Jesse Owens II 2

Ep. 63: Cultivating Your Idea and Prototype with Jesse E. Owens II

Your Idea and Prototype Phase

This is part 2 of a 3 part series on developing and launching your idea with senior product leader Jesse E. Owens II. Click here for the previous episode.

In this episode we discuss cultivating the idea and cover:

  • Applying Design Principles
  • Creating a prototype
  • Conducting usability studies to ensure that your product is user-friendly.


Episode Highlights

00:40 Introduction

03:00 Recap of part 1

03:45 Designing the customer experience

06:18 5 Design principles

20:45 7 Stages of action (why do we do things)

32:09 Wire framing (rough sketch of product/service)

32:34 Common mistake entrepreneurs make

45:20 Customer Interviews

56:15 Next steps


Resources Mentioned



Be Our Guest: Revised and Updated Edition: Perfecting the Art of Customer Service (The Disney Institute Leadership Series)(aff)

The Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition (aff)


Connect with Jesse

Jesse Owens II – Twitter | Medium | LinkedIn


Join the convo online using #cofpodcast

Carry On Friends – Twitter | Instagram | Facebook



Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Everyone welcome Jesse to part two of our series on developing your product and your idea. In the first part of the series, we talked about what’s involved in developing the idea. We talked about understanding purse on out. If you haven’t checked out part one, I highly recommend that you go back and check out part one of the series before you listen to this episode. In this episode, we’re going to talk about cultivating the idea. We’ve developed it, now we are going to nurture the idea so it could grow. With us, is Jesse Owens. Jesse, why don’t you tell the community a little bit about you?

Jesse Owens:Thank you, Kerry-Ann. My name is Jesse Owens. I am a Senior Product Owner at MasterCard, working on a digital payments product – Masterpass, where we enable safe, simple and secure payments across all digital platforms, across mobile apps, on web, as well as through wearables and contactless devices that you see in stores. My role and responsibility on the product development team is to ensure that we have a simple and secure platform that allows our merchants, as well as our financial institution partners to easily integrate into Masterpass to facilitate a digital commerce experience.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Wow, so Jesse, I’m so glad you did that introduction because I was going to be like “Jesse, he’s a product development manager at MasterCard.” I was just going to be like imagine everything they do at MasterCard. You went into it and thanks for sharing all that you do. That’s important because you’re sharing with us what really goes into developing an idea, cultivating an idea, and then launching that for the market or to your audience or to your customers. This is something that the audience has been asking for, and I’m so happy that you are on the show to give us all this good, good information. Let’s dive into it. We’re in part two and we are cultivating the idea. What’s happening in this phase of the product development cycle?

Jesse Owens:Just to recap. Once we’ve identified a problem or a potential area of opportunity to solve, we develop a hypothesis, conduct experiments, we validate it and then we have a look at the results to decide on whether or not to move forward on the idea. Then next we start to build a framework around how do we monetize this idea or problem that we see in our space. Next, we’ll start thinking about what is our target customer segment which we talked about in the last podcast. And so now, once we’ve sort of established that and we have a solid framework around our business, we want to start thinking about the design. When we’re talking about design, we’re talking about the actual experience we want to create for our consumers. 

And so, before we actually get into the design, I think it’s very important that we spend some time and really delve into the actual, the psychology around product design. This is product design of everything that we interact with. Think about door handles. Think about when you’re riding the train, the Metro. Thinking about chairs, cups. These all have very explicit and implicit design decisions around those objects and products. And so, all of those products and objects that I’m alluding to, align with the same principles that someone that actually manufactured these products had to have some key design principles in place in order to build out how a consumer or a user would interact with this object and/or product. A book I would highly encourage the listeners to read is a book by Don Norman. It’s a book calledThe Design of Everyday Things. He’s a renowned industrial designer, and some of his teachings really permeates across the design community. Also, it’s reflective in product design. Bear with me, and I’ll actually go into some of the principles and how it’s actually visible in actual digital products that we interact with on a daily basis.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:You know what, Jesse? You said that and automatically – I read this book calledBe Our Guest. It’s about Disney and it really went into – I can’t remember exactly which item, but it really goes into how Disney plays very close attention and detail to certain things. The door handles in the hotel rooms – I can’t remember the specific design, but the handles when you’re going to the door at certain parts of the resort are designed in this particular way that when people touch it, it’s part of the whole experience. It’s just very interesting that they have all these waterfalls or things all over. It’s a really good book. It’s really part of understanding what you’re saying, the customer psychology, because I think Disney does a really good job of paying attention to all the five senses when they are rolling out their different services. Thanks for sharing. That book was by Don Norman?

Jesse Owens:That’s correct.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Cool, thank you.

Jesse Owens:And speaking about the five senses, there’s actually five principles that Don Norman actually speaks on. They are affordances, signifiers, mappings, feedback and constraints. And so, affordances is essentially – it creates a relationship between the product and consumer. An affordance, think about Instagram. An affordance would be a filter. The filter affords the consumer the opportunity of filtering the photos to create better imaging and to add in different effects to the photo that would resonate to their followers and those who want to consume or to view their pictures. The same would go for a chair with legs. The legs afford the consumer to sit upright and balance. That really creates the relationship in your products. When you think about your product design, think about what are things that you’re going to afford your user to do. Really, you want to frame that around some of your core features around your product.

Next is signifiers. Signifiers is your ability to really emulate certain things that you want the user to interact with. If we’re using the Instagram example, the camera is a signifier of the user being able to take a picture or record a video. And so, those are really key indicators on what you want to prop the user to do. What you want to do around your signifiers, it needs to be well communicated, it needs to be discoverable. If you look at common design patterns, because Instagram has – it hasn’t been the first photo sharing app, but what they were able to do is establish some design patterns that’s very common now so that when users interact with Instagram, they automatically know that clicking on this camera image is going to launch an experience where I can take a picture or record a video.

Next is mapping. When we’re talking about mapping, we’re really talking about how do we map certain elements in our product to certain functions. Really what I’m alluding to is think about any relationship that you have with the product that you have an account with. Think about if you’re investing in a portfolio, if you’re investing in stocks and bonds. You have what’s called account settings. And so typically, where would a user look for their account settings? Probably somewhere in the upper left or the upper right where you have a picture of your image or maybe a gear to where it signifies, or it creates a mapping of where to manage your account information. What this allows the user to do is provide recall. Presuming that you are – we’re having a consumer that’s constantly coming back to the product, if they want to edit their contact information or their profile information, they know automatically the mapping of the entire app, and know that I know how to navigate in order to edit my account information, or I know how to navigate in order to understand my writer score if I’m taking a Uber lift. These are things that are very explicit when you’re designing a product, that you want to ensure that the user has a proper conceptual map of where to navigate to certain parts of your product.

Next is feedback, and this is one of my personal pet peeves and/or favorites, depending on what side of the conversation I’m on. Feedback is really predicated on – one of the things that we take strong ownership in, in the product development is hand holding the user through the experience and not assuming that the user knows what to do at each and every step. And so, you have to understand when and where to provide proper feedback loops to the consumer, and you also need to understand that during those feedback loops, what’s the proper messaging and how do you want to message your consumer. Do you want to message them through SMS? Is it app notification? Is it through email? You need to establish those proper channels in order to notify your consumers on what is actually happening. An example of this is think about when you’re ordering food on Seamless. When you get the notification that your food is being prepared, you get an SMS or maybe an email depending on what channel you decide to select to be notified. Then you get notified that it’s actually ready and it’s on its way. This is really giving the user the end-to-end*journey of their transaction. They get notified when the order has been placed. They get notified when food is being prepared and they get notified when the food is on its way, and which is also good, depending on the type of product that you’re building, giving the ETA so that the user has a proper…

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Expectation.

Jesse Owens:Yes exactly, managing expectations and they are able to establish sort of a frame of when to expect this goods or product at their doorstep.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:You’re mentioning that, so isn’t that standard or am I the consumer, expecting this? I know everything is a consumer based world, so as the consumer, I expect you to tell me when I’m about to get my stuff shipped from Amazon or wherever. Is it not commonplace then?

Jesse Owens:Oh no, it’s commonplace now. If you’re developing a new product, you need to ensure that you at least are meeting the expectations of consumers given that there are feedback loops that are like embedded in these digital products now. If you’re not taking feedback into consideration and your product design and your consumer journey, then you’re failing the consumer with not providing them the information they need in order to have the proper interpretation of what’s happening in the product.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:And at the same time, there could be probably too many feedbacks?

Jesse Owens:Yes. Actually that’s a great point. There’s great debates going on right now on going green with your product design. And so, when we say going green, I’m sure you can imagine that—let’s say that you have—the average consumer has anywhere between 30 and 40 apps on their smart device. All these devices have their own KPIs and they all have their measures of success. A lot of it is predicated around engagement. And so, how would a product engage with consumers? What’s the most direct way to engage? Probably through notifications. You can imagine if you have 40+ apps on your phone and you’re getting notifications on “hey, we’ve seen that you’ve maybe left an item in your cart and you haven’t come back in a while”, or “here’s a new song from such and such artist on Spotify and song cloud”. These are things that create distractions. And so, there’s been a lot of studies on how products are built with the same principles of slot machines. If you think about slot machines, when you go to the casino and you pull on the lever, it’s the anticipation of something being rewarded to you. A lot of those things create that engagement and brings you back to the product. And so, there’s been a lot of discussions around how can we – I’ll preface this by saying that with all these notifications, and I think they are well intended, but what happens is that you just become unproductive throughout the day, because they are constantly going through Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat. They’re getting notified of all these things that aren’t necessarily important through their day-to-day. 

There is essentially a moral decision that needs to be made – I won’t say needs, but I will say that considered when you are designing your product, there is a when and how you want to notify your consumers because there is a sense of your everyday consumer being unproductive because they are constantly on their phone. They are kind of distracted with all of the notifications. Kind of just a quick segue, a life hack that I’ve started doing is I turn off all my notifications from all my apps except for my messages. If you want to message me directly, then I’ll respond because that’s something personal to me and not something that’s like a canned marketing campaign from a product or something that doesn’t really need my immediate response.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:I’m glad you brought that up because that was really my next question. It’s this balance of as a product developer and a consumer, because we’re always both – well you know you are both and to some cases, most of the audience is both, you want some kind of feedback. I always ignore them, don’t ask me again type of thing. When that happens, as a product developer, how do you know the type of feedback that you need to make improvements? Are you just assuming that there’s always going to be a small percentage of the users that will not ignore the message like what I did? And then as the product developer, for people who are listening to this who want to develop ideas, whether it’s a T-shirt or whether it’s an app or whether it’s a service, or whatever, how do we go about – going back to the first point, developing or cultivating when we’re not getting the critical feedback because our client or the consumer has opted out from doing something that they consider unproductive and is not worth their time?

Jesse Owens:Excellent question. There’s different mechanisms in which you can gather feedback. One method is providing feedback within the app. When we talk about feedback within the app, have you ever used a product and you’ll get prompted with “how would you rate this product”? It will essentially happen at the end of the consumer journey, like if we are using the Seamless example. I’ll go order food. I’ll complete the checkout and then I’ll get prompted with “how would you rate this app”, and really gives like the one to five stars. And so, you can do it within the experience or you can do it that sort of – it’s a bit of a standalone in terms of there’s essentially an option in your account settings where you can provide feedback. It won’t be something that is disruptive to the consumer journey, but you always know that it’s there in the event that you need to provide feedback. These are conscious decisions that you make in terms of do you want to provide the feedback loop during the journey, after the journey or do you want to sort of embed it and it’s more discrete in the experience. You notify the consumer that their feedback is valued and they know where to go if they want to provide that feedback. 

That’s from a consumer perspective, but from a product perspective, you want to ensure that you at least have a solid framework of your feedback loops during the journey. Think about your core flows and think about would a consumer care of being notified if this happens. And so, you have to make a very conscious decision on how you want to notify them during the journey. Now post, like say if you’re launching a new feature or if you’re launching a new product, those are things that you’ll have to work with marketing on and decide on, or if you’re marketing a product yourself, you have to decide on how you want to message and how that message is going to resonate with your existing consumer base.

And so finally, there’s constraints. Constraints is not necessarily a bad thing. Constraints allow you to provide scope and clarity to what you can and cannot support in your product. One of these things be cultural. If you look at product pages in the US, it’s a lot of white space. You look at the different typography and fonts and color palettes, it’s very light. It’s peaceful. It’s inviting. Whereas you go to other locales, it’s a lot of text, not much white space. These are cultural things that we’ve come accustomed to. As well as, when you view a webpage, there is analysis that’s been done. You read webpages or you read in an F pattern, from left to right. And so, those are like actual constraints that you’ll need to consider when you’re building out your product. Other things, is like there is some – maybe there is regulatory constraints. Going back to the investment example. If you are investing in portfolios, you can only invest when the market is open. It’s a Sunday afternoon and if I want to place a trade, I have to wait until Monday when the market is open because that’s part of the constraints, is that I can only book a trade where the market is open. And so, those are examples of constraints that you will need to consider as you are building out your product. Really it eases interpretation of what you can and can’t do. Those are design principles that are core to your design and making sure that you have that in consideration of your persona.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Constraints would also be going back to the ever prevalent T-shirt example, would be these are all the sizes that I offer.

Jesse Owens:I only print in small, medium, large. I don’t do XL, XX or XXX, because there’s a cost that comes to that.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Right, or I don’t sell in bulk or stuff like that.

Jesse Owens:Exactly. Now we’ve sort of established our frame of thinking around five core design principles around affordances, signifiers, mappings, feedback loops, as well as constraints. Now it’s where we are looking at the seven stages of action. When we talk about the seven stages of action, we are taking examples from the Don Norman book,The Design of Everyday Things, where we look at how the [20:20]actually interprets tasks and actions. An example that we can look at is like why do we do things or what causes us to do things. An example would be if I’m a tourist, I decide to take a picture of a building or a landmark. What causes us to do those sort of things? This is really relevant to any test that we decide to do for the day. It’s really two things. It’s a wave of execution and there is a process of evaluation. What we’re looking at is first establishing a goal and then going through the different phases of the execution and evaluation process to completing the goal. One of the examples that I like to allude to since I just recently acquired an Amazon echo, one of my goals is to set my alarm to go off at six in the morning. That’s my goal. 

There is a plan phase. There is a specify phase. There is perform. There is perceive, interpret and compare. And so when we plan, I know that I have my echo on my dresser and it’s waiting for a command. This specifies like I understand that by giving a command to echo, it will set my alarm. And so, the perform test is I actually give the command to my echo to set my alarm at 6 AM. Then this is where the feedback loop comes into play, is that once I perform the task, I get the feedback from the echo that my alarm has been set. The next phase is interpret, where I get the feedback saying my alarm has been set, but I’ll interpret it based off of if my alarm actually goes off at six and then I compare the results. I decide whether or not it’s a positive or negative experience. And so, I’ll just pause, give the listeners some time just to wrap their minds around that.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:I mean you’ve laid it out this way, but it’s happening in like seconds.

Jesse Owens:Exactly, or milliseconds. This is really core to my next topic after this where we’ll start talking about the behaviors of consumers as they are interacting with products. What we’re talking about here is an experience where you establish a goal and then you go through these different phases of cognition when you’re using a product. If there is any disruption in that experience, that causes the consumer to drop off, not use the product anymore, write a bad review, either tweet at a product. These are things that designers have in place or they are very mindful of these different layers in the flow that can disrupt the consumer journey. Really what we’re talking about is the journey of the execution as well as the evaluation phase for a consumer.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:So the first step plan, specify, perform – would that part be the execution phase and then the evaluation would be the last…?

Jesse Owens:The execution would be the plan, specify and perform. Evaluation would be the compare, interpret and perceive. Then based off of the results of that, you’ll know whether or not you have a seamless consumer journey.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:I mean this makes sense. I mean breaking it out, it just seems like it’s a lot, but we are doing this every time we interact with a product.

Jesse Owens:Exactly, yes.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Take for instance, so I’m looking for a show on my DVR or On Demand.Greenleafjust started on OWN network so I missed it and I don’t see it coming up in the schedule, so I go to my On Demand because I’m expecting it to be there because it’s gone. My expectations with other channels is that once I’ve missed the episode after two days, I could go On Demand and watch it. I’m planning to go On Demand. I go and I browse through the alphabetical set up to O for OWN. I go over there and I go toGreenleafand I do not see episode one to season two, so it did not perform the way I wanted it to perform if I were to be asked. I was quite annoyed that it wasn’t there, so my interpretation – nothing on Oprah and the channel, but my interpretation of their On Demand journey is completely different than if I went to BET and I missed an episode ofBeing Mary Janeand I know it’s going to be On Demand. It’s these decisions that I’m now making that now I know that going forward, I have to make sure that I set my DVR for Greenleafbecause I won’t be able to get it On Demand the way I would normally get it for other channels.

Jesse Owens:Exactly. You broke it down perfectly. Then actually it ties into the three levels of processing where we talk about reflective, behavioral and visceral emotions while using products. And so, you touched on all three of them actually, where when we talk about reflective, where mainly talking about the plan and compare parts of the journey. Reflective, it’s more about conscious decision-making. This is where deep understanding develops and this is where we start to make implicit decisions on how to interact with a product or an object. And so, an example of this is let’s say that you’re booking for travel and you go to Priceline and you see one price, and you feel that you could probably find this price cheaper somewhere else. The reflective part of that journey is maybe I should look at maybe KAYAK or maybe some other app that post prices on the same destination for the same date, just so I can do some price compare. And so, those are essentially your reflective emotions when you’re using a product. It’s reflective because you know from experience that if you go to different sites and products, the likelihood of there being good prices, there’s a good chance of that. And so, that’s part of your conscious decision-making.

Next is behavioral. These are things that are really subconscious, that you don’t necessarily have to think how to do certain things, kind of like liking a tweet or retweeting a post, or posting a picture. These are sort of learned behaviors that are subconscious, or walking. These are things you don’t necessarily consciously think about how to walk or how to like a tweet. These are things that are sort of embedded in your conceptual model that you’ve developed over time. Visceral is actually one of the things that’s really important when you are developing a new product. These are your subconscious responses to unexpected events. Think about the first time you’ve used a product and it was clunky, it was confusing and it just didn’t really resonate with you, or maybe if you order food at a restaurant that you had an expectation of what it was going to taste and look like, but it didn’t meet expectations, or maybe if a song that you heard that just wasn’t good at all or if it was great and you can’t stop talking about it. These are immediate responses of what actually occurred in real time. Think about in your product design, the visceral responses that you’ll receive from consumers when they are using their product. These are things when you are conducting customer interviews and you’re going through sort of usability studies, you want to measure and study those visceral responses from consumers because this is something that they are using for the first time. You really want to measure that in order to understand if you really have something that is really fit for your target consumers or if there’s something that you need to iterate over the design.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:I’m going to pause right here because we are going through this, and to someone who’s saying “Jesse, I just really want to design a T-shirt, a cup…”, like why is all of this important? This is not what I’m expecting. I’m expecting you to say you know what, this is how you do it, this is how you plan it, design it. I just want to sell it in the store. Why is all of this important; the five principles from the designs you talked about how we do things? Why is this important in product design for things that are not tech? Because as far as I’m concerned, of course, Apple, MasterCard – all you guys need to consider this, I’m just a lowly solopreneur trying to get my side hustle on. Why should I even think about this? This seems like this is just more problem than it’s worth.

Jesse Owens:Excellent question. The rationale behind understanding these principles, because these are stages and processes that each and every individual consumer goes through every day. It’s not necessarily tied to digital products. These are everyday products. If we go with the door handle example where sometimes if you see an open door handle that doesn’t have a signifier whether to push or pull, you’re not really sure what to do. And so, those sort of principles apply to everything. When you look at T-shirts, you also want to have those same principles embedded in your design process when you’re trying to establish product market fit, because not every design is a design that’s really fit for your business. You have to be very mindful of what you want to launch with. The thing about this day and age is that we have choice. We have choices in the products that we decide to use. We have choices in the products that we decide to – or T-shirts we decide to purchase, because there is a high chance that there is going to be other T-shirt printing companies that’s maybe doing the same thing that I’m doing. You need to really understand the psyche of the consumer to really understand how to message to them, what to design for them, and ultimately how to deliver products to them and create a very seamless experience for them, and something that really resonates to what they are feeling or what they expect.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:So even on a simpler example, is I plan to go to this website. I’m looking for a specific thing. Depending on how long it takes me to find it, that indicates the performance and feedback. How easy was it to navigate this website? Am I coming back to this website? Am I going to use this website again compared to other blogs, other podcasts? And then, it’s just the perception, so I get why we’re doing this. How does this now fit into the bigger picture? Where do we go from here?

Jesse Owens:Now where we go from here is once we’ve sort of mapped out conceptually how we want to frame our product around with our design principles or sort of the feedback loops that we want to have embedded. We want to start doing some rough sketches or rough designs around our product. And so, what we’re going to talk about now is wire framing. Wire framing is an essential. One of the common mistakes that I’ve seen for young entrepreneurs is to – once they have an idea, they merely think like oh I need to go get an engineer, we can code it out. One of the things with that is engineers are expensive, and to iterate over a product that has been built is more expensive than iterating over some wireframes. Think about a wireframe that you would sketch versus hiring an engineer to build a product and you’re not even sure if it has product market fit yet. These are things to consider as you’re building a product.

With wireframes, I think that wireframes are invaluable and it’s something that we incorporate into our design process because it’s cheap, it’s effective and you can do rapid iterations over the design. Really what you want to do is just expressing your concepts and your solutions, and really it just creates a framework around the consumer journey. The type of wireframes that you can start looking into is, as I mentioned, there’s sketch wireframes and there is also low fidelity and high fidelity. These all have a role in a place in your product development process. And so, for sketching, the intended audience for sketching is – if you’re at a small shop, this is a sketch that you would show to marketing and sales or maybe your designer at a larger company. You may want to show this to someone who is actually impacted by this concept. And so, the sketch is really intended to – let’s just visualize what we actually want to build. You’ll map out your journey in such a way that you have all the different strings, and not necessarily going into the actual details of what type of font we’re going to use or color, but really – and the rationale for it is that it allows the audience to focus on the actual functionality, less on the presentation of the feature. You want to look at how is this user going to navigate through this product, specifically around the features that you have wire framed. What you want to do is create a storyboard of the actual journey, so user arrives at the webpage, they login. And so, when they login, what should they see after that. If it’s a new feature that you want to develop, how will a user discover this new feature? Once they are in that feature, how do they navigate in order to complete specific tests that you have built as part of that feature?

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:I think sketching is a really good idea and we don’t do a lot of it, even in basic things. Let’s think of the website, like the blog, and I’ll talk about my own experience. I like to think that I have a good sense of what I want it to look like, how I want to feel, but that was in my head. I didn’t necessarily draw boxes. I didn’t do any of that. I kind of let that happen when I had the person building it out. I mean we had like a site map, but I only was able to make changes once I was able to see it visually. And so, wire framing would probably have allowed me to spend less time making those – I mean you’ll make some changes once it’s live, but having that very clear outline or frame of how I want it to flow, where I want this to be, would have probably made it easier. I’m getting it, that for everything that we do, even if it’s simple as a T-shirt, I have to kind of figure out my design, figure out how high I want the design up to the neckline, how low, what it would look like. I think for each phase you have to do some kind of wire framing.

Jesse Owens:Right, because even if you sell T-shirts, you have to make this available to the masses. And so, how do you make it available to the masses? Taking it to the web or building an app. You may not need to apply all these principles now, but the minute you decide to scale what you’re offering, you’re going to have to embed these principles into whatever digital platform or digital channel you want to sell your T-shirts through.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:I think that’s key for the audience. The principles that you are getting, it doesn’t mean – and for everything that we’re covering, it doesn’t mean that you have to do all of them all at once – well for some of them, but you need to have a basic understanding because like you said, scale, if you don’t understand the foundations of what’s happening or what needs to happen, it’s going to be much harder to scale and succeed at scaling.

Jesse Owens:  That’s correct.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Alright, let’s continue.

Jesse Owens:I spoke about sketching. Next is, we’ll talk about low and high fidelity wireframes. When we speak about low fidelity, I’ll be remiss if I don’t mention balsamiq. It’s an excellent wire framing tool that doesn’t require any tech skills. It helps provide digital artifacts of your experience that you want to create. I’ve used this a lot when I’m working with designers specifically on what sort of experience do I want to create for my end consumer. I by no means have design skills, but I like to feel that I have a good conceptual understanding of how a user should navigate through a product. And so, you use this as a tool to facilitate a conversation with designers so that they can use these assets to really bring the product to life with all of the transitions, the signifiers. A lot of the design principles that we sort of talked about during this podcast, they are really responsible for bringing that to life. When you’re building out a digital product, I highly advise maybe contracting a designer or bringing on a designer full-time to really bring this product to life, because they are really going to be focused on the user research, the consumer journey, and just really doing all the tasks necessary to create a very engaging and delightful experience for your end consumer. 

Think of these wireframes as collateral to negotiate what experience you want to create with your designer. Once you are able to establish the relationship with the designer on what the journey is, what they’ll then create is high fidelity wireframes where you start to really see the product come to life, where you start embedding the topography and the color pallets. You’ll start seeing the actual assets that’s going to be a part of your product. And so, what really comes out of this is a style guide. Your style guide is really your framework on how certain pieces of your product is designed, developed and how it’s constructed.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:So the low fidelity, if I were to make it simple, it has to do with the functionality which is at the core of any product.

Jesse Owens:Right. You’ll facilitate the low fidelity through balsamiq. That’s a tool that, in the design community, that it’s really the go to for product managers, product people, entrepreneurs who are looking to convey an idea without having to get into details with Photoshop or N design* because it’s very technical once you get to that level, presuming that you don’t have the expertise to really design the experience, but you want to capture the functionality. The low fidelity helps facilitate that conversation.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:And so for the high fidelity, it’s more a look and feel and user experience with the product.

Jesse Owens:Correct. In the low fidelity, you’ll have like the layout of the screens, but it’s very bland, a lot grays and blacks. And so, there’s really no distinction on call to actions or what’s going to actually be the designs of those screens. The high fidelity, that’s when you actually get into the details of at the pixel level, where things are going to be positioned, how it’s going to function, like is it above the fold, below the fold. These are things that are considered when you are doing the high fidelity wireframes.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:In the functionality, would that be what people generally refer to as UI user interface?

Jesse Owens:That’s correct.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Okay. And then the UX would be under the high fidelity because it’s the experience.

Jesse Owens:Correct.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Cool, alright. I’m getting my stuff clarified. Now I see a bigger picture.

Jesse Owens:Right. This is when I personally get excited during this particular process, is when you essentially use your low fidelity. You’ll give it to someone who can create an experience, and then now it’s alright, does this really have market fit or can we put this in the hands of a customer. And so, some tools that I’ve used and that’s also used in the design community, is called InVision. InVision is a prototyping tool that allows you to sort of create a clickable prototype of your design. You don’t have to write any code on the back end, but you can still get your validations early on. The key tenets around these principles is doing early validations so that you don’t have to make the expensive upfront investment of getting an engineer or actually building the product before you can really understand whether or not this product has market fit.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Alright, so we’re kind of in the tech space, but how is this product or this process applicable to a non-tech? Because I’m thinking apps and stuff when you’re thinking InVision and the prototype etc. How could we apply this to a non-technical product? Let’s go back to the ever fateful T-shirt.

Jesse Owens:If we’re going with the T-shirt example, are we looking to create a website for the T-shirts? What you want to do is create a wireframe of the website in which a consumer will purchase these T-shirts from, and really just navigating that journey. You will wireframe essentially your storyboard, then that will then get translated to a high fidelity wireframe. Now what you’ll try to understand is if I were to create a prototype of this website without writing any code, I want to put this in the hands of an actual consumer so that I can understand a) is the experience that I created – is it something that really resonates or is it something that I need to iterate and maybe improve some particular parts of the flow? Maybe I need to incorporate some signifiers or maybe some feedback loops that I didn’t have in place because a consumer was confused on what to do next.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Got it. For T-shirts, it could be wire framing and designing the website and having someone walk through the ordering process just to kind of get an idea of what the experience is like to interact with the website, decide to buy the product. We’ve decided to plan. We execute. We do the feedback and then getting that feedback, and then making improvements throughout that process.

Jesse Owens:That’s correct.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:I always have to go back to the simple because I want to make sure it – so far, I’m seeing how it’s applicable to non-tech stuff other than apps, but I just – sometimes it’s just easier to hear it apply to the way that we just did it with the T-shirt. I’m always going to come back to this T-shirt thing.

Jesse Owens:Oh no, absolutely. These are design principles that you will see relevant. Products like Airbnb, Facebook, Google products – once you develop an understanding of these principles, you’ll start to look at products differently. You can give your own critiques on particular parts of the flow that either worked really well or left you confused and not really sure what actually happened.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Gotcha. It’s like when I worked at the dentist office and then I came back, and I started noticing everyone’s teeth. It’s true. It’s like once you’re in that space, you start noticing everything. Now we’ve gone through, InVision is a tool you’ve mentioned, and we’re going to ask ourselves from interacting with the prototype, is the experience what we want the customer to experience in the journey, and if not, we just iterate.

Jesse Owens:That’s correct. What I’ll touch on just the sort of round out the cultivating aspects of product design, is customer interviews. Customer interviews is essential when you’re trying to understand the usability of your product and really product market fit. Going back from you establish a hypothesis, you develop a business model around it, you’ve understood the design principles you want to embed in your consumer journey. You wireframe the experience and now you’ve created a prototype. What you now want to start doing is actually talking to people, talking to consumers who would actually use your product and start collecting feedback. I know it sounds like very onerous and expensive, but it’s extremely valuable when you’re developing a product for the first time, because it does a couple of things for you. It creates early validation of your product, and then it allows you to make decisions on where to go next in regards to maybe new features or if you need to refine certain aspects of your product. These interviews are extremely important. 

If a question that comes up is: well who do I actually interview? Once you’ve established a user persona, you want to interview those that actually align with that user persona. And so, these can actually be sourced either through your own network or it can be done through an agency, or it could be done through your followers. If you look at your social media, you can create a community of test users of your product. And so, I personally like to use that model when testing or when I’m doing my own experiments or my own user testing, or just collecting general data around just our daily habits. These are things that you need to incorporate as part of your process. 

And so, once you’ve done that, you’re able to have an interview with your target persona. Really the thing that you want to ensure is that you’re not testing them, you’re actually testing the product. And so, what you want to do is establish, just create a conversation. Really give some context as far as what you’re testing and why you are actually going through this process of going through customer interviews and prototyping and why they are actually giving them some rationale of why they are present. These are one-on-one interviews because I find that these are actually – it’s more impactful versus like a focus group. I’ve done focus groups and one-on-one interviews. Focus groups are good, but you’re unable to get the qualitative feedback as you would like, because one-on-one interviews, I think it’s more intuitive in my opinion, because in focus groups, you get a lot of opinions. You don’t really get the real feedback because you’re unable to view how the user is actually navigating through the product.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Also, I think there’s just this issue of group think* that comes in. Someone may not want to say something because someone else kind of said it, so they are like here, what they said, versus one-on-one is more like no one is judging me. It’s just you, I could speak my mind and say whatever. I get it. I think I would like one-on-one better too.

Jesse Owens:Right. You’re facilitating a conversation and really what you want to establish is some key tasks that you want the user to complete. Going back to the stages of execution and evaluation, you want to create specific goals that you want the user to perform. And so, not giving them any instructions on how to use the product, you essentially put the prototype in their hands and let them navigate. What you’ll do is you’ll see them navigating and asking them to kind of speak out loud as they are using the product so that you can get some qualitative insights into how the user is perceiving the product and how they are navigating, what things are difficult, what things made sense, what are some of the things that we could incorporate in the future. These are things that you want to facilitate during that interview to allow the consumer to become comfortable and to speak freely about the product.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:And so, this could work for the going online to buy my T-shirts, which is like going through the website, oh here, I want you to go to this website and buy a T-shirt. So having them go through the process and we’re sitting and watching them do this process.

Jesse Owens:That’s correct. Really during this, you are impartial to the feedback. You’re really just collecting information. Sometimes you ask clarifying questions on if they felt that there is a friction in a particular flow. You’ll want to ask clarifying questions like what made this complex or what made this difficult, what actually helped you navigating to ordering this T-shirt. Those are things that you just want to clarify during that process.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Alright, so we’ve gone to the customer interview. What’s our next step?

Jesse Owens:Based off of the feedback, you either just decide that there’s probably some more work that we need to do on our prototype or we can move forward with the actual development of the product, which is exciting as well because now you’ve gone through this journey. You’ve come to the realization that you actually have product market fit and the product is in a state where we validated the usability of it and we’re happy with the results that we got from the customer interviews, and now we can actually move forward with the actual development of the product.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:I’m here, I’m thinking boy for the person who’s listening to this, who is like “You know Kerry, I just really and truly wanted to just put my little website and sell a bag or two. Why do I want to go through all of this? I don’t bother want to sell it.” I mean what do we say to that person who’s thinking, “Gosh, this is so overwhelming. I really didn’t expect all of this to come out.” We are just in part two of a three-part series. What do you have to say to that? Because we’ve gone through a lot of information. What do you say to someone who’s thinking, this is a lot, I wasn’t expecting it, I’m not doing it or I don’t want to even bother with my idea anymore?

Jesse Owens:Well this isn’t intended to scare anyone off or to create anxiety. These are concepts and frameworks to run a better product. If you make a conscious decision to build a product, whether if it’s a physical or a digital product, these are things that you will need to embed into your workflow in order to ensure a successful product because we’re all investing time, energy, resources to create something for a community. And so, what we want to do is enable each and every entrepreneur with the tools to create a solid business model around their product, but also creating a great experience. Because design is such a focal point in the product development process, you want to leverage some of the concepts and tools that the leading companies in design incorporate. And so, because these are the expectations that consumers have developed over time since the emergence of our pocket computers and apps. These are things that even small companies need to consider because these are expectations that consumers expect because things are very immediate and it’s real time. These are things that you’ll want to understand these consumer journeys in order to build a successful product.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Thanks for sharing that, because more and more from a marketing perspective, the consumer drives everything. There’s so many businesses talking to the same group of people for different products, because if we are a Venn diagram, we all have overlapping interests. You have parents over here. You have parents who are entrepreneurs and they also work a full-time job. There are so many different things. Even with parents, like what kind of parent are you? Do you have a child under the age of 18? Do you have a child under the age of 12? Like all these different segments that this one title of parent you then fall to. If you have multiple children, then you have different businesses trying to get your attention based on the kids you have and the age group they are in. It’s really important to – because as a consumer, we connect to products and businesses that just really feel easy for us, organic. They just make us feel like this is a no-brainer. I just really want to use that because it’s like breathing. It’s just so part of my life. For us, and from a future standpoint for entrepreneurs, budding entrepreneurs to survive, we have to start thinking of these things because we are in a gig economy or freelance economy – whichever you want to call it, where seriously globalization – we have to make sure we have all the tools in our arsenal to help us succeed. 

We’re going to continue to give you the information, but it will apply, because I’m sitting here and I’m starting to think like I really want to go and implement these because I see how they could improve a lot of things that I’m trying to do. Even when I previous episodes, I’ll say hey if you like it, do a rating and review, and I’m like is that even effective to do that in the podcast. I’m thinking of how to apply these principles in something so simple as saying hey, go do a rating and review now on iTunes, because I have no idea what the experience of the listener is just to go into iTunes to do a rating and review. It’s really one of those things to kind of take a step back, digest the information in this series. You probably have to do a second listen and apply it to see how it applies to different initiatives. Enough of me rambling, so consumer expectations. We’ve done the interview. We now decide whether we go back and we do some improvements or we’re ready for some kind of launch. Yes?

Jesse Owens:That is correct.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Where do we go after that? Are we ready to launch yet or no, not quite?

Jesse Owens:Well I mean you’ll be ready to develop. And so now, that’s when we’ll go into the next segment when we’re actually going through the actual launch process where we try to define what our NVP is, understand the market for the product, as well as we want to establish some KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) for success of your product for post-launch. Metrics is something that’s very near and dear to me, as well as, if you’re an entrepreneur or a product person, you should care about metrics that are core to your product. And so, we’ll actually get into those details as far as what metrics you want to establish and how to measure them, and how that actually ties into overall success of your product.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Awesome. Alright, so we just ended the second phase of the product development series. The third phase will be launching the idea. Now we really want to hear from you, what you’re thinking, what questions you want answered, and we’ll try to get those questions in and answered in an episode. Please be sure to send us a tweet @CarryOnFriends. Jesse is also on Twitter…

Jesse Owens:JesseEOwensII.Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:I’ll make sure I put all of that in the show notes and the recap on the blog. We definitely want to hear from you. We want to get some feedback. We’re doing this feedback loop as to how you are interacting with the series, what are your thoughts and are we managing your expectations. We would love to hear from you. You could also send us an email if you don’t want to have your information – you want to send us an email on the side because you don’t want everybody to see your question, so Jesse and I will definitely get back to you and answer your questions. Thank you for listening as always. Jesse, always some good information here. I can’t wait to apply some of this. Until the next episode in the series, walk goo


Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown is Founder & host of Carry On Friends one of the first podcasts dedicated to the Caribbean American Experience. She is leading the way for Caribbean Podcast as the founder of Breadfruit Media, the first Caribbean podcast production company; and founder of the Caribbean Podcast Directory a place to discover podcasts by people of Caribbean Heritage.