Week 48: Digital products are never done…

… which poses a challenge for client work when most projects end with the initial launch. What to do instead?

Hi there, this is Harry, one of the founders of diesdas.digital, a nimble branding and product development studio in Berlin. We build internet stuff with a team of currently eight people (👋 Sharon, Santiago, Robert, Nicolás, Max, Lorenz, Lars + myself) and we also write about our activities each week. This is week 48 and it was an important one because we launched our biggest, most complicated project yet.

This should be cause for celebration, right? For sure it is; I’d be lying if I said we weren’t all immensely relieved… and yet we also know: the real work has just begun!

The moment. 🎉 #erstmaleinfischbrötchen #nordischbynature

Launching an online shop + website with the TypeMates!

The project I am talking about is of course the new website for TypeMates, a friendly type foundry led by Nils Thomsen and Jakob Runge. We started our collaboration back in February with the goal of building an online shop to sell their retail typefaces and also convince potential clients to commission more custom work projects. I’ll leave all the details, challenges and insights to a case study we will post next week, but it has to be said that we’re incredibly happy to see the new site online and to receive a lot of positive feedback (there’s also a 25% discount right now if you enter the voucher code “finally” #justsayin).

But for this post there’s a bigger topic to talk about: Sure, the first public launch of a project is cause for celebration; after all it’s usually the culmination of many months of intense work, but one shouldn’t forget that this is also when the life of a digital product just begins. Especially in the agency business project timelines and budgets are too often calculated right up to the first launch and maybe include another week for urgent fixes, but then the team is quickly reassigned to work for other clients and the product just idles in its initial state. Clients who don’t usually build digital products often get this wrong, too, feeling relieved when the agency finally stops bothering them and everyone can go back to their regular duties. The important thing to realize here is that one will never build a successful digital product this way.

Non-trivial digital projects are complicated endeavors: even with the most experienced designers and the most skilled developers you will probably not get it right the first time. And that’s okay, because the digital domain has the unique characteristic that you can modify and improve your product while it’s in your customer’s hands. Take a moment to let this sink in: No other industry can analyze customer behavior this easily and incorporate feedback into their products this quickly. Closing this feedback loop in industries with physical products (cars, furniture, …) can take years, while it’s a matter of hours, sometimes minutes, to fix a flaw in a website and get the improved version onto the screens of your users. Therefore keeping the ball rolling is absolutely crucial to success (and we’re not even talking about external factors like a changing ecosystem or competition yet).

This is such a simple realization and at the same time such an immense opportunity that it’s absolutely mind-boggling that many agencies don’t make use of this.

Celebratory champagne; trying to understand payment problems; fixing bugs late in the evening; Nicolás in the zone.

So what do we do instead? Whenever it makes sense for the project we try to downplay the first launch and place it somewhere in the middle of the agreed-upon project timeline, explaining that not everything has to be perfect by then and that refinements will be much easier and more focused once a first version is out there. Of course this shouldn’t mean a low-quality first version (as the term “MVP”, minimum viable product, often implies), but rather an “MLP”, a minimum lovable product. This was the approach that won us a bigger pitch in summer and also what we intend for the TypeMates website: We know that not everything is perfect or fully built out yet, but we will now keep adding to it regularly, informed by real-world analytics of how people use the site and feedback we get. ♻️

And honestly that’s the part that’s going to be even more fun! Working with Nils and Jakob in secret was already fantastic, but seeing how people use the site now, in the real world, and making it better over time is what I am very much looking forward to! Less guessing and more informed decisions based on real data and feedback. I can’t wait! 🙌

Robert Haase and the team in action.

Let’s talk about another big project!

We are excited to announce that we started working with a new client (it’s about shoes 👞 👀), kicking things off with a massive two-day workshop next week that needs A LOT of meticulous preparation. That’s why we called for help and brought Robert Haase in to support us with research and interviews. Having him on board is helping immensely and we’re super happy with the progress so far. This week was all about qualitative interviews, but we also launched a survey in German and English to gather some broader data points and opinions:

When we sent it out on Tuesday we didn’t know what to expect, but after just two days we had collected 120 submissions including very valuable insights. The power of social media (including a push from the client’s official social media accounts + newsletter). 😅

What else?

As always, let’s do bullets for the smaller stuff:

  • We’ll finally start development on a new project next week … it’s about time, considering that Sharon has done a lot of fantastic design work already. 🐣
  • Nicolás is gone for a week, recording new songs with his band The Tidal Sleep. Take care of your voice, buddy. 😅🎤
  • Our new office is taking shape, although right now it’s a huge construction site. If all goes according to plan, the move will be in February. #beyondexcited
  • We had dinner with a client this week (who prefers to stay anonymous, but reads this blog 👋), because not everything went as smoothly as it should have in the project we did together and I am glad we got the chance to calm the waves over dinner. Side note: Alpenstück, highly recommended!
  • There’s still so much to do before christmas … we have no idea how to cope with it all, but it’ll all work out somehow, as it always does. Very much looking forward to the holidays though … it’s been a most intense year. 🙃
  • Last but not least: a ton of new gifs on our tumblr! 🦄
Gestures, we haz them.

And that’s it for this week already! Look out for our TypeMates case study next week, when we go into detail about what worked well and also what didn’t. There’s definitely a lot to talk about. 🙃

Until then … enjoy your weekend and take care! Maybe consider clicking the little heart below if you liked this post or subscribe to this publication. 😇

Talk soon!
Your friends at diesdas.digital

diesdas.digital is a nimble branding and product development studio in Berlin, featuring an interdisciplinary team of seven designers, developers and strategists, each with years of experience in branding, interaction design and programming. We create tailor-made digital solutions with an agile mindset and a smile on our faces.

Wanna team up for a project? We’d be delighted! Simply shoot us an email, reach out on Twitter, drop us a message on Facebook, or send us grimaces via Snapchat. We’re also on Instagram and we got gifs over on tumblr, just sayin’. No matter the channel: We’re listening and can’t wait to hear from you! 🙌

Until next time! 💚