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PANEL: What Makes Great Product Design? (SPAN NYC 2015)

Google Design2015-11-06
SPAN15#Google Design#Design#Google#Product design#ventures#innovation#dropbox#etsy#npr#airbnb#span2015#designers#new products
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💫 Short Summary

A panel discussion on the challenges and strategies of building and managing successful design teams in tech companies, emphasizing the importance of collaboration, user research, product development, and balancing speed with quality. Key points include fostering team dynamics, embracing failure for improvement, understanding user needs, prioritizing user experience, and the value of diverse skill sets in design. The segment also touches on the significance of empathy in product design, the role of education in training designers, and the importance of putting work out for feedback and continuous learning.

✨ Highlights
📊 Transcript
Key highlights of the discussion on product design challenges at Airbnb, YouNow, and Dropbox.
02:58
Katie Dill leads the experience design team at Airbnb and has worked with startups and Frog Design.
Leland Ruckus is the product and design head at YouNow, with experience at Google, Twitter, and Kickstarter.
Kim Bust is new to the product design team at Dropbox, previously working at Cover and Etsy.
The discussion emphasizes the challenges of decision-making in product design, focusing on choosing what to build and prioritize.
Importance of building and managing a team for success in a small company.
03:20
Consideration of needs of users and stakeholders when creating a team, similar to a mayor.
Filling in skill gaps early on is essential for the success of a startup.
Balancing UX, visual design, and productivity is key, despite not achieving perfection.
Letting go of ideas and adapting to changes is crucial for momentum and growth of a design team.
Building a successful team through balancing skill sets and experience levels.
06:58
Matching individuals with diverse strengths, such as UI and UX, promotes mutual learning and skill development.
Versatile employees in smaller teams, able to contribute in multiple areas like marketing and product management, are essential.
Establishing strong design culture by fostering relationships with other departments and ensuring design has a prominent role within the company.
Importance of collaboration and transparency in the design process.
11:25
Inviting others into the design process helps strengthen the team.
Sharing work regularly and broadcasting updates fosters a culture of transparency and collaboration.
Hiring a designer over a product manager can lead to a change in approach to design.
Challenges faced in balancing product and design responsibilities when transitioning to a product manager role at Twitter.
Importance of fostering collaboration between engineering, design, and product teams.
13:02
Encouraging empathy and shared respect among team members enhances productivity and innovation.
Physical proximity, like sitting together, facilitates better communication and understanding.
Swapping ideas and working closely together leads to a polished end product.
Emphasizing collaboration over task completion improves team dynamics and project success.
Importance of working together in remote teams using screen sharing.
15:05
Challenges of time zones in distributed environments are more difficult than distance.
Balance between speed and quality in design processes is crucial, with deadlines driving progress.
Quality is subjective and requires alignment with partners to define standards based on user needs, feasibility, technology performance, and brand.
Collaborating on a shared definition of quality allows for effective evaluation of work.
Importance of diversity in Airbnb's team for evaluating design decisions and trade-offs.
17:51
Emphasis on considering trade-offs and making decisions based on criteria and goals, even if it means sacrificing technology for learning or user experience.
Value of time constraints in sparking creativity and determining the best design ideas, as highlighted in a design workshop led by Lea Bollies.
Balancing speed and quality in the design process, trusting in the established process for optimal outcomes.
Importance of launching early and often for user experience and platform stability.
21:55
Prioritization, measuring usability, and feedback are crucial in the development process.
Incremental design allows for flexibility and adaptability while maintaining a broad vision.
Making small changes helps users adapt and ensures business continuity for platform hosts.
Importance of understanding long-term goals and breaking them down into manageable iterations for rapid launch.
23:08
Balancing hard data metrics with qualitative beliefs and experiences in product development is a challenge.
Questioning the success of growth teams and emphasizing the need for a balance of art and science in decision-making.
Shift towards taking bigger risks for greater impact rather than minor improvements.
Product design plays a crucial role in assessing user experience and optimizing system loops for better outcomes.
Importance of user experience (UX) perspective in enhancing user engagement and satisfaction.
26:04
Designers should participate in forming hypotheses and utilizing visualization tools for prototyping ideas.
User research is crucial for understanding user needs and providing a great user experience.
Empathizing with users and leveraging data to drive design decisions is key.
Collaboration with analytics teams can lead to impactful outcomes.
Importance of working with analytics teams and understanding audience needs.
30:35
Metrics are crucial, but empathizing with customer pain points is key.
Conducting interviews and user research to identify problem-solving opportunities.
Empathizing with customers is essential for product development.
Making user research a regular practice is the secret to success in organizations.
Importance of conducting usability studies and research for product development.
31:09
Changing company culture to prioritize user feedback is a challenge.
Involving various teams in the research process, including engineering, product, and marketing partners, is beneficial.
Community teams and customer support are valuable sources of qualitative data.
Understanding user needs and preferences is essential for building successful products, even under time constraints.
Importance of Equipping Users with the Right Questions in User Research and Product Development.
35:37
User research helps de-risk projects by providing valuable insights throughout the development process.
Learning from users before, during, and after product launch is crucial for ensuring success.
Planning for failure, having a Plan B, and considering how to sunset or iterate on a product are often overlooked aspects.
Establishing a dedicated team for maintenance and continuous improvement is key for long-term success.
Embracing failure and being willing to say no to ideas that aren't working is emphasized in the segment.
36:15
The value of making ideas visible, sharing them, and simplifying projects by eliminating ones that are not worthwhile is highlighted.
Learning from failures and turning them into opportunities for improvement is discussed.
The segment references a quote from Steve Jobs in 1997 about making hard decisions to drive success.
Importance of Team Dynamics in Project Success.
39:27
Collaboration and shared input between teams are crucial for project success.
Overlapping roles, such as product management and design, can encourage creativity and prevent tunnel vision.
Decisions should be made collectively rather than in siloed teams to foster a culture of collaboration and innovation within organizations.
Importance of Product Managers with a Design Background
41:49
Emphasis on empathy and understanding across roles for successful collaboration.
Desire for fewer titles and more focus on individual strengths within a team.
Challenges of transitioning from a product manager to a designer and navigating between product and design.
Proposal for a model where teams work towards a common goal of product design using diverse skill sets.
Importance of communication, process, and team dynamics in a design team and product organization.
45:17
Flexibility and adaptability are crucial for prioritizing user experience, reliability, performance, and business impact.
Titles can designate responsibility in the product design process.
High demand for product designers in startups.
Common misunderstanding about product design addressed.
Importance of Design in Business and Community.
47:24
Design should prioritize business value, community impact, and end-user benefit over superficial aesthetics.
A great design solves problems and serves a purpose, contributing to strategic conversations and business progress.
The idea of a 'unicorn designer' who excels in all areas is unrealistic, as design is diverse with various processes and skill levels.
It is crucial to understand the value of design beyond a checkbox approach, integrating it into every aspect of product development and community interaction.
Importance of empathy in product design.
50:56
Empathy is a key quality sought in candidates and cannot be taught.
Education is crucial in training individuals for product design due to a lack of schools teaching the required skills.
Understanding design and connecting with people is significant, as well as the ability to present work effectively.
Selecting candidates with empathy and a genuine interest in design is essential for building a successful design team.
Importance of Teaching Designers to Launch Their Work
52:49
Teaching designers to put their work out to the public, receive feedback, and understand the process of launching something is crucial.
Taste and empathy may be innate qualities, but the design process can be taught to help individuals succeed.
Problem-solving and imagination are key aspects of design that can be fostered but not necessarily taught.
Teaching individuals to see opportunities for change and to look at things from a different perspective is crucial in the design field.
Importance of teaching how to see in fostering foundational skills.
55:16
Developing the ability to see lays the groundwork for the development of other skills.
This foundational skill is crucial for further growth and learning.