Jammin @ Jam

Interesting pastries and delicious talks

Rob McWhirter

Rob McWhirter

We like coffee. We like good design.

We like Jam.

Jam is a conference for people just like us: design-driven companies that want to make stuff people actually want to use. Oh – and there was the promise of barista-made coffee, a plethora of food stalls and a bounty of post-conference ‘refreshments’, but we were here to learn – right?

No, definitely here for the talks, and what talks they were; designers from Facebook, Strava, Intercom and a bunch more took to the stage and candidly described the challenges that they face every day. Inspirational stuff, and we learned a lot.

Users don’t want features, they want their problems solved

Hopper found themselves in a situation that is very familiar to us. Their users all wanted the same thing: a filter for searches. So, they did the obvious thing and built a filter for searches, then waited for the accolades to roll in. Except, they didn’t. In fact, nobody used the new feature. Hmm…

What Hopper quickly realised was that those users didn’t want a feature built, but a problem solved.

They went back to the drawing board, ignored the feature request and focused on the problem. The solution they came up with wasn’t exactly what users were asking for, but solved the actual problem and saw much more engagement than the filter feature.

We get new feature requests every day at Twine and it can be easy to blindly put them into the backlog. This talk reminds us that not all feature requests are the solution, sometimes they just point to the problem.

Build stuff nobody asks for

Intercom are big players in the customer engagement world. But how did they create a product that was so successful? And how do they make sure that they are developing the right stuff?

This story started off as a simple customer request and snowballed into a fully-fledged feature that nobody asked for, but everybody loved.

The problem was that support agents had no way to gather feedback from their users. So, at the end of each conversation, intercom designed an automated message that asks how the support agent did. Pretty easy stuff.

But it gets interesting when you see what Intercom did next. They tested different feedback types: emojis, thumbs up/down, star ratings until they fell on the best one. Then they started adding little features based on ideas within their own team, like “aren’t positive comments nice to receive?”, and began to focus on celebrating success. From this they developed virtual pots of nice comments, complete with confetti rain, that agents could summon when they needed cheering up.

The way this a simple product request sparked a raging fire of product development was downright impressive. No one asked for it, but they sure appreciated the results.

Put time aside for unstructured work

Strava’s internal ‘hackathon’ is a three-day event for the Strava team to rapidly create new products, experiences and out-there ideas. It doesn’t even have to be anything to do with the product!

It begin as a single day before quickly evolving into a three-day innovation event. It wasn’t easy accommodating the entire team’s schedule but the impact on culture and innovation was definitely worth the effort.

We’re not saying you should start your own three-day hackathon; that’s a big ask. But there’s certainly something to be said for making room in your schedule for your whole company to get together and do unstructured sessions like this.

  • Leave the brief open and don’t focus on ‘shippable’ products – just great ideas
  • Encourage people from different disciplines to work together
  • Schedule these ‘jams’ well in advance so everyone can keep the day(s) free

What does this mean for Twine?

Every week we get a bunch of feature requests, which is great, but we can’t act on all of them.

It’s nice to see other products having exactly the same problem and hear how they tackle it – respecting feature requests, but also understanding that they are often just a starting point for developing a better solution to the problem. It will definitely influence how we approach future requests at Twine.

We’re also planning a Strava inspired ‘hackday’ in the near future – keep your eyes peeled for this one ?  Maybe something involving this…

The Flying mushroom has landed