JMCQUARRIE.co.uk

James McQuarrie is a UK based Senior Product Manager who helps teams design, build and deliver digital products and services that delight their users.

Category Archive: Product Management

  1. Introducing Tidy – A new solid shampoo for Men

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    Tidy solid shampoo bar product photo Photo – Tidy Mint & Tea Tree Solid Shampoo for Men.

    Many months, and what feels like a lifetime ago now, I asked my connections to spare 5 minutes of their time to help with some research for a new project.

    That research proved interesting, confirming that there was a potential gap in a market that needed filling, and encouraged me to pursue what has turned into Tidy. The premium solid shampoo for Men.

    To dive right in and see the product and the outcome of months of working on market research, product R&D, branding, etc have a look at the shiny new online shop at tidy.company.

    To learn a bit more about how Tidy came to be, read on.

    The spark of an idea

    In late 2019 I decided I wanted to do something to reduce my use of single use plastic. I’m no eco-warrior but I’m happy to do my bit to reduce the amount of waste our household throws out. If for no other reason than to reduce the need to empty the bins and recycling boxes quite so often.

    I decided that replacing my liquid shampoo with a solid alternative would be a simple, relatively affordable, way of making a change. And it would have been, if I’d been able to find a suitable solid shampoo bar to buy.

    But I couldn’t, at least not without a lot more research and effort than I’d assumed would be needed.

    Yes there are many websites selling solid shampoo bars. Several high street stores stock them too. But none seemed to be made for men. I’m not against using a gender-neutral shampoo, nor one that’s marketed at ladies if it works. The problem was all of the bars on the market seemed to be made specifically to solve a problem that I didn’t have.

    One for dealing with split ends. One for making your hair really shine. One for controlling frizz. One to make it smell like flowers. Etc, etc.

    I even visited a well known high street brand who specialise in eco bathroom products (you know the one, you can smell them before you see them in many UK city centres). I asked the sales assistant there if they had any solid shampoo for men.

    She looked puzzled. “Well, we have solid shampoos, I can show you them.”

    “Ok” I said.

    She led me to the range. “What type of hair do you have?” she asked.

    “Just normal, I think.” I replied.

    She looked a bit stumped. “Well, this one’s for dry hair. This one’s for greasy hair. This one stops split ends. Would you like to smell one?”

    I ended up buying the most generic one they had.

    It worked. It did its job and I’d cut down on the amount of plastic waste I was having to deal with.

    But the experience of finding and buying the bar was not what I’d call convenient. Or simple.

    That got me thinking: I wonder how many other men there are out there who would be more than happy to switch to a solid shampoo bar, but who haven’t because it would involve too much effort or because they don’t think there’s a product aimed at them in the market?

    Then I got super busy at my day job and didn’t think about it again for the rest of the year.

    The catalyst

    Fast forward to January 2020. My time working at that super busy day job has come to an end. I’m on gardening leave.

    We did a couple of short family road trips while we had the chance to spend time together without worrying about work.

    Then I started to think about what to do with the down time. Maybe start something new while I had the freedom to do that.

    I explored a number of ideas.

    Bath, where I live, needs a big indoor soft-play for children. There’s a small one at the local leisure centre, but it gets really busy…

    Maybe I could look at a lifestyle business. Open a cafe or a shop of some sort?

    Based on my experiences of finding a solid shampoo bar to buy I thought maybe I could launch a web shop for eco products, to help people find suitable solid shampoo bars and other eco-friendly products more easily.

    All the ideas had potential. The online eco-shop kind of interested me, but I wasn’t sure how to source the products and a quick bit of research showed there are a number of sites like that (just none that had solid shampoo bars for men listed as available…).

    To help think through the problem and try and identify a more considered list of options, I sat down and mapped out the activities that people do daily, weekly and monthly.

    In an ideal world you want to be selling a product or service that people use frequently. I thought the lists could help identify opportunities.

    I then added to the map listing as many products and services as I could think of that could be related to each daily, weekly and monthly activity.

    Screenshot of mind maps of daily and weekly activities Screenshot – Maps of daily and weekly activities and related products / services.

    The monthly list was a bit vague, and probably not frequent enough, so I dismissed everything on it.

    The weekly list had potential, but involved quite a lot of activities that were “optional” and might not be things folks really do every week.

    I focused on the daily list.

    I split the list into two rough groups; things folks do every day, and things folks do most days.

    I honed in on the first group:

    • eat
    • sleep
    • wash.

    Eating

    Eating is an interesting area to look at. The majority of people will eat more than once a day, so it’s a high frequency, big market.

    There are many opportunities in the space too, as evidenced by the plethora of food tech startups and well established brands in the space.

    The job I’d just left was with a food-focused company, and I wasn’t looking to get back into that area again straight away.

    Sleeping

    Sleeping is also an interesting area to look at. More people sleep every day than eat (would be my guess given the rising trend of fasting and its associated benefits).

    But while sleeping itself is a high frequency activity, there are very few products or services related to sleeping that are high frequency purchases. When was the last time you bought a mattress? And the time before that?

    Sleeping was out.

    Washing

    Which left washing. Most people will wash most days, or at least know they should.

    The product range available to help with washing is vast, and a good proportion of them are relevantly high-frequency purchases.

    And, I might have already identified a gap in the market for a product in the space…

    The universe told me to do it

    Up until this point in the story, all my time had been spent thinking and theorising about what I could do.

    I’d not done anything about it.

    Then one Saturday we took our one year old to the library. He loves books and it’s a good way to occupy him for an hour or so if the weather’s not so great.

    It was the first time he’d been on a weekend, and I’d not been to the library in Bath before, so while my wife and little one explored the children’s books, I took a look around. I was half thinking it might be a good place to come with a laptop and do some work if it was too noisy at home in the future.

    While looking around I stopped at one random shelf that caught my eye.

    On it was a small pile of books waiting to be put back on the correct shelves.

    Amongst those books was one about how to make soap and shampoo at home.

    I took that as a sign.

    I joined the library and borrowed the book.

    I read the book over the next couple of days and realised that it might be possible to actually make my own solid shampoo.

    If I could, I wouldn’t need to worry about sourcing products and competing with other online eco-shops, I could simply make and sell my own product directly to consumers.

    Now all I needed to do was figure out if anyone would actually buy something like this.

    To find out I did three things.

    1. firstly, I did some reading to learn how big the market for men’s shampoo is in the UK and what I could learn about launching a product in this space
    2. secondly I ran a survey asking men to share their attitude towards, and experiences of buying, grooming products to get some primary data
    3. finally I created a fake shampoo brand, and a facebook page for said brand and then bought some facebook ads to see if anyone would show an interest in the product.

    The data says

    A lot of googling and reading later I learnt that the market for men’s shampoo in the UK was big enough to be interesting.

    £480,585,000 was spent on shampoo in the UK in 2018.

    The UK population is split 49% / 51% male / female. Assuming that men account for 49% of the UK spend on shampoo, the market could be worth somewhere in the region of £235,486,650.

    But in 2018 only 18,528,000 men said they used shampoo. That’s roughly 30% of the population. 30% of £480,585,000 is £144,175,500.

    A market worth over £140 million a year, is still a big enough market to be of interest.

    I also learnt that the most popular shampoo, by a very long way, for men in the UK is Head & Shoulders. A brand that sells a specific shampoo for men…

    Our survey says

    The survey asked men from across my Linkedin and other social media networks to take a few minutes to list the male grooming products they use, how often they use them and what they considered important when buying said products.

    The results were interesting, and encouraging for my plan.

    72% said they used shampoo daily or weekly.

    But 86% said they’d never used a solid shampoo.

    When it comes to buying 56% of respondents said they buy at least one product from a supermarket. 43% mentioned buying some items from other high street stores and 30% said they buy some products online. It was very common for respondents to buy specific products from different sources.

    When making a buying decision 90% of respondents said that the quality and the effectiveness of the product are equally the most important things to them. Familiarity was also important, but slightly less so.

    Interestingly, brand and price were not deemed that important in their decision making process (though several did mention bulk discounts as a reason for shopping in some supermarkets).

    The data told me that there could be an opportunity for a new product category of solid shampoo aimed at men. And if it was going to be successful it needed to be focused on being a great shampoo that worked well and one that was made with quality ingredients.

    Our testing says

    The facebook demand testing I did was a more practical way of determining if there’d be a market for the product.

    I created a fake brand called “getsoap” (terrible name, I know) and set up a website at the domain getsoap.uk.

    I then designed a series of different landing pages selling solid shampoo for men, each pitching the products in slightly different ways. One was based on a premium look and feel, like Apple products. One was based on a supermarket like brand. And the final one was modelled around a popular subscription service for men’s toiletries.

    I wanted to test if people would hit a “buy” button if presented with the product and compare which type of branding / offer would get the most interest.

    screenshots of different landing pages Screenshot – First iteration of experimental landing pages to test demand.

    Each landing page had a call to action along the lines of “buy now” or “subscribe now” that led to a subsequent page that said we were out of stock. The out of stock page encouraged people to enter an email address to be amongst the first to know when the bars were back in stock.

    I intended to measure interest by tracking the number of people seeing ads for the brand, the number of those who clicked through to the website. The number of those in turn who selected the call to action. And finally the number who then entered an email address.

    I built a series of adverts on Facebook and paid to have them promoted to an audience of men and women who were early adopters, interested in eco / green content and who were between 18-65.

    It’s a relatively crude experiment, but one that took hours rather than days to set up and cost less than £100 to get up and running.

    The initial results were positive.

    The first landing page got a 42% click through rate on the call to action.

    The second version had a 27% click through rate.

    The subscribe option had a 5.5% click through rate.

    The premium branding had the best conversion rate by far. But the test had been very crude (deliberately) and hadn’t included any mention of the price of the bars.

    To learn what impact different prices would have on the conversion rates, and to understand if buying traffic for a product like this would be a profitable way of generating sales, I set up some more experimental landing pages.

    The new set of pages used the same designs and copy as the first premium landing page but this time included different price points of £4.95, £5.95, £6.95, £9.95.

    Screenshot of a landing page with pricing Screenshot – Landing page iteration that included pricing.

    Long story short, the £9.95 option converted at a slightly lower rate than some of the other price points, but still offered the best ROI when looking at the cost of buying each customer via Facebook ads.

    There are still many areas to explore regarding pricing, subscription models and bulk order discounting, but the experiments gave me enough confidence to move forward with the plan.

    Making the shampoo. Safely

    In parallel to this market research and testing I needed to know two other things:

    1. firstly could I make the product to a high enough standard to make this work
    2. secondly could I make a high quality product and turn a profit.

    I addressed issue one first.

    Having read the book I found in the library about how to make soaps and shampoo, I started reading as much about the topic as I could. I burnt through a library’s worth of kindle books, more blogs on the topic than I can list and started experimenting with making bars at home.

    20-30 iterations later I had a shampoo bar that I believed was good enough to put my name to.

    Photos of various stages of the product development process Photos – Photographs of various stages of shampoo making taken during product development.

    My research had suggested that while different people used different shampoos based on brand / fragrance, etc, there was one bathroom product pretty much every man anywhere in the UK had used and would use again. A particular mint and tea tree shower gel. In order to keep things as simple as possible I decided to roll with that as my first (and currently only) fragrance for my shampoo.

    I tested the first bars myself and when I finally had a version that I was happy with, and after 3 weeks of use hadn’t made my hair fall out or shown any other signs of issues, I enrolled the help of some willing volunteers to help me test the product.

    I sent bars out to 6 people in total. One of whom wasn’t as much of a willing volunteer as the others, but had been volunteered by his wife to test the product without knowing I’d made it. The intention was to get some very unfiltered feedback about the bar.

    After weeks of the volunteers testing the bar the reviews were on the whole positive. One tester complained that the bar made their scalp dry (a common complaint about solid shampoos), but otherwise folks liked the bars.

    And, most importantly, no one suffered any ill effects of using them.

    Crucially, when asked several said they’d happily buy the bars in the future.

    One, a long time solid shampoo bar user, went as far to say that he and his wife had been using the bar and that it was “better than the high street brands they’d tried before”.

    Encouraging.

    Next I needed to get the product certified as safe to sell. Regulations dictate that cosmetic products (such as shampoo) need to have a “Cosmetic Products Safety Report” certificate before you can sell them to the public.

    You’re allowed to produce and use cosmetics yourself, and give them to friends / family / etc as gifts without the certificate, but you need the paperwork to be able to sell the product legally.

    You also need to adhere to a very long list of safety procedures when making and storing the product, and make sure your labelling on the packaging of the product meets strict guidelines.

    Getting the certificate involves sharing a detailed list of the ingredients in your product and getting an independent chemist to review the recipe to confirm it’s safe to use as intended.

    It took a few weeks to get the certificate, but my recipe was approved as safe.

    Doubly encouraging.

    A sustainable product is pointless without a sustainable business to make and sell it

    Now I needed to make sure I could make the bars, and deliver them at a profit.

    There’s no point in making a sustainable product if the business making it goes out of business in the process.

    Time for a big spreadsheet to calculate costs, revenue and profit.

    I’ll not bore you with the details, but the good news (for me at least!) was that the numbers added up.

    Even at a relatively small scale, I’d be able to make, market, sell and ship the bars at a profit. Assuming I can sell a minimum number per month.

    Longer term if the demand was high enough I should be able to scale production and even possibly lower some costs by buying ingredients and packaging materials in bulk.

    This thing could work.

    Now I just needed a name and some branding.

    What’s in a name

    I’m no branding or marketing expert. But I knew that if this product was to stand a chance in the market it would need some very strong branding.

    Luckily my friend Jason had caught wind of what I was doing and was keen to help out any way he could.

    As he’s one of the most talented designers I know, I jumped at the chance of picking his brain and getting his input on how I should approach things.

    He went a lot further than that. The name and the logo and everything you see about the brand has his influence behind it.

    We spent weeks going back and forth on the name, and looks etc. He asked questions. I shared thoughts. We had a list of name candidates that’s longer than your arm.

    We knew we needed a name that was strong, honest, simple and that we could build an experience around. I wanted to choose something that would become meaningful to our customers. Something that didn’t come with too much preconceived meaning or baggage. Any meaning it did already have needed to be positive and engaging. It needed to be word or phrase that wasn’t every day, but was still familiar.

    For a while we focused on finding a name that was strongly associated with one of the founding principles behind the company: Do more, use less.

    Jason particularly liked Use:Less.

    I liked the concept, but worried it would lose meaning when spoken aloud.

    We iterated some more. Eventually he suggested “Clean & tidy”. Which led to “Tidy”.

    It ticked a lot of boxes.

    I grew up in Wales where “tidy” is used as a general catch all word for anything agreeable or good.

    “Fancy going to the pub tonight?” “Tidy!”

    “Did you see that film last night?” “Yeah, it was well tidy.”

    Etc, etc.

    It’s also simple. Easy to say. Easy to spell. Comes with meaning, but it’s not something that’s used in everyday language (outside of parts of Wales).

    It also has connotations with being green and eco-friendly. The “keep Britain tidy” campaign encourages people to put their litter in the bin. Being “neat and tidy” is a positive thing.

    As soon as we said it, it felt right.

    So Tidy was born.

    Now we just needed a logo and look and feel for the brand.

    Jason worked his magic. Well, firstly Jason’s daughter Flo (aged 10) worked her magic.

    Photos of 2 versions of the tidy logo as designed by Flo aged 10 Photos – Tidy logo designs by Flo, aged 10.

    Jason and I worked on this through lockdown. Flo was at home during the period and heard about what we were doing and came up with her own designs for the logo.

    I think she gave her Dad a run for his money!

    Here are some early versions of Jason’s iterations.

    Screenshot of tidy logo concepts by Jason Screenshots – Tidy logo concepts by Jason, aged “a bit more than 10″…

    We settled on the exclamation point version because it somehow looked bolder and more solid than the others. I really liked the Whale tail idea, but we couldn’t find a way of executing it that felt as strong as the exclamation point logo.

    Screenshot of the exclamation Tidy logo The “Exclamation” Tidy logo.

    Jason nailed the colour palette first time too.

    screenshot of the six colour Tidy colour palette Screenshot – The Tidy colour palette.

    So after months of going round the houses (Jason fitted in Tidy work between other client commitments and home schooling!) we arrived at the beginning of a great set of brand visuals.

    Which pretty much brings us up to date.

    The last month or so has been spent applying the new branding to packaging, websites and other elements that are needed to be able to start selling the bars.

    I’ve been learning how to do product photography while setting up a shopify store and getting a Tidy instagram and Tidy Facebook account set up (follow us on either / both if you’d like to keep up to date with how this evolves).

    Then, finally, this week we launched the Tidy solid shampoo shop and started selling the bars.

    At time of writing, we’ve already had one order without any promotion other than to friends and family.

    Now the real fun (and work) begins.

    Photo of three Tidy postcards with different marketing messages on each Photo – Tidy postcards: “Shampoo. Honest.” “Handmade. For your head.” “Like shampoo. But solid.”
  2. How I approach Product Management

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    I work for the teams I lead.

    I see digital product (and service) delivery as a collaborative endeavour. It requires Product Managers, Designers, Engineers, Researchers, Data Scientists, Domain Experts and Business Leaders to all work together to apply their individual expertise and experiences to solve problems.

    My job as a Product Leader is to make sure everyone involved has everything they need to be able to do that well. Including (but not limited to):

    • a clear understanding of what customer need they are trying to address
    • what the business objectives for the product are and how the team’s goals align to the wider organisation’s vision and strategy
    • an environment where collaboration between all team members works for the team.

    How each of the above are delivered is dependent on the organisation and team makeup. All teams are different. Some naturally lean towards a customer centric approach, while others are more technology or solutions centric by nature. Some organisations are very adept at providing a clear and concise vision and strategy, others less so. Some teams are naturally better at collaborating than others.

    My job as a Product Leader is to understand the organisation and team makeup and adapt my way of working to fit with how they do their best work. Always focused on delivering measurable outcomes, not just outputs, that improve the overall experience of customers using the product or service.

    A lot of Product Managers see themselves as the people who shape the product, with their teams there to execute their vision. I don’t.

    I believe it’s the team who shapes the product, my role is to shape the team and give them what they need to shape the product.

    I can bring my experience as a UX consultant to the team, offering input on the usability, accessibility etc of the product’s design and implementation, but ultimately it’s the Designers and Engineers on the team who make the decisions about how a solution we work on is executed.

    My job is to help them focus on the right problem to solve and make sure they have the information and tools they need to solve it by working together.

    While the specifics are different for each team I work with, broadly speaking I like to follow the Inspired (Marty Cagan) approach to product management, splitting the team’s activities into two tracks:

    1. Discovery work
    2. Delivery work

    Discovery work

    Discovery work is focused on gaining insights about any problem or problems customers have and exploring different ways we could solve those issues with our product or service. This type of work calls for rapid iteration and exploration and involves a lot of prototyping, testing, trial and error, and learning.

    Delivery work

    Delivery work is focused on implementing the solutions that have been explored and tested and deemed good enough to be put out into the world. This type of work involves making sure the execution of those solutions is done to the highest standard, still as quickly as possible.

    The “we believe vs. we know” question

    It can often be hard to know which type of work a team is (or should be) doing at any one time as ideas about what to work on come thick and fast in most organisations.

    My rule of thumb for filtering new work requests into discovery or delivery streams is to frame the work in terms of whether it’s something “We believe” we should do, or whether it’s something “We know” we should do.

    If it’s something we believe we should do, we need more evidence that it’s worth pursuing before committing the time and energy to deliver it. That requires discovery work.

    If it’s something we know we should do, we should know what measurable impact making the change will have. Once we know that, we can often (but not always) put it straight into the delivery stream.

    I say not always, because sometimes there are things we know we should do, but we’re not entirely sure how to do them. In those cases there’s some discovery work to be done to determine the best way to deliver the work (answering the question: “which way of making this change will give us the biggest impact”).

    All the work that’s done in the discovery stream should be focused on turning all the “we believe” statements into “we know” statements. If we get that right, all the work done in the delivery stream is worth putting the time and effort into getting right because we, the team, already know it will have a positive impact on the end customer experience of using the product or service.

    When the solutions a team deliver are measurably better than what came before them, it’s a sign that the team are working well together and working as a unit.

    If the solutions being delivered are not improving the product or service then it’s a sign that the Product Leader is not doing their job and needs to review what more the team needs to be able to deliver their best work.

    As Marty Cagan wrote in Inspired:

    “When a product succeeds, it’s because everyone on the team did what they needed to do. But when a product fails, it’s the product manager’s fault.”

    – Cagan, Marty. INSPIRED: How to Create Tech Products Customers Love. Wiley.

  3. How we redesigned tools used to manage a community of 100 million users a month as a live Beta

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    It’s mid 2019. I’m in Bristol, leading a squad of 5 engineers working remotely across 4 countries.

    We’re responsible for maintaining and developing the internal tools and systems used by over 100 Community Managers in 70 countries across the World.

    The Community Managers are responsible for keeping the company’s ~100 million monthly users safe and engaged in our consumer product (a recipe sharing website and app).

    They are specifically charged with reviewing all the user generated content that’s published on the service making sure it complies with our community guidelines (no inappropriate content, no recipes that would be culturally offensive in the country / region in which it was published, and no recipes that could pose a health and safety risk, etc).

    They are also tasked with keeping recipe authors engaged with the service and encouraging them to share more recipes.

    I’ve joined the squad as their first dedicated Product Manager and I’ve got a lot to learn about the tools they have developed and maintain and about how the Community Managers use them.

    I’ve spent the first few weeks of working for the team interviewing Community Managers from across the world. I’ve spoken with the country heads who lead these teams locally and I’ve spent time with my squad of engineers understanding where they are in terms of both how they work and what they’re working on.

    Throughout this process I learnt a number of things:

    • the Community Managers are an extremely passionate, dedicated bunch who care deeply about their local users, their experience of using the service and how our product works
    • their passion and dedication has lead to each Community Manager having very close relationships with a handful of our top authors across the world. They consider those authors their friends, and those authors consider them friends too
    • it was obvious that while the work of monitoring and reviewing content was an important aspect of keeping the community healthy, it was when Community Managers engaged with and encouraged authors by commenting on their recipes or sharing messages directly that they really shone at getting those authors to return and add more recipes
    • the tools the team had built for the Community Managers were functional and had evolved over time but, little consideration had been given to the experience of working with them on a daily basis.

    I also realised that a lot about how both the Community Managers and the tools worked was not scalable.

    The 3 other product squads working on the consumer product side of the company were all focused on significantly growing the numbers of people who published recipes at least once a week.

    The company was not keen on having to hire significant numbers of additional Community Managers to scale with the increasing number of people publishing recipes, nor would they have been able to recruit them fast enough if the product grew at the target rate.

    Therefore my squad had to focus on how we could make sure the tools we were designing and building for Community Managers would allow them to continue spending as much time as possible engaging and encouraging authors and reduce the time they spent doing the “admin” work, like reviewing recipes.

    To complicate matters we had to do this without interrupting any of their day to day work.

    We broke this challenge down into two parts:

    1. part 1 involved looking for efficiencies in the workflow Community Managers had to follow when reviewing content and dealing with complaints about content
    2. part 2 involved looking for ways of redesigning the tools to support Community Managers getting to know more authors just as thoroughly as they currently knew their existing top authors without having to invest many hours in the process.

    We developed a plan.

    In order to be able to test our ideas for new processes, workflows and user interfaces, we would run a Beta trial of the new version of the tools in parallel with the existing Community Management tools.

    The Beta would be only available to Community Managers in one region to allow us to work closely with them to monitor their use of the tools and get their feedback directly as and when we released updates.

    By running the Beta in parallel with the existing Community Management tools, making it easy for Community Managers to switch from the “traditional” version to the Beta version and back again, we were able to release features to Beta one at a time and often, without having to worry about replacing every part of the tools in one go. Which meant we could build, test, learn, repeat relatively quickly.

    To monitor the impact of our Beta I created a satisfaction survey that we ran with the testing group every week, starting before the beta went live and continuing throughout its development. This survey allowed us to gather both qualitative and quantitive data about the Community Managers experience of using the tools and track if we were improving things for them.

    We also monitored activity within the tools so we could see what impact the changes we were making had on their productivity.

    To help keep us honest, share our progress with the rest of the Community Managers around the globe, and to help make sure other squads within the company were aware of what we were working on, I wrote a weekly blog post that was published on our intranet. It highlighted the changes we’d made each week, explaining the design decisions behind them, and reported any new feedback and analytical data we’d gathered from our Beta users.

    Having to report progress each week like this helped the squad focus on delivering something of value on a weekly basis.

    It also helped us give a bigger voice to the Community Managers within the company. By sharing the progress we were making and how crucial our Beta testers were in helping us make that progress, we were able to share their insights and ideas about how the product should work with a wider audience.

    The goal was to develop the Beta to a point where the core features of the existing Community Management tools were redesigned and fully tested before allowing Community Managers from all regions and countries to opt in to accessing them (still making it available in parallel to the traditional version and allowing them to switch back and forth at will).

    This would be the ultimate measure of success for us as a squad. If we were able to design and build the right thing, delivering it in the Beta, Community Managers from around the world would choose to use the new version over the old version.

    Once we had the core features tested and, importantly, adopted by the majority of Community Managers globally we would work on redesigning or incorporating the “non-core” features into the Beta and work towards permanently switching all Community Managers over to the new designs and switching off the original.

    My time at the company ended before the Beta was complete. But over the course of the time I worked with the team we were able to introduce:

    • a new global dashboard view that showed Community Managers three levels of information at a glance: global activity, regional activity and the activity related to the users and content they personally had been communicating with / reviewing
    • a completely redesigned workflow for recipe moderation that allowed Community Managers to see all of the recipes that were in each stage of the review process and who was reviewing them, all in one view. This could be filtered to show just the recipes they were responsible for reviewing, or those any member of their team were working on, helping the regional teams work together more effectively
    • a streamlined recipe review process that required viewing one screen instead of six separate screens to approve / reject a recipe
    • a redesigned author’s profile view that allowed Community Managers to see a news feed style view of an author’s recent activity on the service in one stream, along with an “activity summary” that showed an author’s last 12 months activity in one easy to see chart – making it much easier for them to see how active an author was and to get to know what types of recipes they liked to publish and share
    • a redesigned messaging view that showed all communications between an author and any Community Manager. This allowed any Community Manager to pick up a conversation where a team member had left off, helping them share workload and always respond to authors, fully aware of other conversations that had already taken place with other Community Managers.

    All of those changes were introduced in the Beta while the existing tools continued to be used in parallel. By developing them this way we were able to test with live data, as part of our testing team’s day to day work, which really helped us hone in on delivering the right features to help the Community Managers do their jobs.

    Over the course of the project we were able to increase Community Manager satisfaction with the tools from “good” to “very good” and increase their feedback about how the tools were meeting their needs from “they sometimes meet my needs” to “they always meet my needs”.