Oct 29, 2019 | 5 min read

My First and Last Month at DogSpot

Mirrored New Lab - I took the photo during my first interview with DogSpot.

A month ago, I got my first full-time product designer job.
How excited I was to jump out of my bed at 7.30 every morning and got ready for work! The company was a hardware startup located at the most futuristic workspace in New York City named New Lab. Every day I learned something new which kept me motivated.

A month later, the executives announced that the company would be going through a strategic realignment which included changes to the team. Unfortunately, my role was one of the roles that was no longer accounted for in the new budget.

Despite this heartbreaking news, I didn’t regret working for the company. I ran full-speed every single day and stretched myself with new challenges. My ambition was to leave my mark on the product that was loved by our customers. I grew tremendously and developed my work style. Plus, I am way more confident than before with the values I can bring to the table, thanks to my encouraging colleagues. In the following, I’d like to share the lessons learned over the past few weeks and give my future employer (might be you?) a sense of how I worked with a team.

My design corner:)

Lesson 1: Define design goal with stakeholders

From many articles I’ve learned that defining a goal upfront makes design deliverables measurable. One example is a B2B landing page redesign requested by our business and marketing teams. They came up with a goal — to increase the converge rate of the page and automate the B2B funnel. Accordingly, I interpreted the goal into a sequence of design actions: 

  • Point out partnerships’ business needs & pain points.
  • Present our product as the solution using their language.

The content was organized to reflect the natural human thinking as follows:
What it is → Why it matters → How it works → What specific features are
I also quoted our partnerships’ words from the news to demonstrate why the product matters their business. Towards the end, the page provided a searching tool on locations of our dog houses in their neighborhood. It created a sense of competition and an urgency to take action. Wireframes are presented below (Time spent: 3 days).

Version 1: Leverage content created by the business and marketing team.
Version 2: My interpretation of the content with slight tweaks on the content flow.

Although I couldn’t work on this project long enough to see if the new design hits the goal, the thoughts behind these ideas were well-documented (this leads to the next lesson learned). I hope the team could pick up the discussion thread someday and execute the design.

Lesson 2: Document process with accuracy

Despite my zero background on QA testing, I had to support the team on QA across hardware, software, and firmware. We used Pivotal Tracker to communicate by text with remote developers and manage the project. 

When doing QA testing, I trained myself to think as rigid as possible. Given the complex nature of the product, I spent a couple of weeks figuring out how the hardware, software, and firmware function as a network. Whenever a new issue comes up, I learned to gather the maximum information for developers (e.g., what you saw, what you did, and what you found) and document any action pattern that could reproduce the same issue. In terms of a well-defined bug, I wrote down the steps I did for testing and specified the actual & expected results. The framework is adapted from my manager (aka CDO) and COO. I appreciate them hand-holding me through the process. This experience is very valuable to me and helps me communicate more efficiently with engineers.

DogSpot Service Blueprints
I mapped out the entire IoT ecosystem with service blueprints for different user groups (new/repeat users) and multiple entry points (from the house/the app/ the website). These maps include the interactions between a user and the product and the triggers within the IoT network. They also specify user needs and expectations as the lighthouse for the interaction design  (Time spent: 1 week).

Lesson 3: Speak in users’ language

One of our user groups is dog owners who want to bring dogs with them while shopping or running errands. In my first two weeks, my manager gave me a task of conducting a design audit and a design exploration of both our mobile app and house display app. She wanted to get a fresh eye on the product.

From my design audit, I found that the product could have done a better job communicating the state of the product. Hence, I identified copy change could be the fastest way to improve the user experience, considering the limited resources we had.

I’m not a dog owner, nor did any dog involved in my life. To make the product speaks to our users, I dig in popular Instagram accounts followed by pet owners, forums with funny pet images, and brands that sell pet-related products to understand what dog owners read every day, what causes them exciting, and what makes their day delightful.

It turned out that some of the copies were on point and surprisingly representing our brand (according to my manager)!

My manager laughed so hard when she saw the word DOGUPIED. Pun credit: Reddit

Lesson 4: Validate data before analyzing it

Here's another thing I learn on the fly. Prior to analyzing data, the first step should be validating data, which means to identify parameters that should be filtered out from the data pool. As I constantly had questions about user behaviors, I posted them on Slack. These brought the attention of our marketing director — he ended up teaching me how to look into data and analyze it to support design. Although the learning process was frustrating at the beginning, I was so glad to have the team support me and learn to find answers on my own.

Final thoughts

Despite the unexpected decision of the company, I feel very grateful and lucky to work with a tight-knitted team. I exposed myself to new challenges and learn a lot from my colleagues in this month. All the conversations with my team and and office dogs I enjoyed. I have good faith that the company will go through the painful transition and thrive again! 

Grab some tea together?
Hit me up (Linkedin)
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