Start-up Kiss & Tell                       photo credit honeypielivingetc
Impossible Project
Race to Market                 photo credit veer
Getting started
photo credit veerYou Wear all the Hats
Blind Date = Fail                    photo credit kissable
No Process / No Discipline           =
/Agile = No Goals                   photo credit hesedetang *
Babys got Legs                  photo credit skye perry
User Testing               photo credit knitkid
no photo credit foundDont Scrimp on Recruitment
photo credit codepo8Your New Product Guru
SEO + UX           no photo credit found
Resolve Complexity
author hugh macleodCollaborative Design
Cold Feet            photo credit Anni
Embrace Dilbert                  author scott adams
Hire old hands                 photo credit veer
Keep Focused
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Startup Kiss and Tell


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A (tongue in cheek) presentation for the UK UPA's PechaKucha night. I'm sharing insights from the first 100 days of UX and design in a tech startup.

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  • Hi guys, I'm Martina, I've recently joined a tech startup in the travel search industry.\n\nTonight I bring you Start-up Kiss & Tell. This format kind of feels right for my story. Fast paced, with an air of chaos.\nI want to share with you some of my observations from the first 100 days of a tech startup. \n\n
  • First things first. So you decide to put your career on the line to join a few mates and their crazy idea. You have a pet niggle, and you want to fix it. You want Google to buy your idea.\nYou say to yourself, if Woz and Steve can do it, so can we.\nSo the guys secure some funding.\nYou gather together 8 enthusiastic nerds.\nYou move to Notting Hill. \nAnd then the real adventure starts.\n \n
  • All activities, decisions, directions are taken to hit your target of getting to market real fast. While you are in stealth mode you are not making any money. While your product is not live someone else can get in there with your idea. Google could decide to take over your category. Anything could happen. Fast.\n
  • So you are immediately getting stuck in at the deep end. This project is already a few months behind schedule before the team arrives in the new office and the flat-pack furniture is assembled. \nLess planning is more time to actually get things done. So you get creative with internal processes, cutting all the corners, citing 37 signals.\n\n
  • One thing you don’t have to worry about are internal team communications. You are the team - \nthe Creative Director, the brand and visual designer, the UX director, the user researcher, the information architect and user experience designer. You are the product and project manager, the mother of the company and a firefighter. Luckily everyone knows I make a lousy cup of tea.\n\n
  • With this time pressure it is very easy to be seduced into agreeing arbitrary launch dates with investors. They love to see progress. While we all agree we've got to be quick, planning your PR events before consulting with anyone on the delivery team about feasibility will lead to complete fail.\n
  • When your process is still a blank page and your team haven't worked together before, it is easy to fall into the trap of poor discipline. The guys bought into iterative, user centered tenets. But without a project manager on the case, or ownership clearly delineated, progress can easily derail. Constraints on time + resources only leave you to adjust the quality.\n
  • Managers love the idea of agile delivery processes, because they sound like they deliver fast results, and give opportunity to changing your mind constantly rather than locking down scope. Under the codename of 'iterative design', sign off can be postponed indefinitely. And all of a sudden you realise you are running in circles rather than getting things done. \n
  • As the team gathers speed, one thing becomes very apparent. The initial idea, the baby of the owners, the concept investors have bought into, inevitably needs to change shape to deliver on all promises. But, as any proud parent will tell you, it can be excruciatingly difficult to give up a little bit of their control, to let their baby grow up.\n
  • So the team have bought into UCD when they hired me. What they didn't tell me was that they conduct their own user testing, deciding to regularly send out my work in progress to their nearest and dearest for review. It's best to embrace the idea that the boss's family are key stakeholders in the design process. Just make sure they don’t interfere too much with a successful outcome.\n
  • Nevertheless, proper user testing is key to benchmarking their biased stream of consciousness. And of course to test out your more whacky new ideas. However guerilla your validation methods are, I'd recommend to not scrimp on participant recruitment. This gives you the best possible chance of collecting feedback from a representative spread of would-be customers.\n
  • You soon discover that the investor's wife has taken a shining to your project. She is somewhat of a professional. She books all her holidays online. So she feels best suited to be your new product manager. As with the family design committee, try to keep your cool and remind everyone that return on investment should be their main concern, not the feature set for version one. \n
  • I used to think I was very pro SEO. We all have our eye on the prize of being number one on Google's search listings. But trying to be extra diligent with SEO and second-guessing Google’s priorities can easily compromise user friendliness and the trustworthiness of a website. [Think content written for a search bot, not humans.]\n
  • Don't let a team of extremely talented developers skew your view of complexity. It's not an easy to use website if you need to hack into the database to hunt for best holiday offers. No matter how much they all vote for their own preferences. You are the only designer, so defend your customers.\n
  • Best-laid plans for co-design workshops quickly come to a screeching halt when your boss starts editing your designs, while you are still working on them. Do not share layered files with anyone. Everyone and their extended social circle are keen to do your job for you. Unfortunately none of them are professional designers. This can be great for quick idea generation, but lead to serious design by committee problems.\n
  • Inevitably, after a rapid phase of scope creep, daily changes to goals, to the brand and the product, comes the moment when the team gets cold feet. Should we not revert back to the initial idea? Should we have listened to design’s concerns more? This is a good moment to reflect, and add another round of user testing. And quietly think “I told you so”.\n
  • It’s inevitable that starting out you feel like your work life keeps Scott Adams in business. You wouldn't expect to come across any of these clichés in the real world any more, we should all know better. But with a new team it seems you need to learn those lessons from your own mistakes. \n
  • one more tip from the front line. Hire a team of experts. Try not to make too much use of the wannabe designers. It might seem expensive. But with the lack of structure and certainty on a daily basis, deep-rooted experience is absolutely invaluable to create a quality interface between you and your customers.\n
  • Of course I cherry-picked the hair raising examples. This is the most fun and engaging job I've ever had. You get to apply all of your skills and rapidly learn new ones. It's about making your mark and making a change. And the painpoints are all forgotten by the time you toast the week's successes with Jagerbombs. \n
  • Thank you!\n\nYou can find me at polaroidgrrl on twitter. \n
  • Startup Kiss and Tell

    1. 1. Start-up Kiss & Tell photo credit honeypielivingetc
    2. 2. Impossible Project
    3. 3. Race to Market photo credit veer
    4. 4. Getting started
    5. 5. photo credit veerYou Wear all the Hats
    6. 6. Blind Date = Fail photo credit kissable
    7. 7. No Process / No Discipline =
    8. 8. /Agile = No Goals photo credit hesedetang *
    9. 9. Babys got Legs photo credit skye perry
    10. 10. User Testing photo credit knitkid
    11. 11. no photo credit foundDont Scrimp on Recruitment
    12. 12. photo credit codepo8Your New Product Guru
    13. 13. SEO + UX no photo credit found
    14. 14. Resolve Complexity
    15. 15. author hugh macleodCollaborative Design
    16. 16. Cold Feet photo credit Anni
    17. 17. Embrace Dilbert author scott adams
    18. 18. Hire old hands photo credit veer
    19. 19. Keep Focused
    20. 20. @polaroidgrrl