Product Design Process Using ‘Jobs to Be Done’
A lot of the time when a new feature is being designed, teams can spend weeks ideating what that feature is and what that feature isn’t. We would spend weeks and sometimes months sketching and wire-framing big feature ideas (which we referenced as “Wedding Cakes” because of the size of them and their unexpected layers), with rounds of iterations until we were happy to eventually move into Photoshop.
As a design-driven company, we all care deeply about the aesthetic and the user experience of our products. It doesn’t matter if you’re a designer or a project manager or a marketer — here at Pulsate, we all care about the design. We believe that every member of the company can input their opinion on the design to help improve and innovate our solutions. This can be supportive and collaborative, however, it can also impact the timeline for releasing product updates. Sometimes we care a little too much about every tiny detail when sometimes they might not matter as much as we believe they do. Sometimes getting an almost perfect feature shipped can be better than spending too much time trying to perfect it. You can always come back to improve it, based on real customer feedback.
In the words of Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg:
Jobs to Be Done Framework:
When Pulsate was about two years old, we came across the ‘Jobs to Be Done’ framework, which we decided to adopt. This completely changed our process of product design and development.
The purpose of JTBD is to understand why your customers use your product or why they don’t. After interviewing numerous customers, we gained invaluable insight on how our customers actually feel about our product and what their motivations truly are when they choose to hire a product like ours.
We decided to take these learnings and apply them to our design approach. Instead of designing “Wedding Cake” sized features, we started to design more manageable “Cupcake” sized features, based on our customer’s needs rather than what “we think they want” in a feature.
In the past, sometimes we would invest a lot of time and creative energy in designing a feature that we thought was cool and necessary but the truth was our customers didn’t really need it.
Understand Your Customers’ Needs
The aim is to build a product that your customers actually need. The JTBD approach allows us to focus on what really matters and prevents us from designing outside the scope of a decided feature and therefore, speeds up our release sprints. 🎉
Our product roadmap is mostly defined by our customer’s feedback and their needs. We’re strong believers in empowering our customers through customer success management and this helps us to build close and honest relationships, giving our customers the opportunity to share insights and product feedback on a regular basis. Having this kind of close relationship is so important to truly understand the customer you are designing a product for.
Our customer’s feedback strongly influences our product roadmap and what we design next. However, since our industry evolves at such a rapid pace, it’s important for us to stay up to date with technology advances that affect and inspire our product. Sometimes we have to re-adjust our roadmap based on new technology capabilities. This is a necessary effort to not let our product fall behind.
Pulsate’s Design Process:
We constantly iterate our product roadmap, whether it’s a feature that has been requested from a customer/multiple customers, or we foresee it as the next relevant feature to design, based on internal discussions. Our roadmap priorities shift regularly and we need to update our roadmap accordingly.
We installed a magnetic paint board in our office, which is an efficient and fun way of moving around our priorities and tasks. Having a physical roadmap in our office allows all team members to participate and see what features are being worked on now and what’s coming next. Digital roadmap tools and ticket boards are great in all stages of product design and development, but they risk the possibility of being too hidden for some team members.
2. Discussion of Priorities
We meet and discuss the next feature on the roadmap to ensure that it’s the right time to design this feature.
3. Create a JTBD document:
- Outline the problem we’re solving.
- Create job stories to highlight the situation, motivation and expected outcome for this feature. We write these from the perspective of the people who use our product and what they’re trying to achieve.
- Determine how we will measure the success of this feature (metrics, customer satisfaction rates, increased engagement rates, customer feedback).
- Define the scope of the feature (we decide at this point exactly what the feature includes).
- Once we’re happy with the JTBD document, we share it with the whole team so everybody has visibility of the “why” behind our design decisions.
4. Paper Prototyping
Using this document as a brief, we sketch our solution ideas onto paper (low fidelity at this stage).
We iterate and meet regularly to gather feedback on our sketches.
When the general idea is confirmed on paper, we then move into the wireframing stage (Balsamiq is our preferred tool at Pulsate because of it’s ease of use and basic form)
We continue to meet regularly and receive feedback. We implement changes in the wireframes until we have covered all of the desired stages of that feature. Depending on the complexity of a feature, we might spend days, weeks or even months wireframing before moving into visual design.
6. Laying Down the Pixels
Then it’s time for the really fun stuff. As a team, we were latecomers to make the switch from Photoshop to Sketch but I’m so glad that we did! Sketch has improved our workflow greatly. (I’ll always have a soft spot for Photoshop and I regularly jump back into it depending on the project I’m working on, but Sketch enables us as designers to quickly iterate and sync up as a design team with a tonne of incredibly useful design tools and shortcuts).
The design is never finalised first-time round. We ensure to meet every day at the same time to review the progress of the design and to offer suggestions for improvements. When working so closely to a design, as designers we can become personally attached to our work.
It’s crucial to be able to take design feedback and criticism without taking it as a personal attack on your abilities as a designer.
Instead, leverage this feedback with grace, to keep on improving your eye and your skill-set.
Design is subjective and you’re not always going to be able to please everybody in the room. We all have different tastes and perspectives, which we should be encouraged to learn from. My advice to a junior designer starting out would be to remember this fact. You’re not trying to impress every team member - you’re trying to solve a problem.
7. Handover to Developers
At this stage, we never throw the final design “over the hedge” to the developers and leave them to it. We continue to collaborate with them, starting with a kick-off meeting to go over the designs — each interaction and state is demonstrated, to ensure every scenario has been considered and designed for. Sometimes the developers may point out something that we as designers may not have realised or catered for.
It’s my role to ensure that the developers follow Pulsate’s visual design throughout our feature updates. Using a plugin like InVision’s Craft allows me to export a style guide directly from my Sketch file within a few clicks. This plugin is still a work in progress and it has a few bugs but it is a fantastic tool to easily and quickly create style guides from your design document, to be shared with your developers.
The developers release daily updates to our testing environment, bringing us closer to a fully working feature. We test and provide feedback through Trello tickets, working together on a consistent basis, in order to bring our designs to life.
Tips to Keep Momentum
In order to keep momentum, we have scheduled reviews between the main design stakeholders within the company. We sit down together every day at 4PM to review the new design work. We assess the quality and make suggestions for improvements, which we can then implement the next day and review again.
With everybody’s busy schedules, we ensure not to miss these meetings, so our designers are never waiting around for feedback.
We also meet every Wednesday from 11am — 1pm to discuss future updates and ideas. This gives us a chance to shift our focus for two hours on another design problem to be solved. Sometimes it can be helpful to step away from a task for a while in order to gain fresh eyes and new ideas when you return to it. This also keeps the team excited about what’s coming next.
Over the years, we’ve adopted different strategies when it comes to how we implement design and develop a product. We’ve learned a lot along the way and have had a fun time learning. It’s practical and beneficial to try out different approaches, learn what works and what doesn’t for your team and constantly try to improve. 💪🚀