Welcome to the 2013 Mind the Product conference in London. Here you’ll be able to find out what happens during the day.
Intro by Mind the Product founder Martin Eriksson
What is Mind the Product?
It’s an international community with 4000 members and meet-ups in 12 cities around the world .
We are a movement, we believe that product management is evolving. It’s a collaborative effort. Some of the best product managers out there are engineers and UX people. Product management is a craft. To build it we need to bring together practitioners. Which is why we’re here!
Damn this place is crazy. If you’re lacking product managers…this spot is the place. Every seat full. #mtpcon
— Alexander Horré (@alexhorre) September 27, 2013
Paul Adams runs product design at Intercom.io and is the author of “Grouped”. He started his career as an Industrial Designer at Dyson before going digital as a UX consultant at Flow. He spent the last four years in the depth of Silicon Valley. Here he’s giving us his view on where things are heading in the industry and he starts off with a bang.
“I believe the internet is going to lead to the greatest changes in society since the industrial revolution. The future is already here, but it’s not evenly distributed.”
According to Adams the future is a network of information about anyone, anything and everything happening everywhere.
A look at history
You need to look back at different technologies to understand what’s happening today because the same thing happens every time a new media technology is invented, says Adams. When the telephone was invented it was pitched as a broadcasting device, but it quickly became a product that revolutionise the way we talk to each other.
The same was true for the radio, the television and the internet. People still look at the media technologies that exist today and try to apply it to the future. That’s a mistake. Then you’re missing all the amazing opportunities the internet affords us.
A more personalised experience
Take news as an example, it can be local, based on your interests and on what your friends read, explains Adams. In the future news will be more personalised. The same goes for TV. Even offline experiences will be the same. Shops will become more personalised, individual deals for you and coupons for you – think Minority Report, says Adams.
And if it’s a personalised experience you will buy more stuff and click on more links. This will happen more and more in the next 15 to 20 years, says Adams.
— Caroline Dundas (@captaincaz) September 27, 2013
The internet is permeating everything
People who were born in the last twenty years think about the internet the same way we think about electricity.
By 2020 all businesses will be internet businesses. Although 2020 is only a convenient number, it will probably happen sooner. But you’re not building destinations like a website or an app. That’s an outdated way of thinking. You’re building a product that aggregates and pulls in data from other sources. You’re building a system.
Business will look more like they did in past. Fifty years ago most shops knew who you were, the shopkeeper knew what you wanted to buy. That changed with mass marketing. But the internet will permeate mass marketing. The shops will know who you are because you have shared data with them. I don’t think it’s creepy, it’s valuable. It’s going to be better – a personalised, tailored service.
@georgeberkowski George Berkowski, former Head of Product at Hailo, takes to the stage to talk about how to build a billion dollar app.
Ten start ups have exited for more than 1 billion dollars in the last five years. There is definite momentum going on, none of it is a coincidence. It’s happening now. So we need to be ambitious, that’s the only way to go out there and change something.
According to Berkowski the new acquisitions and opportunities will be in the mobile space.
Small teams here today can quite easily turn into a ridiculously sized company, like Instagram.
But how? Let’s look at the billion dollar exit club first.
The billion dollar exit club
- Average age is 7 years. The youngest is 2 years (Instagram) and the oldest, Pandora, is 10 years.
- Strong focus on end user value
- Created a new category
- The founder has an unusually strong product vision.
What does it take to get into the billion dollar club?
- Build something people will need
- Build a fresh product – invent a category
- Validate the business model immediately
- Figure out how to scale your product
- Make your business model agile
- Lean is key
- To copy isn’t evil
Next to take to the stage is Tim Harford, a senior columnist for the Financial Times. His first book, “The Undercover Economist” has sold one million copies worldwide in almost 30 languages. He tells us a couple of stories and he starts out talking about the velodrome at the London Olympics. The UK got seven gold medals there. Not bad for a small island nation.
I wondered to myself – what’s the secret. For a while I thought, it’s obvious – Chris Hoy’s thighs. But it can’t be all about one or two very talented athletes. It has something to do with the team and the way it’s being managed.
Harford adds that we now know why they were so successful, it’s because of a man called Matt Parker. He started using electric blankets for the athletes thighs. He also taught the athletes to wash their hands and to always travel with an orthopaedic pillow.
At the games there was an hour between semi-final and final. A lot of time and research was spent on how to figure out how to maximise recovery during that hour. And the British athletes were faster in the final than the semi-final.
What was Matt Parker’s job title? It was “head of marginal improvements”. And when you add them up all those marginal improvements can make a huge difference.
But one thing worries Harford. Some innovations, vital and important innovations can’t get into marginal improvements. To give us an example he goes back to the early 1930s when the British air ministry commissioned a design for a new fighter aircraft.
We’d not had an air war before. No one really knew what the technology was capable of or how it could be used. The perceived wisdom was this that the one thing you could do with a plane was to bomb people. Radar hadn’t been invented so the strategy was simple, build a lot of bombers and strike before the enemy strikes. But if you were going to think outside the box and build a fighter plane – how would you do it?
Maybe the solution would be a single pilot plane with a gun pointing forward? Winston Churchill stood up in parliament and condemned that idea. When the proposals came back they were disappointing. It looked like the whole thing had to be shelved. Then a late proposal came in from a company run by a colourful independent MP. His prototype was looked at and the government said – “let’s build it… it will be a most interesting experiment.”
The final product became the Spitfire. The cost of the experiment was 10 000 pounds, the price of a London house at the time. But when you talk about experiments like this, Harford says, you talk about projects that could also fail.
If you want to create something properly you need to free yourself from the pressure to succeed every day.
Kelly Goto, founder and principal of gotomedia, is an evangelist for design ethnography. She’s dedicated to understanding how people integrate products and services into their daily lives. Goto starts out talking about Yoyu – the space between things. A space we often forget.
Most people don’t go more than ten minutes without checking their phone. We are addicted to this checking habit. Our brains have been rewired. We have shorter attention spans. Our children have shorter attention spans.
Goto finds this disturbing. And according to her designers have a responsibility to think about this.
We’re devolving a little bit. Yes it’s exciting with new technology. I don’t want to sit around a table with people just looking at their screens.
According to Goto the key is understanding ritual – how do people move through their days. Companies that provide meaningful experiences will be the companies that survive, because there is so much going on right now. We need to go from pleasure addiction to meaning. Goto talks about why-finding, something her company is doing. It’s about finding key emotions that connect people to your product – from ease of use to identity to aspiration. You have things people are aware of, things people aren’t aware of, rational and emotional responses.
It’s not about demographics anymore. It’s about psychographics. Do contextual research, meet with your audience at least once a year and remember people don’t change as quickly as technology.
@pv and @brantcooper After lunch we’re told to think lean as Patrick Vlaskovits and Brant Cooper, authors of The Lean Entrepreneur take to the stage to talk about disruptive and sustaining companies or the known vs the unknown. First they list the attributes of the different companies.
The problem is well understood
There is an existing market
Innovation improves performance, lowers cost, there are incremental changes
The customer is believable
The market is predictable
Traditional business methods are sufficient
It’s optimised for execution
The problem not well understood
The market is new
Innovation is dramatic and game-changing
The customer doesn’t know
The market is unpredictable
Traditional business methods fail
It’s optimised for learning
The business plan = fiction
So how do you innovate if you’re a large organisation? How do you execute if you’re disruptive?
Disruptive innovation , the hot sex of innovation, what were all aiming for #mtpcon
— tim marsh (@timmarsh) September 27, 2013
The big mistakes companies make is that they don’t know where they are on the spectrum. A function of success is that you slide from the disruptive side to the sustaining side because you’ve created a new market. And the more innovative and disruptive the product is – the more innovative the marketing needs to be. Don’t hand the product to a sustaining marketing team.
— Simon Whatley (@whatterz) September 27, 2013
The point isn’t just to be lean. The point is to figure out if you should be learning or executing.
@cennydd Next up is Cennydd Bowles, product designer at Twitter talks about the future of product design, who’s here to talk about the future of design. He breaks it up into a few categories. First is diversity.
— Alison Austin (@alicenwondrlnd) September 27, 2013
Diversity in everything
There is diversity in input, output. There is context diversity and platform diversity. And designers need to take this into account.
#mtpcon “Input diversity is a growing challenge. Add output diversity to that. Small screen, large screen, 10 ft UI!”
— MindTheProduct (@MindTheProduct) September 27, 2013
Designer will have to start thinking about the holistic experience. Labelling, tone of voice, customer service, are they aligned?
Another thing to take into account is how the materials we use are changing. So far information has been the main material that we’ve manipulated, says Bowles. But now product designers we have a different set of materials to deal with. Time, motion, sound and even atoms are a few examples of new things to play with.
Fluidity is the third and final area to look at. How does it change designers and how does it change their working process, asks Bowles.
Successful designers have a tool kit of processes and can vary them depending on the client.
@azizmusa Aziz Musa, Digital Director, Pegasus is talking about pure product (an Azizism).
— Emily Tate (@thedailyem) September 27, 2013
According to Musa everyone has a product they’re in love with. He asks the audience to name a few and comes up with Spotify. These products are “pure products”, a product that combines profound simplicity and beauty.
There are many products in our everyday life we don’t notice. We’re not aware of them. Some of them we notice for a bad reason – the coffee that was cold, the train that’s late. Then there is a tiny percent you notice because they’re awesome.
Musa explains he understanding pure products was an unexpected side effect of having children.
You get to see children using products for the very first time. It’s a magical experience, you can see which ones they really loved, which ones they resonated with really well.
The most important question a product manager or designer should ask themselves is – Is it beautiful? No and maybe aren’t acceptable answers.
— Lucy Spence (@lucyjspence) September 27, 2013
Andy Budd, the co-founder of UX consultancy Clearleft and typography start-up Fontdeck, takes to the stage to talk about design as a competitive advantage.
In some cases very little thought has gone into usability of devices, instead they have been seen as engineering problems, which as resulted in things like hair curlers setting hair on fire. But even though there is bad design there will always be early adopters, people who get the product because they want the functionality. If you’re successful less forgiving users will start using the product. They will notice it’s ugly and confusing and difficult to use and if you’re not careful it’s game over. Someone younger and smarter will come along and they will outdo you.
Good design drives desire.
It’s like a good TV detective story, says Budd. Try to push for more and get the perfect solution – like Sara Lund.
MailChimp is a good example – they excel in delighting customers.
Build a product that users love and create something that is hard to copy.
Competing on design is hard, but it can be done. Hire great designers because designers aren’t created equal.
A lot of companies hire stylists – people who are good at mimicking. If you’re solving real problems you need real designers.
Tara Hunt, VP Insights and Social Strategy at the Lime Foundry, is the final speaker of the day. She’s come to talk about why an awesome product won’t sell itself and how to sell it.
What are the elements to a product’s success?
It’s a mix of product, marketing and external factors. The goal is to find product market fit.
In 2012 484,224 new businesses were started in the UK.
1 in 3 fail within the first three years.
So who’s managed to find that perfect combination of product, marketing and external factors?
Case study: Hello Flo
Subscription service for tampons and sanitary pads.
They spent 6000 dollars on a video that went viral.
Smart idea + marketing + great timing
First video launched in 2006.
50 dollar budget for video – online sales grew by 700%
Almost half of those who have viewed the videos have visited their website, 15% of those have made a purchase.
Made over 50 000 dollars of ad revenue from Youtube.
Solid product + great videos + early on youtube + taking advantage of hot news items (iPad).
I fucking love science
Started in 2012 as a “boredom” project by 23 year old student Elise Andrew.
1000 page likes in 24 hours.
At 100 000 likes, she thought she should get more serious about it.
Started as a hobby but is now a commercial venture. She sells merchandise, is offered book deals and TV deals etc.
6.9 million likes at the moment.
NASA has 2.2 million likes.
Cool engaging topic (well curated) + great branding + science is a hot topic
So what is it that draws attention to a product? What are the elements that went into the success of these case studies.
6 keys to what people remember and talk about – STEPPS
- social currency
- practical value