so that’s delightful…

There is this general notion of different “hierarchies” in the user experience – below expectations, meets expectations, exceeds expectations etc… the holy grail being “delight” .

It’s easy to find textbook definitions of delight. In practice though, I don’t feel like there are many apps or services that bring this sense of exhilaration or surprise. Maybe I’m just cynical – not much is new anymore in apps – but most tend to focus on being functional (and don’t get me wrong, functional is great too, just not delightful).

Like a child again

Two apps have recently taught me (or reminded me) how it feels like to be surprised, delighted even. From the tech giants no less: the new Google Calendar and Facebook Messenger.

Google Calendar

google-calendar.jpgI really like the playfulness of material design, but it was two particular incidents in using Google Calendar’s schedule view that made me giggle like a pre-schooler (inside). The first was saving a “Dinner” event, and realising that Calendar had added a beautiful background to the event text. (Yes, I started trying different words just to see what backgrounds existed.)

The second was on January 1, 2015. Each new Calendar month is marked by a break in the schedule, with yet another pretty background banner to herald a new start. Now I had seen this a few times already, but around New Year’s, the team took it up a notch, making the banner larger and adding fireworks (the one you see on the left – I wish I could describe it better). I didn’t expect this while scrolling down my schedule, and it made me stop and scroll back, just to watch it. Kudos to the Calendar team!

Facebook Messenger

This app is nowhere near my most-used messaging app, but lately they’ve managed to delight me. Now there is a lot of love in Messenger’s design (down to the sounds made – you can watch this video for more insight), and they’ve surprised us before with features like chat heads, (as a side note one chat heads – wow! I don’t know of anyone who saw this potential in Android – I think Pocket, Evernote and Buffer’s saving pop-ups owe a lot to this) but I’ll just highlight another two experiences…

The first was a tweak to the “Like” button – where instead of just sending the iconic “Thumbs Up”, you could vary it’s size based on how long you held the button. Frivolous? Yes. Fun? Yes. The second was during Christmas – where I realised my friends either had tons of dandruff, or their chat heads were snowing. Frivolous? Yes. Unexpected and a pleasant surprise? Yes.

Thanks.

To the teams showering the love on Google Calendar and Facebook Messenger, thank you. As a PM I can imagine it being difficult to prioritise a fun-but-delightful feature – please keep challenging us to deliver both business value and delight!

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my web programming journey (so far)

Thank you @roguelynn for letting us newbies know there is hope!

Highlights of my journey + some key resources so far:

  • HTML 4.0 way back in 2000. Played around for a while, put up some stuff on Tripod, and then gave up. (Stupid, stupid)
  • Heard about Python from a colleague at work in 2013
  • Learn Python the Hard Way (v2.7) – great introduction to the basics of Python, and also tries to set up your mindset for programming in general (memorisation, getting you to search for answers, structuring code)
  • Tango with Django (v1.5), now 1.7 beta is available – pretty deep for something aimed at a newbie to Django. Introduces quite a few concepts in Django but also touches AJAX, git and deployment on Pythonanywhere (small plug: appreciate it if you use this link to sign up so I can get referral bonuses!), which I am currently using.
  • Djangogirls tutorial – a lot lighter than Tango with Django (and hence faster to finish – I suggest going through this first) and updated for 1.7.
  • Learnt SQL for use at work (the language, not the database)
  • Djangogirls tutorial extensions – Extra lessons for the aforementioned tutorial. A little less maintained though, they seem to still on 1.5 for this. The most useful for me was the introduction to PostgreSQL
  • With the info learnt, was able to put up an incredibly basic site with Semantic UI – since I thought I’d try something different from the usual Bootstrap. Some of it was cool, but there aren’t many resources. This paid video series by Tuts+ is a pretty good introduction, and was also my first real introduction to CSS media queries.
  • Decided to move to Bootstrap since there are a lot more resources (ok, startbootstrap was the trigger). Semantic has since up-versioned (finally v1.0+), so for new projects I may look at it again. Yay, pretty site:

2014-11-29 12_03_15-Wedever - easy wedding venue search

I wish I could list out more of the intricacies now – the Googles, the stackoverflows – because so much of this you have to find out yourself. Maybe one day I will start writing my own tutorials. For now, I have a long list #tolearn – thought I’d make it public as well.

Also big thanks to friends (some doing very well now, congrats!) who I could ping off stupid questions.

Day 241: Measuring myself

Today is unofficial KPIs day!

I’ve started re-thinking my personal metrics (and by extension, the products I’m working on). Why the sudden thought? A question in jest, an article or two.

You might have heard me lament recently about my lack of experience, or (I cringe) seen my feeble attempts (one and two) to set goals for myself. This still isn’t very natural or comfortable for me – if shining a million-megawatt light on your shortcomings ever will be – but I will continue to try.

I happened to read Julie Zhuo’s (she’s a really good writer, folks) reflection on How to work with PMs today. While it’s targeted at helping designers understand PMs, it also lays down the building blocks of an “exceptional” PM, namely:

  • Clear communication: “…PMs need to represent the goals, priorities, and roadmap of a team to many constituents, including legal, marketing, customer operations, sales, and more.”
  • Being organized: “…be able to deliver the entire map of all the pieces that are required to come together for something to go out the door.”
  • Working well with a variety of people in a variety of roles: “Since PMs don’t typically have the authority to make something happen… they need to demonstrate and earn trust.”
  • Execution: “…how well does the PM ship products that are 1) successful relative to goals, 2) on-time relative to expectations, and 3) smooth relative to how the team feels about it?”
  • Design thinking: how well does a PM understand, appreciate, and help drive a successful user experience? “…she should have a critical eye for what is or isnt a strong design proposal, and understand a designers values even if she doesnt always agree with the suggestions.”
  • Analytical ability: “…considers all the ways something can be known and unknown, and figures out how to gain more certainty and predictability for the future… use all the tools at her disposal to figure out how to set goals, prioritize tasks, and sequence projects in a way that inspires confidence.”
  • Product vision: “PMs who are visionary are like a spark – they ignite and inspire entire teams of people to chase after bold, sometimes very risky new directions.”

Others write pretty cool stuff on quora of course, but I feel this gives a good overview with just enough detail (others tend to dive deep into the more technical, like “writing effective copy” etc.)

So what do I want to work on?

Execution (or at least measuring it) and Analytical Ability. Things I feel are somewhat lacking in my day-to-day. The product might still be in its infancy, but there has to be some way to measure success and back the direction we’re moving in, even if I can’t use Google Analytics (most of the users, being staff, opt-out so our main site numbers aren’t affected).

Let’s see where this goes then!

Day 236: Reflect

So, close to eight months now!

In the last week:

I felt like I’m finally starting to spread my wings (insert Frozen theme song) – like there’s some direction for the roadmap, got some buy in…

I also realised I still know pitifully little about the business and my users. It’s easy to hide behind the quantity of users, flux of processes and learning curve, but I sure think I could have done more useful things in the past few months.

Perhaps the most poignant piece of writing I’ve read in the past week:

The leveraged PM doesn’t say “I can’t get it done,” they prioritize and help identify the resources necessary for success.
From The DNA of Product Management

That’s an aspiration – being a do-er instead of a naysayer, where it really matters.

But hey, great to have this “junior” title! I’ve been fortunate to have a “ramp-up” to Product Management. As Ellen (Chisa) succinctly puts it, most Product Managers never had formal education for their role. I’ve been lucky not to have been thrown into the deep end immediately.

More PM journal entries here.

Day 170: Squirm

We have a UX/UI intern from Germany who’s helping us improve the user experience. A few days back she sat down with one of our users to watch their process.I sat in from time-to-time (they were seated right behind me) and it was embarrassingly painful. Seeing the user get confused multiple times, have to repeat some steps to troubleshoot errors…

The temptation was to get defensive (at least in my head, everyone was trying to be nice) – I didn’t have time to think about the UX, there were more important features to build, the stakeholders were pushing for other things, the use case is different from how we first envisioned the product, UX was never in my job scope…

At some point I did my best to put a stop to it. After all, UX is something I’ve been wanting to address for a while.

Admission and acceptance of shortfalls are the first steps toward a better product – even if you had valid reasons for them. Sometimes you have to watch someone use your product, to drive home how important it is.

More PM journal entries here.

Day 168: The Sailboat

image

Reactive is how I would describe today.

I wonder if other Product Managers have these sort of days too. You know, the ones where you’re like a sailboat, tossed by the waves, going where the wind blows.

Today:
– met with my boss and a UX-pert here on internship, and realized I had to quickly arrange some more meetings to make most of her time and expertise
– got a few pings from stakeholders on how systems worked
– got an email and a new big task to do after discussing
– realized planning/backlog meeting was the next day, and many of the major tickets were not ready (partially on the stakeholder end)

Not unproductive, but not very directed either. The feeling was that of uncertainty over my decisions today, a lack of control – where I was putting my time, whether the tickets prioritised were in the most impact fun order etc.

Maybe it’s normal to have days like this. It’s not comfortable though!


I thought Marketing was going to be my life. I was wrong. These posts represent a journal of my learnings and reflections as a Regional Product Manager in Zalora – you can keep track of my journey by joining the mailing list here.

Commit #002

In addition to the journal, I’ve started logging thought-provoking and practical articles on Product Management and related fields. I hope you’ll find them as illuminating as I have! The last commit (#001) can be found here.

In this week’s commit:

Systems

Design & UX

  • The Dead Simple Way Google Ventures Unlocks Great Ideas (Fast CoDesign): Don’t be misled by the title, it’s actually a pretty good UX piece – this is a really cool idea for getting agreement and feedback on designs, features etc. by replacing the Post-it note with those small, circular stickers.
  • Perfecting Your Personas (Cooper): Some classic principles on thinking through personas. Applicable to more than UX!
  • 8 Tips from Apple’s Official Guide to App Design (Fast CoDesign): Not new, but a good reminder, especially how content should triumph the interface – you’re not there to scratch your design itch, you’re serving the user.

PM Skills & Principles


Hope you find the articles and reads as useful as I did. I’d love to hear you thoughts (in comment or tweet). Do consider signing up for the mailing list as well!