Rule #2: As you create, share early and often
Hey there! I’m Raika, a Senior UX and Conversation Designer at Amazon. If you’re new here, welcome! You can subscribe to my Secrets to Great UX Design newsletter for weekly insights. I share actionable ways to create great experiences, grow your career and more… for designers and non-designers.
The secret to a great, lovable product?
As you create, share early and often. Brian Cheskey, co-founder of Airbnb, put it perfectly:
“It’s really hard to get even 10 people to love anything, but it’s not hard if you spend a ton of time with them. If I want to make something amazing, I just spend time with you.”
Back in May, I shared my #1 rule - no bikeshedding, the tendency to devote a disproportionate amount of our time to menial and trivial matters while leaving important matters unattended (read it here).
Today I’m sharing my second rule: as you create, share early and often.
Since undergrad, I’ve had people reach out when they have a product idea. I found there were two approaches:
Some were secretive, asking for help and advice but kept things as vague as possible to protect their idea.
Others were an open book, seeking feedback and input, ultimately assessing product-market fit throughout the product development process.
I’m a big believer in the latter approach.
From ideation to post-launch, sharing early and often leads to great products.
A great experience solves the right problems. And while polish is important, if you aren’t solving the right problems, the product can never be great.
I’ve worked on countless projects where the solution we started with, drastically pivoted from early concept feedback.
The earlier you confirm you’re solving the right problems for your customers, the better.
It’s tempting to want to put a little more time in, get it a little further, practice a little more before sharing… but sharing during those early parts of the process regardless of your confidence or lack of confidence ensures you’re pointed in the right direction.
Am I seeking feedback or validation?
At the beginning of my career, when I sought feedback, I was really looking for validation that my work was good. Hoping I had it “right”.
As I’ve grown, I now go into critiques and research sessions with the desire for feedback, not validation. Seeing how people respond and engage with what I’ve created. Collaborating on aspects that aren’t yet working. Striving to consistently evolve my work.
If I’m only hearing good things, I can’t get better.
Here’s the thing, just putting my early work in front of people doesn’t result in good feedback by default.
I must have a clear ask.
When I have a clear ask, I can explain what’s wrong and what problem I’m attempting to solve with my new version to get good and valuable feedback.
Being specific about what feedback I am and am not looking for results in better feedback:
“I’m not looking for feedback on the visual design at the moment, but I would love feedback on X, Y and Z.”
“I'm presenting my work to the team next week. Could you give me high-level feedback on the story arc?”
“After our next workshop could you give me feedback? I'm trying to improve my facilitation skills.”
Yes, sharing work early and often can be daunting, but it's worth it in the long run. By sharing work, I can get feedback, build momentum, and iterate my way to a great UX.
To get useful, actionable feedback remember to:
Show work early and often (before you feel ready)
Have a clear ask
Home visits became Airbnb’s secret weapon. It’s how they learned what people loved. In Brian Chesky’s own words:
“Early on, Joe Gebbia and I literally commuted to New York from Mountain View [to visit our Airbnb hosts in person]. We literally would knock on the doors of all of our hosts. We had their addresses and we say, “Knock knock. Hello. Hey, this is Brian, Joe, we’re founders and we just want to meet you.”
We’d find out ‘Hey, I don’t feel comfortable with the guest. I don’t know who they are.’ Well what if we had profiles? ‘Great!’ Well what do you want in your profile? ‘Well I want a photo.’ Great. What else? ‘I want to know where they work, where they went to school.’ OK.
So you add that stuff. And then you literally start designing touchpoint by touchpoint. The creation of the peer review system, customer support, all these things came from — we didn’t just meet our users, we lived with them. And I used to joke that when you bought an iPhone, Steve Jobs didn’t come sleep on your couch. But I did.
I remember we met with a couple hosts…. We walk up to the apartment and we went there to photograph the home. And we’re like, ‘I’ll upload your photos to the website. Do you have any other feedback?’ He comes back with a book, it’s a binder, and he’s got dozens of pages of notes. He ends up creating a product roadmap for us: ‘We should have this, this, this, this and this.’ And we’re like, ‘this is our roadmap because he’s the customer.’ I think that always stuck in our mind: The roadmap often exists in the minds of the users you’re designing things for.”
Listen to the full episode:
Favorite Quote and Photo from the Week
“We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails.” — Dolly Parton
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Until next week,
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