As designers at Perpetual, an important part of our role is presenting work in front of our clients or stakeholders for reviews. Chances are we all have had our fair share of experiences with meetings that ended up turning into complete nightmares...discussions get derailed or dragged on for too long, no one is on the same page and everybody walks out of the meeting feeling like it was a waste of time. While running design reviews can end up being painful and even hurt some feelings, they don’t have to. So how do we make sure we have meetings where everybody is on the same page, conversations are productive, questions have answers and everyone leaves the meeting with a sense of moving in the right direction? Here are my five favorite tips for running effective design reviews:
Tip #1: Prepare an agenda
A design review is as good as the behind the scenes that happen before the meeting. Plan an agenda with exactly what you want to review in your designs and share it at the start of the meeting. Briefly validate the agenda with the audience before diving in in case there is anything else pressing anyone would like to cover in the meeting. Following an agenda helps keep the meeting structured and focused to prevent conversations from diverging. An agenda also serves as a great reminder for what you want to review and discuss during the meeting.
Tip #2: Strategize how you will communicate design decisions to others
Effectively communicating your design work to others is a skill that separates good designers from great designers. Leverage design principles and UX/UI best practices that you considered into your conversations. It is important to use language that everyone in the meeting can understand, especially when discussing technical aspects of design. Remember, you are the designer in the room with the expertise. Showing confidence in your design decisions and being able to support them with reasoning (especially when there are signs of pushback) will ensure that your design reviews will generate more useful feedback.
Tip #3: Cut to the chase when presenting designs
More often than not, your design reviews will be limited to certain amounts of time. Presenting your work by starting with explanations of every decision behind a screen is a poor use of time. Instead, explain how the design works upfront, presenting artifacts of design such as user flows, design audits or designed concepts as you do this. It is effective to get into the habit of telling stories from a user perspective and going through your designs as the user. Having everyone in the room at a point where they fully understand how your design works means you are ready to transition to those deeper conversations regarding design decisions.
Tip #4: Ask for the right feedback
Before diving into any design review, consider the type of feedback or response you want from others that will help you move forward in the project. It may be asking for whether the design solves a user problem or meets business requirements. Or perhaps you want to ask for detailed visual design feedback. For prescriptive visual design feedback that may arise, ask for more background or examples of this: you are the designer but you should be open to fresh ideas. Once you probe this more you can determine whether there is good user value or business rationale for the prescriptive visual changes, or is it just that person’s very personal preference. You might want to even determine if your designs are feasible for development, which is valuable to vet cross-functionally early in the process. Start the conversation by communicating project goals which will help people understand what kind of feedback to give. Additionally, ensure that feedback being given is actionable. This helps prevent design reviews from dragging on and ending with uncertainty due to a lack of next steps.
Tip #5 Adapt to the pace of design reviews during and after meetings
If you are having recurring design reviews with the same people, this tip will serve extremely useful. After conducting a few design reviews, begin to develop a feel for the pace of your meetings. You may learn over time your meeting plan or agenda needs to be cut down since meetings tend to end without getting to discuss everything you want. When planning for the pace of a meeting, it is a good idea to allocate some time in the meeting where others can digest your designs. Having moments in the meeting where everyone has a chance to think deeply can result in more insightful responses. Another good practice is to avoid designing within the meeting and take it offline. This saves valuable time that can be prioritized for design conversations.
Following these five tips will provide a solid foundation for conducting design review meetings that will make effective use of the time given. It is important to remember that learning to efficiently run these meetings often takes trial and error. I would also recommend to always end design reviews by communicating the next steps. This may include reiterating high level points from the feedback given by others. Ensure that the feedback you plan to address is actionable so they know what to expect from you in your future iterations. Finally, always make sure to thank everyone for their time and effort! It’s always nice to end your meetings on a friendly, positive note, no matter how conversations earlier in the meeting were like.
-Andy Zheng is a UX Designer at Perpetual
90% of the world’s current stores of data was created in the past two years (Forbes). With new devices capable of recording ever increasing amounts of information, much has been written about the use of big data in the private sector. This is also a crucial time to take a step back and understand the impact that leveraging this data could have on improving social causes. In order to understand what social impact empowered by big data could look like, this post will provide an overview of five different sectors from economic empowerment to education where data is helping this sector take big strides towards improving outcomes and providing novel solutions that can improve the quality of life for those who need it most.
1. Economic Development
To begin with, the volume of data being produced today is becoming a useful source of information to support forward thinking decisions that can aid countries and organizations focused on increasing financial security and economic development. Due to improvements in analysis and predictive modeling, these groups are now able to make more accurate decisions in a variety of scenarios.
In one case, the “data.org” initiative is looking to make data more open and increasingly accessible to government agencies and private companies. This would enable them to use data to “reduce transaction costs, generate new forms of economic growth and prosperity, generate new revenue models, and disrupt traditional business models” (data.org). In this way, creating a more transparent model would be beneficial to a variety of sectors as it can be leveraged by citizens and users to create economic opportunity and attempt to solve societal problems.
Improving education is one of the most important building blocks towards better societal outcomes. School systems have always gathered large amounts of data from test scores to behavioral information making them the perfect place to start. Today, there is an opportunity for schools to use new methods of analysis to see what students are learning, the relevance of the education they are receiving, and how well resources are being used to produce more well rounded students.
One organization, the Data Quality Campaign, is looking to ensure that this useful information is collected and used to make change where it is most impactful. Among the DQC’s various initiatives, one undertaking aims to improve public reporting of data as it relates to school enrollment, student performance, teacher effectiveness and more. The goal here is to improve the quality of this data and begin to tailor this information to better meet the needs of specific students, parents and their communities. Publicly reported data would not include personal information to protect the privacy of students but it could enable these same students and their parents to get a better understanding of their desired academic path.
For example, parents would be able to see information related to school performance and the availability of special programs or services that are a better fit for their child’s interests. Communities would be able to use the data to hold schools more accountable by reviewing how overall school performance has improved – or not – over a span of time. By doing so, these communities can foster continued academic achievement across their respective school systems and take an informed stand when these systems require course correction.
Data could also play an important part in furthering health initiatives where they are needed most. In one case, OpenStreetMap (OSM), provided incredibly useful mapping information to Sierra Leone’s National Ebola Response Centre as well as the United Nations Humanitarian Data Exchange to improve the coordination of the public health strategies that were enacted to tackle the disease. Due to remote nature of some towns in the region, there was a significant lack of data accessible to health workers that would allow them to make important decisions related to providing care.
According to the CDC, once volunteer mappers performed the hard work of scouring satellite images to identify villages and paths that were previously not recorded, “The OSM data was then often mashed up with open data from affected governments and international organizations.” This junction of non-profit volunteer efforts along with government participation resulted in the mapping of over “750,000 buildings and hundreds of kilometers of roads” which resulted in an immeasurable impact on the ebola response efforts at the time.
Another example is a research organization based in New Zealand known as CBG Health Research. Through their HealthStat research tool, healthcare professionals across the country are able to identify trends – informed by data collected from national hospitals – of flu and viral outbreaks in real time. The relevance of this data allows doctors to respond in a faster and more effective manner which prevents the spread of infection and helps generate useful data points for future needs.
4. Food Scarcity
While developed and wealthy nations are beginning to face the issue of food scarcity due to over consumption and global warming, developing countries facing these same challenges will see more severe consequences and must look for ways to adapt their current situation to shield themselves from irreversible damage. In this case, data may be a valuable resource for developing nations looking to improve the quantity and quality of their overall food production.
According to a study on Enabling the IoT in Developing Countries, introducing initiatives backed by IoT (Internet of Things) devices could see improvements in “transportation safety, agriculture, environment, utility management, health monitoring, and more.” To begin with, IoT implementation could result in improved crop yield by rigging up growing environments and greenhouses with technology capable of using computer vision and environment monitoring solutions to provide data on variables such as air pollution, optimal temperature, and more.
Almost 40% of food loss occurs at post-harvest and processing stages in developing countries, keeping track of this data would empower these producers to create “smart farms” that will provide valuable information for themselves and the wider community around them.
5. Environmental Conservation
Lastly, the use of data to improve environmental outcomes should not be understated. As the world continues to grapple with the ever-increasing effects of climate change, organizations such as Global Forest Watch are using their NASA satellite imagery to help conservation groups and governments monitor the rate of deforestation across the world. Backed by Google, Global Forest Watch is using a vast amount of data to create these up to date and high resolution maps that reveal the decrease of forests worldwide. This tool has the potential to provide evidence backed arguments to inform new and aggressive environmental policy changes to curb the devastating results of deforestation.
A similar product, Aqueduct, looks to teach governments, companies, and more about water risks in their area. By identifying potential floods to impacted areas through Aqueduct, governments are given the time and knowledge to create a flood response plan should the worst case scenario occur. In this case, using this data could save lives while also helping countries learn more about water shortages so that they can take measures to decrease consumption and take steps towards avoiding a drought that could harm the population.
Challenges to using Data for Social Impact
While it is clear that there is a range of invaluable applications for data across social sectors, the use of this data does not come without a few shortcomings that must be considered.
To begin with, data accessibility is an issue for social-impact uses as most useful data is in the hands of private companies that are not willing to share their data for reasons such as intellectual property or regulation concerns. Another challenge is the matter of data quality which is often not good enough for analysis and needs to undergo a few rounds of cleaning in order to discern any valuable information. Examples of this include data from IoT devices which can occasionally be faulty or inaccurate due to recording issues.
As a result of this, the ability to translate data into meaningful and understandable explanations will require specialized roles, such as data scientists, to be incorporated into social impact organizations. These data scientists would be able to interpret said data and turn conclusions into actionable insights. The demand for these roles in the American job market, however, outweighs the current supply with Linkedin estimating over 150,000+ positions are left unfilled due to the lack of trained talent. These challenges all present threats to the use of data by organizations looking to make the world a better place.
With that said, there is hope that these issues will improve over time. As companies look to improve their triple bottom line by implementing corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives, they will be required to be more transparent about their supply chains and the numbers behind them. This in turn would improve the quality of data gathered and hopefully make it more accessible for external fact checking and validation purposes. In terms of the data scientist shortage, there are promising signs that the supply will soon catch up as data science undergraduate programs, certifications, and boot camps have seen a sharp rise in recent years.
While the world continues to grapple with matters such as poverty, food security, and environmental decay, the time to pair purpose and technology through the use of big data is now. In spite of challenges such as data accessibility, quality, and lack of data focused talent, there are signs that these issues will be addressed in the near future. Whether that is creating platforms to inform governmental policy initiatives – Aqueduct, Global Forest Watch, Open Street Map – or painting a more transparent picture of our educational systems via the Data Quality Campaign, the impact data will continue to have on furthering social causes is consequential.
These examples represent early adopters of what could be an increasing amount of organizations in the social impact space that will begin to hire data scientists and improve their data recording and insight generation to help solve the biggest issues facing us today. Here’s hoping that governments, and the private sector will do their part to help that vision become a reality.
– George Molina is a Product Manager at Perpetual
Using a Chatbot on your site is an easy way to keep site visitors happy by providing them with useful information that saves them time and answering questions they may have related to your service or product. The best part is, plugging in a ChatBot takes very little effort and could have a huge impact on your customer service. Check out the list below to find one that meets your needs.
Overall, we like Chatra for its simplicity, seamless integration and ease of use . This would be a good pick for small businesses just starting to get off the ground. For those looking for a more robust option that’s scaleable and developer friendly, Twilio is the way to go. With that said, we suggest giving them all a look to see what works best for you and your use case!
- George Molina is a Product Manager at Perpetual
As designers, it’s important to continuously develop your craft by staying up to date with the latest trends and applying new knowledge to your work as often as possible. By applying some focus and determination, it’s possible to get a little better every day with these five daily habits to strengthen your design skills.
1. 100 Days of UI
Have you ever endlessly scrolled through Dribbble for inspiration and wanted to contribute but felt hesitant to do so? Don’t be afraid to take the first step and challenge yourself to complete the Daily UI Challenge aka 100 Days of UI! To begin, you can either create a Dribble or Behance account if you do not have one already. Next, check out DailyUI and sign up to receive your daily challenges for the next 100 days. You can create your daily challenge through Sketch, Figma or any other program of your choice then export and upload your creations onto Dribble. What I enjoy the most about the Daily UI challenge is that you are given tasks that you would not normally design for which allow you to strengthen and develop new skills as you go. I recommend monitoring your progression from Day 1 and I’m sure you will notice how much of a better designer you have become by day 100.
2. Read About Product Design
Another great way to strengthen your design skills is to read (or listen if you prefer audiobooks) about product design. A few of my favorite books that I enjoyed reading and have helped me throughout my career as a product designer have been The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman, Sprint by Jake Knapp, and Solving Product Design Exercises by Artiom Dashinsky. Whether you are just starting off a junior UX/UI designer or if you have years of experience under your belt, these books will definitely help you elevate your design skills and deepen your design thinking process.
3. Keep up with UX Collective on Medium
With all the latest programs and features for product designers, it is hard to stay up to date. A great way to learn about the latest tools out there in detail from a product designer’s perspective is to check out UX Collective on Medium. UX Collective is a community of product designers of all levels who write articles that detail their personal experiences and design thinking processes. Understanding that many designers face similar challenges is comforting and a good way to gain new perspectives on an issue you may be stuck on. Also, feel free to reach out if you find someone who really stands out to you! You never know who could be willing to lend a helping hand.
4. Learn from Other Designers
There is always a new trend every year and sometimes these trends even repeat themselves. A great way to stay up to date on what’s hot and what’s not while strengthening your design skills is to check out Dribble & Behance. Follow trending designers, read through blog posts that provide a review of the latest fads and try to integrate anything that inspires you into your own design practice. While trends may come and go, the experience of trying something new is always helpful and you may even end up stumbling upon your next go-to style!
5. Attend Events in Your City
Lastly, attending UX events in your city is a great way to open up your network and meet the fellow designers face to face. Whether it’s bonding via your favorite design program plug-ins, or getting into lively debates about whether neumorphism is still ‘hot’, going out and becoming a part of the UX community in your area is a great way to get more out of your passion for design together with friendly faces. Below are a few resources to start getting out there and attending these meet ups.
Hopefully these five habits can help you along your way to becoming a better and more well-rounded designer. The best way to see ongoing improvement in your design practice is through consistent work so get started today and remember to stick to it!
– Jackie Chan is a UX/UI Designer at Perpetual
As product designers, we are always finding a way to make our design process more seamless. When working on various deliverables and adhering to a timeline, we are always looking for a more efficient way to use Sketch. With the following plugins, there’s no doubt you will be able to produce pixel perfect designs quicker and more efficiently.
As a product designer, it is common to focus on visual design and forget about copy. Personally, when I am producing deliverables I tend to overlook my grammar and have always been dependent on Spell Check on MicrosoftWord or autocorrect when using iMessage. While visual design is a major component in your product, copy is usually overlooked. For those who tend to misspell words when including copy, a great plugin for Sketch is Spell Check. It is a simple spell checker that checks all the layers of your Sketch file. Once extension is ran, it will produce a list of texts that contain errors or an incorrect word. Very useful for those who have to sound out ‘Wednesday’ before typing it out.
For those that like to view their prototype as they design, this is the plugin for you. Craft plugin for Sketch allows you to preview your prototype as you design and also sync your artboards to Invision. When working with various stakeholders who request for an interactive prototype, the Craft plugin also allows you to copy a link while still working within Sketch and forward it to those who want to see your product. After syncing using the plugin, you can then go into Invision and view the artboards you created in Sketch as a prototype! Start adding your hot spots and you are good to go!
With Fitt’s Law emphasizing the importance of size and distance, Nudg.it allows one to design while practicing this law. It has been said that components in a design are more visually appealing when spaced out by 8 pixels. Not only does this plugin allow you space your components out with the simple click of a shift + arrow but it also helps you keep spacing consistent throughout your designs as well. When using Nudg.it you can select the amount of pixels you would like to space your components out by. After managing this setting, you can start nudging! You can set your “small nudge” and “big nudge” settings to ensure elements are spaced consistently. This also helps you save time by avoiding the tedious clicking, dragging and dropping around your artboard.
Copy and Paste Guide
One of the challenges I have faced as a product designer is maintaining consistency in my designs when designing for multiple screens/pages. To ensure components are aligned I set an initial guide for myself. If you are new to setting guides, they are those red lines that run vertically or horizontally throughout your artboard. I personally use them to ensure components are aligned. With the Copy and Paste Guide you can set your initial guides and when switching to another artboard you can paste those guides that you have set.
If you are looking to save yourself some time when changing the background of elements within Sketch, Paddit is the plugin for you. Sometimes you might find yourself changing the background of your components to adjust to your art board’s background. With Paddit you can simply group your elements together and change the background from there. Now that you no longer have to adjust the background for each individual component, you will be saving so much time and be able to move on to your next task!
These are just a few of the many plugins available for sketch. If you are already familiar with these plugins you can also check out Sketch’s website for an extensive list of plugins from third-party developers. Now that you possess more knowledge on how to design more efficiently in Sketch, download away!
- Jackie Chan is a UX/UI Designer at Perpetual
With so many fonts to choose from, what are the top fonts out there right now? You are probably already familiar with fonts such as Times New Roman, Arial, and Roboto but did you know these fonts are classified under two different typefaces? These two typefaces are known as Serif and Sans Serif.
Is serif trendier than a sans-serif? Let’s start with the difference between the two. Serif fonts have lines added to a basic character (such as Times New Roman) and sans serif is a typeface that does not have those small serif lines at the ends of the characters.
Serifs are known to be classic and traditional. The following are a few of the top trending serif typefaces out right now. Previous trending serif fonts included Saonara, Coachella, and Libertinus. Now let’s take a look at the “it” fonts of 2020, shown with examples below.
Sans Serif is associated with being modern and contemporary. Previous sans serif fonts included Avenir, Helvetica, and Roboto. Popular fonts of 2020 include the following:
Avenir Next Pro
Pairing the two typefaces together are also very common. When doing so, the rule of thumb is to use a sans serif for your header font and a serif font for your body. Keep contrasting font weights in mind to help distinguish hierarchy for users. A great resource for font pairing is FontPair and Fontjoy where you can view how fonts would appear paired together before implementing into your design. With that in mind, ensure that you have defined the purpose and mood of your design and then select fonts from there. For example, you wouldn’t want to use a curvy Comic Sans for an email to your client.
Now that you are aware of what fonts are trending right now, how does one stay up to date you might ask. Google Fonts is a great way to discover great typography. With their extensive catalog of web fonts, you will definitely be inspired and discover new fonts to use for any design project. Another great resource for typography inspiration is Pinterest. Creating a board dedicated to typography and following Pinterest users who contribute to the Pinterest community is a great way to see how others use font pairing as well and what is trending.
Now that you’re up to date and possess font pairing knowledge, you are ready to design with stunning typography!
- Jackie Chan is a UX/UI Designer at Perpetual
As app developers, we aim to be at the top in the exciting and competitive global app development market. Success in app development depends on what competitive edge we can offer to our customers. If you don’t have a competitive edge to offer compared to others in the industry, your app will likely be ignored in the app stores. So, how do you develop the app that is downloaded by users and recommended to their friends?
"Successful people do what unsuccessful people are not willing to do. Don't wish it were easier, wish you were better." - Jim Rohn, Serial Entrepreneur and Best Selling Author
It’s essential to start off on the right foot with top practices for app success. These may not sound intuitive or your logical next step, but will definitely improve your app development process. Build your app’s competitive edge by following these best practices in app development for 2020.
1. Comprehensive Research
Research is the first thing to do when planning an app’s development. Effective research in itself is a best practice in application development. It involves exploring features and priorities from trivial to complex and not ignoring any aspect that could affect any areas of application development. Start by researching your audience, their preferences, demographics, age groups, etc. Your users are the highest priority so it’s crucial to make sure you appeal to them!
Similarly, performing competitive research on your competitors to find out their strengths and weaknesses is key. Additionally, it is important to ask key questions about your competitors such as what apps are they developing? Is your value proposition or offering any different or unique compared to theirs? Doing this will help guide your line of questioning throughout the research process. Also, try to identify the challenges faced by them, and be prepared to find a solution to these challenges for your own offering.
The data collected from the research should be used for planning application development. So, make sure that you gather as much relevant, accurate, and precise data as possible.
2. Minimum Viable Product
A successful application must have a core functionality and features that support it. Too often, features and functionality confuse the user and also make the app heavy. For example, the user doesn’t expect a banking app to have games.
As a result, the biggest challenge in app development is to decide the features and functionality to include. A unique offering, supported by connected and relevant features, is the ideal choice. Limiting the scope of the application also helps you focus on building a high-quality app with the targeted functionality that you’ve pre-determined through your research.
To start, make a list of features for the app, and categorize it into mandatory or desirable (A good pattern to follow is the MoSCoW method : Must-have, Should-have, Could-have, Won’t-have). Then develop and release a minimal viable product to test your app in the market. Developing an MVP is quick and cost-effective with many included benefits. The feedback on this MVP app should be collected from your users to evaluate what to include in updates and make better informed business decisions down the line so you we can continue releasing better versions of your app after live-testing the MVP.
3. Effective Use of Technology
Choosing the right technology to use in your product starts from the app planning stage itself. Depending on the targeted audience, you must first evaluate whether to develop the app for Android or iOS (or both). Accordingly, this decision allows you to choose the best framework and language for app development.
At this stage, depending on your requirements and budget, you must also decide if you want to use open-source solutions for app development or go for customized development, or a combination. For simpler apps, you can also go for low-code or no-code app development.
4. Interactive Prototypes
A crucial component to creating a great app comes from exceptional design. If you have
designed well, you’ve made a good start at setting your app up for success. Winning app design focuses on user experience and user interface. If the user finds your app convenient to use, you have won half the battle.
Navigation is also a crucial element of app design. If the navigation is not easy, the user cannot access what they want in the app which will inevitably end with them reducing their usage of the app and eventually uninstalling it.
The best way to ensure the success of your app design is to create an interactive prototype. This helps keep the client and developer on the same page before any app development begins. Also, this is useful for testing your design and rectifying the deficiencies ahead of time.
5. Intelligent Budgeting
The best way to manage your app development funding is to make a budget before development begins. This budget is based on many factors so you should list down the features and functionality required in your app. Apart from that, it helps if you also set a timeframe for development. If developing the application is urgent, it will cost more to develop.
This planning doesn’t end here. To be able to make a reasonable budget, it is also important to estimate how much you can price the application. This will depend on the audience and market demand as there is no point in developing an application with very high costs and no returns on investment.
With that said, it is crucial to be pragmatic while budgeting. For high-quality complex apps, you will need a reasonable budget; nothing comes for free!
6. Don’t Ignore Security
No matter how well-built your application is, if it is vulnerable to security breaches, it will fail.
The list of best practices in application development cannot be complete without a mention of security. There are various ways to make your application more secure. Depending on the technology that you are using, you can manage security during the development stage itself. You must also ensure that you use authorized APIs for app development.
Apart from that, you must also take appropriate steps to ensure data security. Data encryption is a basic yet crucial practice for data security of your application so it is important to make arrangements for the safe storage of data.
Regular updates are required in applications to deal with prospective security issues.
Developing an app is a very time-consuming process. Awareness of the best practices in application development helps you save time, money, and resources.
To improve successful adoption and engagement of your app, the quality of your application development is a necessity, not a choice. Following the best app development practices also ensures the quality that will give you a large number of loyal customers.
If you’re looking for best-in-class app development, get in touch with the Perpetual team. We’d love to help you build your vision.
Jin Markov is a Content Writer with GoodFirms, a research firm in the USA. He loves reading about app development technologies while sipping his favorite cup of coffee.
I was born in New York but spent most of my life growing up in Hong Kong. I have hence always been drawn to organizations that expose me to a range of challenges and opportunities to learn across disciplines and borders. I have had the pleasure of working as a Product Manager at Perpetual for the past year and a half. In that time I’ve been involved in over 5 projects from healthcare to news production and even helped the city of New York solve energy conservation challenges while working with team members across the globe.
Every day holds a novel challenge here, as time sensitive requests and issues inevitably arise, meaning a Product Manager in this role needs to simultaneously be alert and ready to tackle things as they come while being able to handle them with a plan and process. In this time, I’ve learned important lessons that have led me to grow both personally and professionally that I want to share in this post.
From day one I have been involved in projects where I was given the license to become heavily involved with the client while working between teams. My first undertaking saw me working with an animal healthcare startup known as Roo. In the capacity as PM for this project, I began by understanding the current functionality of the platform which enabled me to begin planning a long term roadmap and priorities with the client. From there, I was able to create detailed user stories and then structure sprint plans over time.
I began supporting Roo at a time when the product was about to be launched to market, so prioritization and identifying launch critical issues became the most important part of my early involvement with the company. We assisted the client in setting up tools best suited for the challenge at hand, which included a project tracking tool, JIRA, along with a centralized document to easily log any critical issues observed in the field. These tools, along with a pragmatic and delivery focused process, resulted in the product getting to market in time, with critical issues addresses, and post-launch items prioritized and ready for the development team to seamlessly continue their delivery. You can learn more about the project in this Case Study.
Through this experience, I came to understand how quickly things move in the startup world and the importance of prioritization to keep track of tasks and handle them in the most effective way possible.
My next project was in the corporate world, which I learned moves at a different pace. In this case, our client was Thomson Reuters, a large multinational media company with over 25,000+ employees, which meant our team had to take a different approach to working with such a large client. Unlike the hyper agile nature of working with smaller startup companies, tasks can take longer and involve more people and teams, which means it was important for us to stay on top of dependencies and consistently highlight blockers to make sure we stayed on track.
The goal of this project was to help journalists speed up the output of certain types of news stories. This initiative involved taking an existing application that allows news editors to create drafts of recurring news articles, and templatizing them in order to create self-updating articles that would populate with information from a data source, ready to publish.
Early in the process, I worked with the legal editing team to see what types of articles they wrote on a weekly basis to try and ascertain which content types could be templatized. To do this, I underwent a review of articles written in a given week by the legal news team and began to draw conclusions about recurring topics such as plaintiffs, judges, and courts. With this information, I began to collaborate with our development team to perform data modelling on these inputs along with feedback from the legal editing team as part of our iterative process. The end product integrated novel legal data sets with the existing article templatization tool.
This undertaking taught me a lot about the process of iteration as we were consistently making progress while checking in with users and stakeholders. This allowed for a productive back and forth where we occasionally pivoted our approach as we gained and incorporated new information during the development process, resulting in a product that evolved to meet user needs. Another challenge in this project was building an end-to-end product for data vs. a well defined user interface, which pushed me to think about the value that different types of data can provide, without the benefit of a visual to guide this understanding.
While these two projects were focused more on defining and building products for our clients, I was also heavily involved in projects that were more focused on UX Design overhauls and improvements. In this role, I played the role of a Project Manager more than a Product Manager (see my post about Project Manager vs. Product Manager here).
Working with one of NYC’s largest moving companies, our team was tasked with revamping the look of the entire website and the way users navigate the various pages to improve overall move bookings. This project was unique due to the various stakeholders from different areas of the company being involved in the process, since different pages had varying requirements for what needed to be displayed, including business, marketing and legal.
For example, redesigning the long distance moving page required input from a specialized team involved with those customers, while creating a new insurance page required us to call in to the claims department to ensure we were stating the right information. This was key so as to not mislead prospective customers and occasionally, to adhere to legal terms. While designing all experiences, above all, marketing was a key consideration: we had to ensure our designs didn’t impact Search Engine Optimization (SEO) on the website. This meant ensuring our designs followed standard guidelines in terms of layout and mobile responsiveness, and accommodating content and copy optimized for SEO. This process involved working with the marketing team, an SEO expert and content writer. It was insightful to see how small changes we made drastically affected SEO performance, so a build-measure-learn approach was key in this process.
This project taught me to be flexible in light of situations where input can arrive from a variety of sources. Additionally, working between the development and design teams at Perpetual was an exciting opportunity in itself as it gave me the chance to interface between these disciplines and work together to realize common goals. You can learn more about the project in this Case Study.
In another User Experience focused project, where I played the role of Project Manager, we worked to revamp the entire product line for a unified communications company that looked to us for rebranding, design direction and most importantly user experience and interaction design as part of a larger company rebranding. This project allowed our design team to take a more ground up approach as we began the project by taking a full inventory of the existing products and reimagining what improvements could look like for end users. For this client, I acted as the liaison between our design team and our stakeholders in order to keep the project on track, while ensuring deliverables and key action items were followed up on in a timely manner. This gave me the chance to learn deeply about UX principles while gaining new insights into the intricacies behind product branding and advanced interaction design for a suite of enterprise products.
While client projects provide invaluable learning lessons across a range of industries, I was also given the opportunity to apply my knowledge to an internal project built from the ground up. As part of the team working on Perpetual’s ideative participation in the 2019 NYC BigApps Blockchain Innovation Challenge, I worked with our development team to create a blockchain backed reward platform aimed at improving carbon emitting behaviors. After a period of ideation, I went to work creating wireframes and user stories to inform the development team. Over time we brought our tool which we named “Power Chain” to life and began dogfooding our product among our team members to understand how users would interact with the self reporting portion of the product. Our hard work culminated in a pitch to the representatives of various NYC government agencies where the Perpetual team finished in the top 3 spot for the “Energy” category of the competition. (You can read more about it here.)
My work on “Power Chain” involved a period of thorough ideation with the team as we bounced ideas off each other and considered the feasibility of our ambitious attempt to change the energy consuming habits of our fellow New Yorkers. I also got to present the pitch (video here), honing my startup pitch and communication skills in the process.
As I mentioned at the start, being a Product Manager at Perpetual requires flexibility and perseverance. Working here, new projects and challenges are always on the horizon which keeps me on my toes and out of my comfort zone. As a result, the learning opportunities never stop coming and there are always different ways to apply yourself to the tasks at hand. Overall, my time here can be defined by the numerous lessons I’ve received in the ever-changing space of technology which I believe has the power to spark meaningful change in the world.
I’ve gained a better understanding of the process of iteration and it’s benefits to creating a well rounded product. I’ve also experienced the pace of working in the product development world and how to prioritize effectively in light of competing tasks. Most of all, it has become clear to me how interdisciplinary and engaging the role of a Product Manager truly is, and I am constantly reminded how much more there is to learn. As more new projects come down the pipeline, I am eager for new experiences and look forward to everything that lies ahead.
- George Molina is a Product Manager at Perpetual
There are too many sources of information about the CoronaVirus, and not all are credible and trustworthy. Here’s a helpful list of 5 reliable sources related to the spread of COVID-19 to keep you informed and aware, with an emphasis on guidelines, news and latest statistics.
1. The Center for Disease Control is maintaining a “Cases in the U.S.” page for visitors to get a better idea of the epidemic. Users have the ability to view number of cases at a glance, cases by exposure type, and cases by date of onset.
2. John Hopkins University has released a visual tool to view the spread of the virus across the world. Along with an interactive map, the tool includes the number of cases by country and is regularly updated with the latest information.
3. For New York residents, the New York State Department of Health is publishing updates from the state government to this site. Included are the number of cases by county as well as a COVID-19 hotline.
4. FlowingData is a data visualization site that aggregates various graphs, tables and more related to COVID-19 information like changes in foot traffic among cities, simulations for virus spread and more.
5. Thomson Reuters has created a Coronavirus resource center with up to date news articles as well as free resources for businesses as they work through this crisis.
The Perpetual team is monitoring the situation closely and we remain committed to staying informed from reliable sources and helping our community of employees, clients, partners and neighbors stay safe.
Have you ever willingly provided information to someone you just met? I’ve always been hesitant when it comes to giving out my information and signing up for something in person - this includes rewards programs and giving you my date of birth for a birthday treat. This all changed when I had a great experience with a membership staff at my local gym that influenced me to sign up for a membership on the spot. She was engaging, spoke in a calm matter, was not overly chatty, and truly listened to me. Sure, I could’ve signed up online or continued to take advantage of the free guest pass but there was something about the way she spoke to me that made me want to give her my credit card, address, first and last name AND even my date of birth. I thought wow, how can I take this experience and apply it to UX copywriting?
One of the challenges that I have faced in the past as a UX designer has been influencing a user to provide their information through my designs. How many of you hit ‘back’ or ‘exit’ once you are prompted to enter your contact information to be contacted by a representative? I know I am guilty of this. These short messages on an interface that you encounter are called microcopy. Examples of microcopy include short sentences, a word, or an error message that you see when using a product. While the design of the UI also plays a vital role, copy is a huge part of the user experience. Words are key to bringing a conversation to life.
Just like my conversation with the employee at my gym, microcopy needs to be clear, concise, and transparent. In order to engage in a conversation, you must first empathize with the user. When using microcopy to ask a user for their information, first inform them why that information is needed and what will be done with that information. Now let’s take a look at an example of bad microcopy and good microcopy in a multi-step conversational flow:
As you can see, the user has arrived at their final step and is asked to provide their payment information for a free trial. As a user, I would be expecting to sign up for a free trial without having to input my payment information. This unexpected step would deter me from signing up for this trial unless I was given more context as to what will be done with my credit card number or if/when I would be getting charged. Transparency is key when creating copy that requests financial information.
While transparency plays an important role in conversational microcopy, engaging and empathizing are also as essential. Just like meeting someone new for the first time, you find out their name and ask questions to get to know them a bit more. Once you learn more about the user, you uncover what brought them to your product and how you can help them. Providing extra context while keeping copy short builds trust and makes the user feel a closer connection to the brand.
Just like having consistency in your designs, consistency in your copy is just as important. This helps maintain your brand’s tone and voice. What is consistent visual design without consistent copy throughout your product? I have been fortunate enough to apply and expand my knowledge on product design here at Perpetual and this included learning that while maintaining consistent copy is great, you should also ensure grammar and punctuation contain no errors. As a user, it would be difficult to trust a product if it contained grammatical errors when asking me for my personal information. This is so obvious, but is surprisingly often overlooked. If you are UX copywriting and and you rely on spell check such as myself, I recommend looking into the Spell Check plugin for Sketch.
Tone of voice (eg funny, friendly), conversational interfaces, use of emojis and images are other tactics you can employ in using micro-copy to your advantage in creating good conversational interfaces. These various elements engage the user and give your product personality. One of the top UX trends of 2019 was making a form-page feel like a conversation. Lemonade has successfully made signing up for insurance coverage feel like having a conversation with a real person. Different flows are created based on the input of users which gives them a sense of empathy. Each option is accompanied by a representative icon providing visualization for the user and clarity on their selection. As you can see in the image below, the light and inviting microcopy is consistent with the iconography used.
Microcopy is not just copy but also a part of the design itself. Working with users and stakeholders has taught me that although you can create a visually appealing product, the experience will not be complete without good copy. The iterations I have done after receiving feedback for each of my deliverables have not only been visual design related but on the copy I used as well.
Analyzing the conversations I have with others on a daily basis has helped me to become more mindful when creating conversational UX copy while maintaining a client’s brand tone and voice. Next time you find yourself signing up for an account online or entering your payment information, think to yourself - how much is the copy influencing your decision?
-Jackie Chan is a UX Designer at Perpetual