April wrap-up: The Making of Milanote

In April, one of the founders – Michael Trounce – of Melbourne startup Milanote, the notes app for creative work, let us in on a few secrets of their success.

Time

First of all, it’s been 3 years in the making. The 4 founders already have their own UX consulting business, Navy Design, and always had the ambition to start their own product business so back in 2014 they dedicated a week to working through potential product ideas. Ideas like a weather app and a hydration coaster were investigated then ditched (the coaster was referred to as a gimmicky Xmas present…).

They started working on a product which would solve a need their team had. Previously they had used post-its, a wiki, and other note keeping software but they all lacked a way to make connections and share.

During 2015, they began doing research with designers & other digital creatives and found there was a gap in the market for the product they had in mind. They build a (crappy) prototype & started using it in-house. They knew they were onto something when they found it worked better than any of their previous tools – whiteboards, Evernote, Trello, etc.

It later clicked that what they’d built wasn’t just a tool that could be applied to the UX design process, it was a tool that could be applied to any creative process. This insight broadened their market significantly and gave them the confidence to then break out the product from an internal project within the consultancy, to a product business in its own right.

It wasn’t until 2016 the focus changed to execution and as a result the hours of effort went up! They hired a small full-time team and ran a closed beta program for 6 months. Until then they were seeing where it would take them but those days were over.

They began granting early access when you referred friends and adding people to the waitlist by writing articles on Medium like ‘Why Using Evernote is Making You Less Creative‘ to get the word out (that article drove a lot of signups!)

When they did launch in Feb (2017), there was a flurry of press including reaching #1 on Product Hunt, the front page of Hacker News and #1 for the week on Designer News. It’s also been written up on Lifehacker and The Next Web covered it while it was in beta.

Challenges

Milanote can’t see your content due to privacy reasons. They have no idea what you are doing with their product or how you are using it which makes deciding on what features to build and understanding customers somewhat difficult.

To overcome this challenge, the Milanote team are using a mix of quantitative & qualitative methods to draw out data and feedback from their users along the different points in their product journey. The most obvious tactic is talking to its customers.

Michael from Milanote talking about the early days

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Pricing

They are continuing to evolve their thinking on pricing & looking at different models to help align the value of the product with the price.

Acquisition

The articles at launch including Product Hunt, #1 for the week on Designer News and word of mouth helped greatly with new customers. They need to experiment with other methods now to find scalable and repeatable ways of driving acquisition long-term.

Hiring

Milanote are currently looking for both developers & marketers. Check out their jobs.

AND the most shocking news of the evening!!! The Milanote team do NOT use post-its anymore! They have bare walls!

Thank you Michael for a great talk & elabor8 for hosting the evening!

Working with user research

Back in March, we discussed different types of user research and focused in on diary studies. In May, we’re talking about how work with those insights to build products and some of the challenges you may face.

We have 2 amazing speakers on Thursday May 25th with first hand experience.Through a case study and reflection, they’ll show what it’s like to run user research and let the results drive the product & features.

RSVP now

Using Experience Sampling for Rapid Insights into User Needs

In this case study, George Cockerill will share how using the Experience Sampling method gave rich insights into user needs for the feature ideation of a brand new mobile app at Deakin University.

As part of the research activities to inform the development of a smart assistant app for students, Experience Sampling quickly gave the product team useful and relevant data to help understand student needs, behaviours and pain-points in multiple contexts over time.

George will talk share his experience of planning, executing and analysing the results from an experience sampling study. With practical advice on how to run the study, tools and techniques, the key points you need to know and things to watch out for.

Why is Marathon Running Important when Introducing User Research?

During the last decade, user research has been a key component of the product development process. Within the games industry there has been a significant effort that focuses on introducing and integrating user research as part of a ‘player first’ culture. Numerous challenges exist when doing so -especially when working with teams who have not been exposed to user research previously.

Kostas Kazakos will reflect on these challenges via his personal journey as a marathon runner and guided by Donald Schon’s reflective practitioner’s approach

He will also introduce DECEMA – a frame of reference whose aim is to help UX practitioners when introducing user research to development teams and organizations.

Our Speakers

George Cockerill is a Senior UX Designer at Deakin University, a Lead UX Instructor at General Assembly, an organiser of the UX Melbourne Book Club and can be found on Twitter at @GeorgeCockerill.

Kostas Kazakos is a User Experience Researcher with a qualitative mind and a quantitative heart. He currently manages the user/player research at Firemonkeys (an Electronic Arts studio located in Melbourne). For the last 10 years, Kostas has been handling primitive research problems in the mobile space and turning them into actionable design insights by employing a palette of qualitative and quantitative methods. He is an advocate of experience-centred design and passionate about answering the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’.

RSVP now!

Our Hosts

We’d like to thank Seek for being our hosts this month!
seek

March wrap-up: Learning from your customers via customer research

We had 2 great talks about customer research for our March session. Thank you Jo Squire & Katie Phillips, both User Experience Researchers from Australia Post, for an excellent evening!

FYI, we’ll be running another session on customer research in a couple months so hope to see you there!

Doing Research: Discovery & Validation – Jo Squire

thanks Jo for giving us an overview of the discovery and validation research #prodanon

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The research method you use will vary depending on several things including if you’re in a discovery or validation phase.

If you are in discovery, you might be looking for the problem or trying to get a better understanding of the problem. In this space, you’re looking for ‘why’ and it’s not at all the time to bring in prototypes! Observation, contextual inquiries and questionnaires are some of the methods to use here.

Once you move to validation, you’re looking to understand ‘how’ ie how is the product being used. Usability testing & co-design workshops are some of the methods you can use.

Jo reminded us that ‘research’ doesn’t have to cost a bomb or take a long time. No matter what your budget, everyone can incorporate research into their product. Low cost options include talking to your customers on the street, observing (potentially free!) & you can be creative about how you reward the participants.

Once you do the research, you need to communicate it within your organisation and the best way to do this is to include your stakeholders while you’re doing the research. If you can’t include them, try showing the video you captured during the research.

 

End-to-end validation & optimization via diary study – Katie Phillips

Katie talked us through a diary study she did for an Australia Post product. This was a product in the wild which was being constantly developed. Based on the research objective & other criteria, they decided to use a diary study & moderated user testing.

about to kick off katie’s talk about diary studies and how she used slack #prodanon

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Their research participants were not in the office so they choose remote user testing using live video/screen sharing for the user testing and Slack for the diary study. To select a research method there are several things to consider including the objective, how much time you have and your budget.

This is the 2nd time the AusPost team used Slack for research. Even though none of the participants had used Slack before, it was easy to onboard them and they understood how to communicate & share photos of their processes.

One of the things Katie talked about (which I think was amazingly fantastic!) is how involved the development team was during the research. They witnessed the screen sharing so knew right away about the problems users faced plus they scheduled time into their existing sprint so they could work on anything that came up during the research. Way to work together!

Katie shared a few resources:

Q&A time

Tips for the data

  • Always keep the raw data (ie video) so you can play it to the stakeholder
  • If a research company does the research for you, try and be with
    them for at least part of the sessions and ask them to send you the raw data
  • Tools for analysis – Depends on the research but they utalise Google sheets & post it notes a lot.
  • After you analyse the data, make sure it’s available to the project team & possibly other teams (to help with their problem solving).

Most challenging part of their job?
It depends on the project but often it’s recruiting of the research participants. Others include: having a prototype with the right tasks, getting clear objectives from stakeholders and deadlines that are very close to the product launch.

Are there tools for privacy/ethics/legal? Tips?
Make sure your participants know what is expected of them & that the product is being tested, not them. You should have them sign a non-disclosure agreement and your legal team (or participant recruitment company) will have other templates you can use.

Ethics-wise, you should ‘follow your moral compass’ but there’s lots of reading online to help

Thanks tons to Aconex for hosting!

Startup Session: The Making of Milanote

A behind the scenes look at how this Melbourne based start-up went from idea to #1 on Product Hunt

Milanote is a visual workspace for creative thinking. It’s used by designers, writers, marketers and other creative professionals from companies like Facebook, Apple, Uber, Dropbox, Google, Adobe, Sony, Nike etc.

Milanote launched on 7th Feb of this year and reached #1 on Product Hunt, the front page of Hacker News and #1 for the week on Designer News. It’s also been written up on Lifehacker and The Next Web covered it while it was in beta.

In this talk Michael Trounce will reveal:

  • the behind the scenes journey of how the product went from idea to launch
  • the practical challenges faced from a product management perspective (pricing, roadmap, analytics, etc.)
  • how the founders plan to grow the business over the next 18 months

About our speaker

Michael Trounce is not only one of the co-founders of Milanote but also the GM of Navy Design, a UX design consultancy focused on health. RSVP for Thursday April 20th when Michael will join us for a Product Anonymous Startup Session.

elabor8

This month we’re being hosted by elabor8.

RSVP now!

Learning from your customers – March event

Doing customer research is critical to delivering a great product.

We all want to be customer centric but how do you actually figure out your customers needs & the solutions?

This month we’re bringing together two researchers to give a few ideas, examples, tips & talk about how to integrate the research into your product.

RSVP now!

1 – How you do research depends on a variety of things – what do you need to understand, what resources are available, what commitment you can get from participants and more.

Jo Squire, Senior User Experience Researcher at Australia Post will talk about:

• the differences between doing research in discovery and validation phases

• what research methods are better when

• tips for getting the most out of your research including how to communicate the value of research/results

2 – Australia Post’s Send a Parcel allows customers to pay for and print their own domestic labels from their home or business. Researcher Katie Phillips was looking for ways to validate the tool’s increased capability for international sending and decided to use diary studies to understand how people used the new service & what issues they encountered.

Katie will share:

• the benefits of using diary studies

• how she used Slack to facilitate and collect data

• how she worked with the dev team to implement the findings

Our Speakers

Jo Squire is currently a Senior User Experience Researcher at Australia Post and comes with over a decade of experience in user research. She is a strong advocate of putting the customer at the heart of every project, and believes that having a deep understanding and empathy for customers is essential to designing great experiences.

At Australia Post, Jo is responsible for designing and conducting customer research across all of Australia Post’s digital platforms. Research starts at understanding the problem, and continues through to validating finished products. Working closely with product owners, designers and developers Jo helps ensure the wealth of information gathered from the research is translated into highly desirable products that meets both the needs of the customers and the business.

Katie Phillips is a User Experience Researcher at Australia Post and currently works on helping conceptualise and develop digital platforms for shipping and logistics. Her background is in design and applied anthropology, which looks at culturally driven, complex problems and finding innovative solutions for them. She has been working on methods for helping agile user research and “deep-dive” ethnography co-exist, ensuring that products and services in development are always aimed at solving customer pain points and helping create value by considering bigger-picture problems.

Location
A big thanks to Aconex for hosting us this month! Details are on Meetup.

RSVP!

February Wrap-up: Rogue UX

Duncan Macneil thinks UX needs a new approach which immediately puts the focus on the UI, functionality & user experience – and that new approach is absolute fidelity.

Prototype Fidelity

Traditional vs Rogue UX

Traditional vs Rogue UX

Duncan believes you will:

  • save money as it will iron out the bugs & solves problems before developers are brought into the process. For every $1 invested here you save $3 or 5 or 10. Removing a guess is removing development
  • save time by decreasing the back & forth between developers & others in understanding all the requirements
  • save time by encouraging stakeholders to make decisions right then instead of sometime later plus puts focus on the core business decisions
  • be able to generate a buzz amongst the stakeholders as they have something immediately to play with & show off to others (which leads to funding!)
  • bridge the artificial gap between design & development

In conversations with developers, Duncan has asked how long it took to build X and if he were to delete the code, how long would it take to rebuild it – six months vs 1 month since during the rebuild the person knows exactly what they need to do and what problems/solutions were needed.

Since the prototype looks so real, no one in the room is thinking ‘I’ll sort that out later’. It adds a level of fear & panic in stakeholders that they bring up issues right away.

Show your stakeholders the simplest user case & once they leave get into the nitty gritty detailed cases with the people that really care.

If at all possible, hook the prototype up to real live APIs. This is incredibly useful when someone asks about a particular edge case and when running various user scenarios.

How can you do this?

Duncan believes in starting with low fi (paper or balsamiq) then going right to absolute fidelity.

Use your low fi to sketch and make the big changes.

He recommends using a beginning to end process – UI layer from beginning to end, then data from beginning to end. Focus on the UI, data and business rules. Typical functionality around login, backup, reporting do not need to be included (unless of course you’re building a reporting product).

Make it as real as possible! Know the current search is taking 3 seconds to return? Build a delay into your html.

What do you say when stakeholders think the prototype is a finished product ready to launch tomorrow? Talk about the backend items that are needed – security, backup, databases and other technical aspects that need to be built.

What tools are needed?

Having some knowledge of HTML5, Bootstrap, Javascript and Jquery is enough.

Code you need to know

Code you need to know

Duncan also recommended using Balsamiq and Pinegrow web editor.

3 learnings

3 learnings


If you are interested in continuing the conversation, join Duncan’s list at http://uxrogu.es/ or check his site.

Thanks Thoughtworks for hosting us!

Thanks to Fiona Knight & Richard Burke for helping pull together this summary!

Rogue UX – Absolute Fidelity is the way to go

Is the (current) sacred cow that we start with low fidelity so we can iterate quicker, get more customer feedback and manage stakeholders better?

Or is that just a waste of time and energy that produces low value feedback?

For our first session of the year, Duncan Macneil will talk about his experiences in pushing absolute fidelity from day one. How are UX tools like Azure impacting feedback? Why is high fidelity better? What happens when stakeholders think you’ve already built the thing? And OMG… What will the lean people say? He’ll share both the wins & the losses with this rogue ux concept.

We’re leaving lots of time for discussion on this one 😉

RSVP now!

Location TBC

FYI, if your company is interested in hosting a Product Anon session this year, please get in touch with myself or Liz.

Duncan Macneil is the founder of Cartesian Creative, a whole-of-service consulting firm where art & science collide via human factors and technology. He is also an ambassador for IBM Bluemix.

November Wrap-up: A glimpse inside the world of VR & AR

Virtual and Augmented Reality are one of those technologies that we’ve been hearing about for a long long time. Is it finally breaking through? It’s forecast to be worth $150bn in 2020. As product folk, what do we need to know about this?

We had 3 amazing speakers who gave us a glimpse not only into this technology & business but also how much activity there is within Melbourne!

Getting cozy as we're at full capacity tonight!

Getting cozy as we’re at full capacity tonight!


First up,Itai Etzman talked about product management at a VR startup. Itai has recently left Zero Latency – a multiplayer, free roaming, VR game.
itai-from-zero-latency

While we digital product folks think about the experience and UI, this takes it to a whole new level. Consider you’ll need a roadmap which covers software, hardware, the game, A few things that stood out for me:

  • You MUST test everything – it’s only only making sure the technical side is working but also the story, the gameplay and audio still works
  • Itai recommended reading aviation human factors research to understand how the body & inner ear especially deals with rotation.
  • You need to plan and test for emotion also! Fear & empathy are the strongest but nostalgia, excitement & joy are winners too.


Next up, Trent Clews-de Castilla from Phoria (formerly SCANN3D).

Trent elaborated on some of the things Itai spoke about – especially audio. With VR, touch, sight and sound are important though Trent thinks sound is the most important – you can even navigate with sound.

He talked about the possibilities of the technology including:

trent-from-phoria

Liam McGuire from Opaque Multimedia talked about some of their projects (including a game which lets your train to be an astronaut and go to space!) and the industry overall.

If you’re just getting started in the space, Liam reminded us to have a problem that can be solved with VR/AR – not getting enamored with the technology & trying to figure out a way to force it to solve the problem.

The large centres of work are in California due to the movie industry with hardware focused in Asia so we’re about 14 hours away from either. Regardless of this geography, Melbourne has very favorable climate with lots of tech talent in this space. The location is a challenge along with the changing landscape of competition and technology

Liam from Opaque talking about their project which allows you to experience what its like to live with dementia

A photo posted by Product Anonymous (@product_anon) on

One fascinating project they worked on is the Virtual Dementia Experience. Partnering with Alzheimer Australia Victoria, they developed a VR training simulator that allows people to experience what life is like living with dementia. The training is used to drive empathy with carers plus make it a much more memorable experience than traditional paper training.

liam-from-opaque-media-2

One of our amazing ProdAnon members not only suggested the idea but helped pull it all together so Liz & I would like to thank Claire Sawyers for the awesome work!

We were also able to play with a Hololens – as Daniel says… it’s a bit cooler when you’re wearing it rather than watching someone wear it! 🙂

Thank you to our sponsor for the evening – Blue Chilli!bluechilli-logo

We’re taking a break until February 2017 but in the meantime you can sign up to our newsletter or join the slack channel (links above in the navigation). Have a fantastic break!

What’s our future product reality? – November event

For our last event of 2016, we’re looking into the future product management reality – that is virtual reality & augmented reality.

We’ll have 3 lightning talks from product people working in this tech space:

  • Claire Sawyers, Head of Product at Blue Chilli, with PK Rasam on VR/AR trends from startups
  • Itai Etzman from Zero Latency on product management at a VR startup
  • Trent Clews-de Castilla from SCANN3D.Trent will be sharing outside-the-box product applications for immersive media, with examples from medical, education, marketing and digital preservation.

Plus a chance to have a play with a Hololens!

Also, it’s Product Anonymous’ birthday!!! And our last session of 2016! Hope to see you there!!

Thank you to our sponsor – Blue Chilli

RSVP now!