How a little bit of intrigue can transform your product

My wife found a brand new book in our local library on a recent visit with our kids – it is titled: The Lost Book of Adventure – a good enough title to keep two young boys entertained for a few hours surely – so she took it out.

I picked up the book (initially at the prompting of my wife) and started reading the note from the editor – below is the first paragraph:

Four years ago whilst trekking with friends through a remote part of the Amazon we stumbled across an old hut. In the corner of the dwelling buried under some fallen palms we found a metal case, sealed shut by years of rust. Intrigued, we carefully opened it. Inside was a collection of notebooks, journals and various sketchbooks – all incredibly well preserved given the environment. We didn’t realise it then, but we had stumbled across the lifetime’s work of an unknown artist and adventurer

And with that, you are swept away into a world of imagination and intrigue. Immediately, what could have been just another book on a few outdoor survival tips for children, was transformed into something magical and different – yes after a while as an adult you do start to realise that the likelihood of the story being true is more unlikely than likely – but they have done such an incredible job continuing to build on that initial intrigue through the little stories ‘shared’ by the Unknown Adventurer through a combination of illustrations, captions and mini-stories that it’s hard to stop paging through all 192 pages of the book. In fact, we’ve ordered our own version to have for ourselves.

It did get me thinking though about how much intrigue or even delight do you design into your product experience – especially right up front? And here I am not talking about some growth techniques to ‘hook’ your customers and keep them coming back for more (potentially against their better judgement) like lots of products are tending to use these days β€” but just actually making the experience something people would want to write about online and/or share with others via word-of-mouth.

I know in this specific case our whole family will most likely end up with a copy of this book – just because of the effort the authors put into taking something that could have been possibly mundane and transforming it into something intriguing and delightful.

After years of remote working – my redesign of the mobile boarding pass

Working remotely for Automattic requires you to do a fair bit of travel each year – both for our annual Grand Meetup (in which the whole company comes together), for team meetups and then at times other meetups dependant on the area of the business or projects you are working on.

At the most I have done 11 transatlantic flights in a year 😱✈️ – not as many as other jobs, but more than most jobs I think! As a result of this – you get to spend more time than most looking at boarding passes, be they the printed kind or the mobile/digital kind.

Towards the end of last year – to kill time in the airport lounges and to learn a new design tool – I spent some time thinking about what I would do if I could design a mobile boarding pass from scratch – something that would suit the needs I had found I wanted from a boarding pass. For the sake of the ‘design challenge’, I used an existing mobile boarding pass I had for a Lufthansa flight. Below is the design concept I ended on:

In my design I aimed to group the various information into four main sections on the screen – here is some of my thinking on each section and the information contained in each:

What are my flight details again?

This shows all the primary information as you arrive at the airport or land at a connecting airport – so things like the flight number, gate and boarding time. The aim of this grouping is to allow you to quickly see where you need to be and when – getting you through the terminal faster.

When, where to and what’s the flight status?

This grouping covers where you flying from and where you flying to – complete with a flight status indicator – so a check symbol βœ… if all is okay or an exclamation ⚠️ if there was a delay or a cross mark ❎ if it was cancelled. A long press on the symbol would give you more information regarding the flight status in the case of a delayed or cancelled flight.

How long till boarding starts and how long to get there?

This grouping would make use of the time on your phone as well as your location settings to tell you how long you had till boarding started (a real-time countdown basically) and an indication of how far you were from the gate (how long it would take you to get there) based on your location within the terminal.

Let me onboard!

This grouping contains all the details you needed to get onboard the plane and ideally, this section would swop with the flight status module when boarding commenced – placing it more mid-screen and easier to scan as you go through the checkpoints.

Unfortunately, I don’t have access to the original Lufthansa boarding pass to compare it against anymore for this post 😞

The reasons why people choose to use your product

I’ve just finished reading Intercom on Marketing – and I would strongly suggest you grab yourself a copy. It’s a quick read – but that does not mean it is not packed with useful insights on things that you may already think you had a good grasp on. Always be learning!

One one of the things that stood out for me , was in the second last chapter in the book – Des Traynor – one of the co-founders has taken a look at the topic: How people buy your product. I won’t cover the 4 things he covers (you will need to get the book for that) but in the introduction to the chapter, he brings a great nuance to the Jobs-to-be-done (JTBD) methodology.

If you not familiar with the JTBD methodology, you can read more about it here, but he shares the famous quote:

People don’t want to buy a quarter inch drill. They want a quarter inch hole.

Theodore Levitt

So you may have heard that before – or a version of it shared to you at some conference you attended, but Des goes on to share this bit… 

Some people are so familiar with their problem space that they’ve already made up their mind that they want a quarter-inch drill, and they’re actually going to go searching for a quarter-inch drill bit, not “hanging a frame”.

Des Traynor (Intercom on Marketing)

The JTBD method is primarily used in product design to try help you understand what jobs a customer hires your product for – but you can also use it in marketing to help you map out ways your product can possibly be pitched to potential customers.

It’s a subtle shift from the original meaning of JBTD in my opinion, but from a marketing perspective, it’s a great way to start understanding how you need different kinds of marketing based on the road a customer is on which may lead them to try your product.

Like I said, I highly recommend you get this book. It’s well worth it!

Dribbble’s trick to drive revenue?

I am not 100% sure if this was their intent – but I have noticed a change on Dribbble of late – you used to be able to hover over a ‘shot’ and you would then see the description for what it is you were looking at – see the screenshot below:

This is no longer the case – you have to actually click the shot to get a pop up to appear with that information. Of course that pop up has an ad – so increased pageviews = more money. A simple change on their part, but it makes the experience of just browsing Dribble a bit frustrating now.

A website is just a means to an end

Small business owners are not website focused. They require an approach that recognizes their entire business and context.

The quote above was a highlight from a recent customer survey conducted by Automattic – it seems pretty simple right. Or is it? You see, visit the homepage of most services that allow you to create a website these days – and most still say something about creating a website. It’s pretty clear from that insight above though that customers are not website focused. But what does that mean – what do you do with that insight?

I think we often get caught up thinking our customers want to go sit in a coffee shop, behind their shiny new Apple MacBook and spend the next few hours creating a pixel perfect website – but they don’t – that insight says as much. To me, it means that a website is not the end goal that a customer has in mind – it’s not like they have some checklist in their head and one of the items is called – Website – and they searching for the right service to use to check off that task – perhaps there are few that need it solely for that purpose – but I would argue that the lifetime value of those customers will be low.

From a product perspective, I believe we have to keep reminding ourselves that a website is a means to an end, it’s not the end in and of itself. In order to create a successful product – you should be building and positioning your product in a way that addresses the needs (or Jobs-to-be-done) that your target customers are looking to undertake. I work on the eCommerce side of Automattic – and we also find ourselves having to address this – very few customers come looking for just a website – they looking for a way to sell something – and the product that is best suited to help them sell that β€˜thing’ in the best possible way to the largest number

Note: this post was originally published on th Automattic design blog.


Focus. Such a simple word, but why is it so hard to maintain, never mind achieve!

I was watching an interview from June 2017 between Gustaf Alstromer a former product lead for Growth at Airbnb & Ed Baker a former Head of Growth at Uber in which they spoke about Scaling Growth if you interested in watching the full interview you can see it below…

Yeah, I don’t think there’s anything short term that will remain, like successful for a very long time so the best advice is invest for the longterm, whether it’s SEO, whether it’s paid marketing, whether it’s virality, take a couple of years, look out and see where do we want to be. And aim for, look for channels that actually do have true scale. Like channels that have hundreds of millions of people discovering products through those channels. And then invest for the longterm.

Gustaf Alstromer

Something about what he said struck a chord with me – it’s really easy to get caught up in all the various acquisition channels we have now – and it’s tempting to try to add your companies voice to another one of them, but this view really challenged me to take a step back and assess not only the channels your company/product could have success in but what channels are you currently showing the greatest success and growth in and make sure you are doing the best possible job you could be doing there to get the maximum value from those channels, before you start looking elsewhere.