// Key Takeaways from the Design Thinking and Rapid Prototyping Panel at Startup Product Summit 2013//

I had the privilege to attend the Startup Product Summit yesterday, it was a great lineup of speakers and a full room of buzzing energy and great conversation.  Without further adieu, I’d like to share some key learnings of each panel.  

Please let me know if I omitted or made any errors in the references. Credit for the good stuff is entirely the speakers’ (link to twitter handles are included on each name). 

Turning Mediocre Products into Awesome Products” - Jonathan Smiley, Partner & Design Lead, ZURB

  • Ideation and iteration can ”turn mediocre products into awesome products”.
  • Discussed a full spectrum of research from market-driven (focus group, survey) to user-driven (remote teaching, usability teaching)
  • Importance of sketching, a lot, aim for speed and volume, then critique
  • Advice to the audience: ”do 10 more sketches ( more ideation is always better ), build 1 more prototype, get 1 more round of feedback, ask 5 more customers”

"Being a UX Team of One" - Vince Baskerville, Product, Lithium & Co-Founder, TripLingo

1. Internal politics is a common challenge as a UX team/professional.  Learn to manage expectation of different internal stakeholders and keep everyone in the loop. 

2. Don’t listen to what customers are saying.  Users’ claims are often unreliable.  See what they are doing.  Understand the underlying issue.  

"Validate Your MVP on Paper" - Poornima Vijayashanker, Founder & CEO, BizeeBee & Femgineer

- 2 Reasons MVP Fail
1. 
Fail to figure out how to provide a simple value proposition that differentiates your product from your competition
2. 
Fail to figure out who their early adopter are.

- Early adopters are people who aren’t using the competitor’s product. Don’t want to take time to switch over.  

- Steps on usability testing 

  1. Explain the problem. What you are testing. How they are helping. Get them excited about the idea. 
  2. Set expectations. Make them comfortable.
  3. Communicate intention (what exactly are you testing and specific feedback you are looking for).
  4. Thank them for their time. Follow up regularly.    

Poornima’s slides are available here

"Everyone’s Customers Are Wrong" - Evan Hamilton, Head of Community, UserVoice

  • Data doesn’t tell the whole story.  Analytics are bandaids because we can’t watch our customers.  
  • People don’t tell the whole story.  Identify who the users are, where the feedback are from.  Are they: paying/freeloaders? Using product in the intended way? Using main features? Early adopters / ‘tech fanatics’ (who are not likely to stay on a product for the long haul)?
  • Combine data and customer stories.  Customer feedback / feature suggestion usually leads from a deeper issue.  Find out what the actual problem is by understanding the underlying need. 
  • Don’t lose track of your creative mind by getting lost in data rat-hole.  Don’t chase 1% when you can get 15%.  Not just A/B, but try something crazy.  Try big bold things along with incremental fine-tunes. 

"Designing for Everyone: The Craft of Picking or Killing a Concept" - Miki Setlur, Product Designer, Evernote

  • Everyone use product in many different ways.  A useful strategy is to segment users into business, partners (e.g., app stores for Evernote’s case) and users. 
  • Figure out what each segment cares the most about: Business / Partners - acquisition, retention, engagement, revenue.  Users - being faster, better, happier. 
  • Case study on how Evenote’s design process stroke balance between business goals (monetizing) while being sensitive to user experience and goals (finding things faster). 

Other relevant points 

How to access willingness to pay during pre-product interviews.  Get the first dollar within the trial period.  Provide clear value proposition from the get-go.  

How to get good feedback.  Be specific in what feedback are you looking for.  Instead of asking in general ‘what do you think of the prototype’, ask whether they are confused on what stage, what was confusing. 

Tips on prototyping. Put more emphasis on story telling than illustrating. 
For remote testing, use keynote as prototyping tool, screencast the keynote.

On the tension between product vs. business goals in roadmapping a product.  Early stage products make sense to focus on product.  Once reached product market fit, it makes sense to lead with business goals such as, acquiring, converting, retention customers.
Also mentioned was a tool called Impact Mapping

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