It’s both challenging and rewarding.
It is just amazing how many unseen decisions and thoughts go into a product. Working as a product designer in a tech startup gives me the opportunity to experiment this every day.
There are a lot of things to consider: people needs and problems, business requirements, design, emotions, technology or the people that are actually building the product. And all that while at the same time figuring out which direction to go while keeping the vision in focus.
Because neither the small garage startup, nor Facebook knows what the future holds. Everybody is figuring things out as they go. Experience does play a big part of how things go.
Let’s take a basic search input from an online shop for example. The working principle is apparently simple: I type something and get the results. But the way it actually reacts depends on things like context (where), who is the user, the technology behind it (instant, auto-suggestion, machine learning), how it looks like, how tolerant or smart it is to pickup mistakes. There are people who specialise in these kind of things. Here you can read a quick article from Nielsen & Norman group.
And this goes to show how important it is for a team to do great collaborative work and exchange ideas and knowledge. Because neither the UX people, nor the developers or sales, support, biz dev, managers etc, can foresee all the situations if they work in silos or just throw stuff at each other. And as they say at Facebook, it’s never someone else’s problem so follow up on things. This has become a personal mantra.
It is challenging enough to try and build something considering the technical requirements, but it’s maybe even more so to do it considering the behavioural understanding of the people using it.
At the same time, chances are that someone else has already had the same problem and tried different solutions. This is where rich websites like Stack Overflow or UX stack exchange help a lot of people to learn and share what they know. There are a lot of amazing people out there working in communities to help each other.
All this gives me a new found respect for all the people out there making great products and services. It is challenging and at the same time very rewarding. To see the customers using the app that you helped to build is a great feeling.
Of course it’s not always easy and simple. I sometimes bang my head to the wall, I try to understand how things work and how I can build with the team a solution that fits best for a particular case. But at the same time, I enjoy a good challenge which is always a great chance to learn more. And so does the team I work with.
One random but great example that comes to mind is Dropbox. For me it provides a great experience. I rarely interact with the app directly, but it helps me a lot in the work I do. Synchronising files and sharing links is provided in a seamless way, I just love how fast I can work with it, with more time to focus on what I care more.
This thoughts open the appetite to discover and share a lot of examples of functions or solutions that apparently are simple but which require lot of consideration. Cause there’s a lot of magic going behind Dropbox that makes everything happen, that we don’t ever see.
Here below is actually a part of it explained at the Dropbox developer conference (DBX).
Drew Houston's keynote from Dropbox's first developer conference, DBX 2013.
July 9, 2013