We are Product Designers
We are creators. We are passionate about designing products that make our business successful. We are artists.
The title Product Design is not defined very well in the industry. Ten different organizations will have ten different definitions for people in this role. A while back, we published a job posting for a Product Designer and we started getting all sorts of resumes, from UX to industrial designers. So we changed the job title to Technical Product Manager. But that didn’t work either and it didn’t attract the right candidates. The ambiguity of the title of this role has made it hard for us to find the right people to add to our team. Now I’m here to explain what Product Design means to us at ACL and why we call ourselves Product Designers instead of Product Managers.
Why Product Design?
We think design matters. We don’t think it matters a little, we think it is the core of our value proposition and central to everything we build. It is even reflected in our company’s mission statement. At ACL design doesn’t simply refer to the user-interactions or visual appearance of a specific feature. Design to us is the entire process we go through to build the desired customer experience.
What is the design process?
The design process begins with understanding our business goals and objectives in order to design products that will enable us to meet them. We use our corporate strategy as our guide throughout our design process, from idea generation to commercialization. Simply put, as product designers we have the expertise to design and create products and services that bring value to as many customers as our business needs to meet its goals.
As Product Designers:
We understand our business
We know what our corporate goals are. We understand and contribute to our business strategy. We know the markets we serve in as well as the ones we are expanding to. We know and live up to our core values. We know our revenue targets, total addressable market, number of customers, life-time value of a customer, churn rate, and all there is to know about the state of our business so that we can come up with new ideas and deliver them in the right priority to reach our corporate goals.
We are domain experts
Better yet, we are passionate about our domain. We truly care about the fact that our products are used by people who are improving the performance and integrity of their businesses. Our passion and belief that we are doing good in the world drives us to learn everything there is to know about our customers; to learn about the people and companies that use our products every day and understand their goals and objectives.
We are also passionate about setting industry trends. We strive to stay on top of industry best practices and frameworks that are used. We want to make our end users successful in their roles and are solving to make them “the most sough-after people in their organization,” (this is in our corporate vision statement, and we think it’s pretty fucking cool).
We know our users
In fact, we go beyond knowing our users and their needs. We empathize with them. Empathy has a clear meaning in the context of UX design, we live up to that and we do more. Empathy, to a product designer, means that when a feature breaks in the product, we will do everything in our power to fix it for our users. If our users are blocked because functionality or content is not there for them to complete a task, we design a path to for them to succeed. This means we need to know. So we talk to our customers and users of our products everyday and listen. We listen to what our Customer Success Agents in Support and Implementation teams tell us about their interactions with our users. When we are presented with a suggestion or an enhancement request, we listen and ask why, not just once, but 5 times to understand what they need. Then we design a solution that solves for their needs, not necessarily what they ask for, as well as our greater user community. Our design philosophy is convention over configuration.
We love geeking out with new technology
To be Product Designers we ought to know the technology behind our products and be familiar with the industry trends. We are not software engineers or UX developers, but we know enough to understand the possibilities and constraints. We learn from other technologies. We copy or proudly steal the good ideas and learn how and when to integrate with other technology platforms to accelerate our ability to deliver value to our customers.
We listen. We learn. And we continuously make it better
We are a lean team. We deliver in small iterations when there is enough perceived value. We pay attention to the usage and we keep improving it. We make what’s bad, good, and what’s good, better. We monitor usage of all products and the adoption of the new functionalities we deliver. Then we use that as one of many sources of information make more informed decisions.
We create clarity when there is ambiguity
In our role, all we have is a corporate strategy as our guideline. The rest is left for us to figure out. We decide what values we should deliver to our customers and how to prioritize them to stay aligned with our corporate strategy. As product designers, we never say “the requirements aren’t clear.” We create clarity. It is our job to do research and analysis, conceptualize and define our vision, articulate and communicate our ideas, and work with the development team to deliver them as efficiently as possible. A product designer loves a blank canvas, and communicates their creation clearly.
We inspire the people around us
We are the customer advocates and product visionaries. We owe it to the rest of the company to share what we know and to inspire the teams around us. We need to: inspire the User Experience Designer that we are partnered with to design the best interactions possible; our development team to build kick-ass products efficiently; our content producers to deliver the content that enables our users to use the products the way they were intended to be used. We Inspire Customer Success teams to put customers on the right path. And last, but certainly not least, we inspire product marketing and sales to give them the confidence they need to position and sell the values we creates every day.
We work in small teams and we deliver big results
We work in small autonomous teams. We call them brigades. Each product designer owns, in addition to their product roadmap, the productivity of their brigade. That’s roughly 10 people dedicated to delivering value to customers, and the product designer gets to choose what that is at every iteration. It’s a privilege and a huge responsibility that we don’t take for granted.
Wait a second, but that sounds a lot like product management…
In truth there are a lot of overlaps between product management and product design. The industry still hasn’t fully defined the role of a product designer so we defined it ourselves and are paving the way for other tech companies to join us. For us, in context of ideation and product creation, product management was too broad and uninspiring. We think of ourselves as artists. We are creators and the word “designer” in our title is certainly way more inspiring than “manager”. We don’t manage a product roadmap — we design experiences that benefit our customers and make our business successful. And that is the art of product design.