How we redesigned our first-time developer experience in a week and boosted new account activation by 65%

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One of several interview sessions with Micah Wolfe and one of our awesome customers.

User research doesn’t need to be a headache. It doesn’t need to be expensive, or time-consuming, or complicated. But it certainly feels that way sometimes, especially with deadlines, competing priorities, or a healthy fear of stasis.

“It sounds great, but we have way too much on our plate to spend time on this right now.”

“I already know what we should do, so why waste time second-guessing myself?”

I suspect the main underlying objection to making time for user research is simply not understanding it. Let’s change that!

This post outlines how my teammate Micah Wolfe and I redesigned Keen’s first-time developer experience during a week-long user research and design sprint. We riffed on Erika Hall’s awesome Minimum Viable Ethnography and introduced a few new tricks of our own. This may not be applicable to everyone –we have an existing product and customer base to draw from– but hopefully you find some of this helpful! …


Build your own cohort analysis tools, with total control over the logic, look, and feel.

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Open Source Code for Cohort Analysis Views

Today we’re releasing a new open source tool for cohort analysis. Cohort analysis is incredibly valuable when you’re trying to understand retention and patterns of behavior over time. If you’re not familiar with retention analysis by cohort, you can read more about the fundamental concepts here.

Outside of the obvious community benefits of open source contributions, there are a few reasons we wanted to share this simple tool:

  1. Easier cohort and retention analysis on Keen IO data You’ve always been able to run retention analysis on Keen data, but this is the first time we’ve released a tool for visualizing the results. …

This week, we released Project Analytics — a brand new analytics dashboard displaying service level usage for our customers. This project is the beginning of a new effort aimed at bringing greater insight and observability of Keen IO service usage to our customers. Many of our customers rely on our platform to deliver Native Analytics to their customers, directly in their own products. Now we’re doing exactly that: analytics for your analytics. Pretty meta, huh?

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Sample Keen IO project analytics console

This project was super fun for us to build and an opportunity for us to dogfood our recently released Native Analytics product. Read on for some juicy details on how and why we built this and some of the design challenges we faced along the way. …


We have some big news to share today!

We’re excited to announce Dashboards Beta release, a brand new tool that gives anyone the power to create custom dashboards in just a few clicks (or taps!)

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Example of a custom product metrics dashboard for a customer success team

Keen Dashboards can be used to:

  • Quickly create custom dashboards with a point-and-click interface
  • Share sets of metrics around KPIs across every team, project, and department
  • Give anyone on your team from analysts, marketers, to product managers the ability to query, create, and edit their own set of metrics (no need to know SQL!) …

Ohhai, world! Dustin Larimer, here. I’m a product designer and engineer at Keen IO. My team focuses on making our analytics APIs more accessible and understandable via point-and-click interfaces, visualization tools, and SDKs.

But designing a user-experience around an API can be challenging. At an API-centric company like Keen, Stripe, Twilio, or lots of others, your product isn’t something you can see or touch so you don’t have the luxury of visual cues to help people intuit how it works.

To tackle this challenge, we’ve put together a team with a unique blend of engineering, interaction design, content strategy, and product management. This blur of disciplines has led to some pretty interesting discoveries about the design of developer-facing products and services that I’m excited to share with the world. …


The following is an excerpt of handwritten notes, found on scans of an industrial design student’s work, included in a slide deck for a presentation on the power and importance of sketching in the practice of design.

These notes were written by Bob Fee, a great teacher and mentor who has had an unspeakably profound impact on hundreds of design students around the world. I’m honored to be among them.

The key to drawing a confident line is knowing that no matter what happens, it is neither a bad nor good line until something else happens… such as another line. …


Need to monitor your app activity based on location? The geo-explorer dashboard is a fun and interactive way to take a different look at your data. (You might remember it as part of our open source dashboard repo that launched a few weeks ago.)

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The dashboard repo shipped with several examples, but the geo-explorer dashboard in particular spurred a lot of questions and excitement, so we thought it might be worth more of a deep dive.

The geo-explorer makes it super easy to visualize user activity by location. Using the Mapbox JavaScript API and Keen’s own geo-filtering capabilities, you can create an interactive dashboard that updates a set of charts as you navigate the globe. …


Building a dashboard for your customers? Need a quick and easy way to share stuff with your team? Check out the new keen/dashboards on Github and get up and running super quick with great-looking, customizable dashboard templates.

Each template is composed of a minimal set of custom styles built on top of Bootstrap v3.2, covering some of the most common dashboard use cases and layout configurations.

Here’s a template with a line graph, a pie chart, and a row of stacked column charts:

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The position and size of each chart is automatically handled by the template. …


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“Tell me about your customers.”

That’s how I’ve kicked off each of two dozen interviews over the past few weeks, asking founders and business operators to share their thoughts, stories and insights on customer discovery and product development. There are plenty of bloggers and thought leaders asserting the most assured paths to success, but I decided to dig in and find out for myself how people in my network are actually going about it.

I also didn’t want to limit sample selection solely to startup founders. …


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Last summer I kicked off a new project called IDEAVIS, a visualization tool built for design researchers and ethnographers. My intention was to scratch a personal itch, mentioned in several previous posts about idea visualization.

Creating relational maps and models can be quite an ordeal with static vector editors like Illustrator, where every little tweak or adjustment means refactoring dozens or hundreds of shapes and path endpoints. The digital rendering process also doesn’t really lend itself to open collaboration… someone inevitably becomes the document owner and surrogate pixel-pusher for the rest of the team.

Enter IDEAVIS: the goal is to make rich qualitative modeling lightning fast, intuitive and collaborative. There’s still plenty of work to do and the overall site design is very crude, but create an account, kick up a new canvas, and take it for a spin!

About

Dustin Larimer

I help teams bring new ideas to life. Product designer, engineer, and cape maker extraordinaire.

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