creates in a vacuum, they are influenced by everyone on the team – nothing worse than someone standing up saying “I solved our sharing UX with this new feature” – better to say – I’ve been working closely with Kevin, Caleb, Jonathan and Ryan on a better way to share articles”

Always follow up and hit your deadlines – if you tell someone you are going to mock up an idea then mock it up! even forgetting to follow through one time hurts your credibility.

Get behind company style guides and existing heuristics – soooo many designers, when they first get to a company want to just redesign everything – chill the F out and take it all in first and understand why things are the way they are – being careful of course not to fall for group think as expressed with the monkey and banana story (read more here: http://johnstepper.com/2013/10/26/the-five-monkeys-experiment-with-a-new-lesson/)

Drink Water

Not sure if I fully answered the question – hahahhahaha

The days are long but the decades are short

Over and over my mind wanders back to this great post by Sam Altman. It’s a while since I turned 30 but I can honestly say that I wasn’t as clear thinking and had as much perspective as Sam seems to have.

Here are a couple of my favorite highlights:

On work: it’s difficult to do a great job on work you don’t care about. And it’s hard to be totally happy/fulfilled in life if you don’t like what you do for your work. Work very hard—a surprising number of people will be offended that you choose to work hard—but not so hard that the rest of your life passes you by. Aim to be the best in the world at whatever you do professionally. Even if you miss, you’ll probably end up in a pretty good place.

I always thought that it was mainly in Sweden people were offended by hard-working people (because of Jante) – but apparently it’s the same in the US. It’s fascinating and disturbing how much energy people can put into this.

On money: Whether or not money can buy happiness, it can buy freedom, and that’s a big deal. Also, lack of money is very stressful. In almost all ways, having enough money so that you don’t stress about paying rent does more to change your wellbeing than having enough money to buy your own jet. Making money is often more fun than spending it, though I personally have never regretted money I’ve spent on friends, new experiences, saving time, travel, and causes I believe in.

Love making money and love spoiling my wife.

Remember how intensely you loved your boyfriend/girlfriend when you were a teenager? Love him/her that intensely now. Remember how excited and happy you got about stuff as a kid? Get that excited and happy now.

This seems to be so obvious, yet it’s so hard to live by day-to-day.

Be grateful and keep problems in perspective. Don’t complain too much. Don’t hate other people’s success (but remember that some people will hate your success, and you have to learn to ignore it).

See above.

Growth

Although I quite recently touched the subject of staying small, I thought this blog post from Offscreen was too great not to mention.

Here’s a great excerpt but you should really head over and read the entire thing:
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I love going back to an essay in issue No7 titled “Human Scale”, written by fellow Australian and Icelab co-founder Michael Honey. He writes:

‘It doesn’t scale’ is a criticism levelled at many new ideas. (…) But how many things which are good when small get better by becoming bigger? (…) Humans are good at family, middling at community, dysfunctional as nations, and self-destructive as a planet. What doesn’t scale is our ability to relate to each other as human beings instead of target markets — as eyeballs to monetise.

And then there is this recent interview with Jeff Sheldon of Ugmonk fame in which he talks about being proud of staying small:

“We’re not growing a hockey-stick growth, but we’re growing enough. We’re building that fan base and are in it for the long haul, so I’m able to keep it really small and handle every part of the business or almost every part of the business, which does limit me on the creative side sometimes. I can’t release a hundred products every year. I can’t speak at dozens of conferences. I have to limit everything I do. (…) But I’m okay with all those things right now. I choose to keep it small, to keep it lean, to keep this business profitable where it is. (…) I’m much more focused on building that tribe of core followers that cares about what I do, than having ten thousand, one hundred thousand, or one million people that kind of like the cool shirt today, and then they totally forget about it tomorrow.”

So here I am, working long days (and sometimes sleepless nights) to make a thing with a growth trajectory slightly more optimistic than the mom-and-pop shop down the road. And I’m finally ok with it. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind growing, but I do mind growing for growth’s sake, which is what seems to happen a lot with tech companies these days.

Working with UX-designers and getting results!

What UX Is and What It Isn’t

Designers seem to be very fond of labeling themselves as UX-designers these days. Perhaps it’s due to the corporate focus on the value they receive when they are attentive to creating great user experiences. While I’ve tried to explain to others what UX-design really is – and what it isn’t – I’ve had the opportunity to reflect on the different kinds of work that I am actually doing. For years, it seemed as though UX-design was equated to wireframes. The deliverables of a UX-designer revolved around these wireframes and they varied quite a bit based on style and purpose.

But wireframes, though important to the bigger pictures, are not the only way for a company to improve their user experience. You see, I’ve found that it is actually rare for me to create wireframes anymore. Most of my days are spent communicating and guiding design decisions to improve conversions through close attention to the experience of the user.

Here’s a few insights into how I actually accomplish these goals and what the deliverables look like. So I can be as clear as possible, I’ll use real cases.

Augmenting Teams with Fresh Eyes

For the past year, I’ve been honored to work with the amazing people at Frank. Frank manufactures, and sells, the best coffee scrubs and recently launched a great new website. I got connected with Frank when a friend suggested that they may benefit from my UX-check.

Frank already works with a great team of very capable designers and developers, Love+Money, who were responsible for the creative concept and development of the new website. Frank wisely figured that a second pair of eyes could help make things even better.

Beautiful new website for Frank

Because they already had designers that created both wireframes and designs, nearly all of my deliverables have mainly been through e-mail. I would look at the existing designs and give them my detailed opinion on how conversions could be improved. It could be really minor suggestions – like the wording in a button and it’s placement, or it could be more complex – like the flow of the shopping cart.

I take the time to do a sweep of the entire experience, desktop and mobile, and highlight any inconsistencies that may derail the experience.

“After going through the initial UX check with Anton and seeing some great results, we realised we needed to engage him further with our new website build. Anton has been across every aspect of the new website build and has given crucial advise in between the the design & dev team and the company directors. His advise has been crucial to the success of the new store.”
Alex Boffa, CEO Frank

User Focused Product/Feature Design Done Right

When I help clients like E.ON with technical solutions, the process is usually multiphase and dependant on the origin of the idea.

1. If it’s a feature that is desired by the client, it’ll usually be followed by a process of in depth learning about the system that needs to be implemented and all of its related systems. This can get incredibly technical. I certainly have a greater understanding of electrical consumption and management that I would never have known otherwise!

From this meeting/learning process, I’ll head back to my office and assemble a very rough wireframe or sketch about the desired functionality and the flow of the feature. Basically I am nailing down how the user is presented information and all the different options and functionality. These will go back and forth a couple of times until it is well defined as being user friendly enough for the average user, but is still functional enough for the advanced user.

Technical early stage sketches for E.ON

2. If it’s a feature/subject or area where I can see a need for improvement, I approach it differently. Even though I’m not generally the target for the product, it’s my job to think like them and consider features that I would have like to see. These are usually presented in an e-mail, during an informal meeting, or using Keynote.

Quick tip: Keynote is a great tool for visually communicating concepts and ideas that don’t have all the features set in stone, something that’s not a wireframe, and that doesn’t necessarily have a flow.

The two advantages I have found Keynote has given me:

As an example of this process, the project I’ve been working on with E.ON for the past two years gives a user access to manage and monitor all of their electrical and heating facilities. The user can also manually add these facilities to groups of multiple facilities. Working with groups would give the user more insights, but the way it was implemented made it difficult to create groups and managing them was labor intensive.

Problem identified: Creating and working with groups is too complicated and time-consuming.

The suggested approach was to let the user create dynamic groups themselves. They would be built out of three different parameters:

Solution: Give the user the ability to create dynamic groups.

Using these three group sets makes creating groups easier and yields better information with less effort. An example of a user created group:

A group that features my top 5 facilities in the larger Copenhagen area that consume the most electricity with sub-levels installed.

“What impresses me most is the way Anton understand the underlying needs of the business, and translates that into a beautiful solution. Anton is very easy to work with and he is good at finding the balance between listening and pushing.”
Anna Bengtsson, E.ON

1 Hour Consultations

What I have talked about so far are situations that are long contracts, but companies also work with me on a consulting basis. This usually consists of 1 hour strategy sessions over Google Hangout or Skype and are based around a set topic (on boarding, conversions, design style, or checkout flow)

This is super efficient for the client because they’ll get a lot of valuable information in a really short period of time. There’s usually not a set deliverable, but the take-aways are still very tangible.

As you can see, good UX designers aren’t limited to wireframes. The bigger picture elements play a much larger role than many companies anticipate. When the product features, the user journey, the microinteractions, and the beautiful design are all aligned, amazing things can happen!

What is the cost of ‘sharing’?

It’s natural to have differing opinions. When working on any major project/website it is to be expected. Honestly, I would say that it is a bad sign if everyone agrees on everything. Lately, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to one specific discussion that has come up in every web project that I’ve ever worked on. This discussion seems to be more common on eCommerce websites, but I’ve experienced it in almost all types of digital projects (even iPhone apps!). The client’s demand for social media sharing.

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to consult for one of the largest retailers and was tasked with the redesign of their department and category pages. Although the scope of the project didn’t include the product pages, the discussion of social media sharing became a hot topic for them. After we had finished the design and everything was laid out, someone mentioned that the page was lacking social media sharing icons.

I knew it was coming.

I diplomatically asked them why we needed the option to share “Product Y” to Facebook. The answer was simple — it drives traffic. When I asked them to share the statistics on how much traffic comes from social media/shared content, the answer I got was that they don’t really know but ‘imagine’ that it’s a fair amount.

My experience and the data show that’s not always true.



The other response that I sometimes get is that it does ‘no harm’ to have them there. I can understand this argument, but I have to disagree. The whitespace of a website is a vital part of every high-converting page. Project managers are hard to convince of this concept. They have an imaginary checklist in their head that has ‘social media enabled’ as a box needing to be checked and whitespace as a place where that would naturally go.

“White space is to be regarded as an active element, not a passive background”

– Jan Tschichold


I do believe that you need to ask yourself a couple questions before you add the share icons to your project:

1. Would I ever share this content?
2. Do I know anyone that I think would share this content?
3. Would my followers enjoy this content?
4. Would this be something that I would normally share publically?

The vast majority of the time, the answer to all of these questions would be no. According to the social media planning framework, KUDOS, how useful information is should guide how it is shared. It could actually be harmful to your brand if you are not careful.

So, back to my client. I think it’s pretty safe to say that most people wouldn’t want to ‘share’ the bookshelf they are looking at buying with all of their Twitter followers. There really isn’t a situation where sharing a kitchen door knob on Facebook would be useful. This company, however, has made it exceedingly easy to do all this sharing. You can use their custom built ‘share’ button to email the page to someone or share the product to Facebook and Twitter. Great. But they didn’t stop there. You can also share it to Google+, pin it on Pinterest (to be fair, this one isn’t such a bad idea), and if you missed the first ‘Share’ buttons, you ALSO get the ‘Share to Facebook’ and ‘Like on Facebook’ buttons from Facebook itself.

Why anyone would ‘like’ a kitchen door knob is beyond me.

So, imagine my excitement when I read Eric Mobley’s excellent post on how social media share buttons impact your website’s loading speed and performance. He took the time to perform tests with blank pages and measured the page load of different social media sharing options. Addthis.com, one such option, added around 500kb of extra data to your your page. Dependant on the connection, it’s safe to assume that your customer will be waiting for at least one extra second for just those icons. It absolutely validates the argument that there is a cost to adding that option.

When designing webpages and online experiences we need to consider everything — load time included.



According to an article posted at FastCompany, just one extra second of load time could impact your sales as much as 25%:

“For example, one in four people abandons surfing to a website if its page takes longer than four seconds to load. Four in 10 Americans give up accessing a mobile shopping site that won’t load in just three seconds (which is roughly the time taken to read to the period at the end of this sentence). Crazy, given that shopping sites tend to have to be image-centric, and thus may take longer to load.”

For a large e-commerce company like Amazon, this could total $1.6 billion of lost sales each year. That’s a HUGE number. Adding social media sharing buttons or anything that isn’t really necessary may just hurt your bottom line. Is it worth it?

Designing with data has become a popular subject for the last few years and a focus for what I do. The more information you have, the easier it will be to calculate the optimal page design. Does this ‘share’ button really improve page hits more than the cost of that additional second of load time? Does it actually lead to more conversions? For designers, I think it will be necessary to weigh all of these different decisions against one another. It is key to understand exactly what the business goals are and what drives those goals.

So, here’s some free advice. Remove one of your sharing icon sets and utilize some A/B testing to see how you are really converting and what traffic is actually generated from social media. The results may surprise you.

Steve Jobs said it best,

“It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”




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The path of a successful app

Thought this was a great post from Benjamin Burger on how to build great user experiences. While the entire post is read-worthy for anyone even remotely interested in building digital experiences, there’s one passage where I think Benjamin really nails it:

The best way for it to be downloaded, is to be shared;

The best way for it to be shared, is to be used;

The best way for it to be used is to have a proper onboarding, explaining clearly how to use it and why I will use it.

It’s so often that we focus on the wrong things, assuming that the user is overly interested in our product and willing to spend minutes just “trying” our app out when in reality we’ll be happy to get a more than 10 seconds. With a complicated sign up/sign in process, we won’t even get that much.




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  1. Understanding Pain Dream Fix

    # # #

    I absolutely love this image. It clearly communicates how we should be thinking about developing and marketing our products. The customer is focused on their pain point and looking to the open market to provide…

  2. What movies I’ve watched and books I’ve read

    Getting two weeks of vacation from work means getting time to catch up on things I’ve been meaning to watch, read and do. Here’s what I’ve enjoyed the most the past two weeks: Books Everything…

  3. I am Professional Because I am Personal

    # # #

    Just like all small business owners, I want to improve everything about my business. I want to find new ways of connecting with audiences, use better tools to work more efficiently, and manage my cash…

  4. MVP – Is Your Product Really Minimum AND Viable?

    # # #

    Our tech community loves the term MVP (minimum viable product) to describe the first version of their product. Unfortunately, many ambitious product launches show that they are neither viable or minimum. They prove to be…

  5. How designers can earn a seat at the table

    # # #

    Spot on from Marc Hemeon in this AMA on how designers can earn a seat at the table and gain more influence. I thought all of his answers were really good but this stood out…

  6. The days are long but the decades are short

    # #

    Over and over my mind wanders back to this great post by Sam Altman. It’s a while since I turned 30 but I can honestly say that I wasn’t as clear thinking and had as…

  7. Growth

    # # # #

    Although I quite recently touched the subject of staying small, I thought this blog post from Offscreen was too great not to mention. Here’s a great excerpt but you should really head over and read…

  8. Working with UX-designers and getting results!

    # #

    What UX Is and What It Isn’t Designers seem to be very fond of labeling themselves as UX-designers these days. Perhaps it’s due to the corporate focus on the value they receive when they are…

  9. What is the cost of ‘sharing’?

    # # # # # #

    It’s natural to have differing opinions. When working on any major project/website it is to be expected. Honestly, I would say that it is a bad sign if everyone agrees on everything. Lately, I’ve been…

  10. The path of a successful app

    # # # #

    Thought this was a great post from Benjamin Burger on how to build great user experiences. While the entire post is read-worthy for anyone even remotely interested in building digital experiences, there’s one passage where…