Understanding the vision of a CEO. Embed it into a product roadmap. Balancing the possible and the ideal. Map all the dependences. Creative ownership. Has been the most rewarding experience in my career yet.
Between December 2012 and September 2013 I had the opportunity to contribute to the design direction of a young company in a major way. And what a great experience has been for me and the team of great people over at MusicQubed!
Now, every designer that have been working in an agency or a big corporation is most likely familiar with the frustrating yet necessary process of establishing a set of ideas and make sure that is well understood and appreciated by others within a big team of professionals. That process is so much faster and innovation-friendly in a start-up for many reasons. That is great and I believe is monumental competitive advantage that small/young businesses have over established corporations in developing software products especially in the consumer mobile app business.
Regardless, it is crucial for a designer to be able to bring a set of complicated technical problems together into a cohesive, tangible solution that can be pitched in less than 90 seconds to anyone by clearly outlining the value of his approach to all the relevant stakeholders, being the final user the most underrated of them all. The final user will not care for all the challenges within the business. All he is interested in is what the application can do for him, and, hopefully, why he/she should care about what the company is trying to achieve in the long term.
The app that the team I was part of designed, developed and shipped has been a success for the business. O2 has been a very demanding client, and many compromises had to be done in order to meet the deadlines and the specific feature requests while maintaining the overall quality and reliability that we wanted for the product. But that allowed the company to grow, learn from its mistakes, iterate and progress towards its ambitious goal of the perfect music app for the casual consumer market. I’ve been privileged enough to be part of the team that delivered O2 Tracks, and continued to iterate on it while also working on the next gen version of it, producing dozens of variants, that will keep the devs team busy for at least eight to twelve months.
I’ve been hired as UX designer in a company that was not about the product. Yet they asked me to deliver the design for a new version of the app that for the first time was going to be marketed in revenue share with the actual client that ordered it. When you plan to make a profit on the final user subscriptions directly, you start looking at the product in a different way: the right way. It is like working on something that you are going to keep in your own living room as opposed to sell it and not having to deal with it again. You became a user too, therefore everything starts to revolve around the product and the user, which is what the company is all about now.
No matter what is the vertical you are in, if you want to go big in the consumer market your target is someone who basically do not care (yet). Is like asking someone who is not into mobile phones what is his/her favourite handset. As it turns out his/her choice has mostly to do with the concept of convenience, effortlessness. You can picture it as a music app that works like a toaster: one big play button. A wonderful challenge.