Did you recently show your designs to an
engineer and hear this, “Yeah these are gonna be challenging to implement in
time for the next release”? “Why”? “Well they’re pretty complex.” “Why are they
complex?” “Well this slider alone is new
functionality that is going to take at least two days worth of time to
implement on the front end, maybe more.” “Okay, what else?” “Well to do these
visualizations we’re going to need to pull in a lot of data and that’s going
to slow down the performance of the app.” “Hmm..” “And some of these new workflows
require changes to our current api’s, which have already accrued a significant
amount of tech debt.” “Okay..” “Yeah it doesn’t seem doable for the upcoming release. I’d recommend changing the designs.” I think we should go talk to Leslie about the
importance of paying down product debt in every release. Welcome to Build, brought to you by
Pivotal Tracker. I’m your host, Poornima Vijayashanker,
and I’ve got a new Build Tip for you. Remember we talked about tech debt with
Jay Hum from Pivotal? If you missed that Build Tip, I’ve included a link to it
below this video. But today we’re gonna explore product debt and to help us out I’ve invited Leslie Yang, who’s a senior product designer at Pivotal Labs. Thanks for joining us, Leslie! Thanks for having me! Yeah, so Leslie tell me, what’s product debt? Great question, so product debt is the debt that a product incurs when the UX
is really starting to change and like kind of cease to be as successful and
helpful as it used to be. Okay, can you give us some examples? Yeah, so like
for example you’ll hear someone say, “hey I want to test this new feature where
should I put it? Let’s put in the tabs.” and you’re like “should we put in the
tabs? Let’s go figure this out.” Yeah, what else? Let’s see, so you can say that our workflow is
complicated because our users have gotten so used to it, so we’ll just end
up annoying them or losing them if we change anything. You know? Okay, anything
else? Yeah, so another one is, “we just added a new feature and we want to
promote it, so can we just edit a button next to everyone’s name and just highlight the
hell out of it?” No. Okay, so these are all great examples I think of product debt
that we have experienced both as consumers of a product, but also folks
who are designing products. Absolutely. Okay, I’ll have to admit as an engineer,
I have been guilty of ganging up on those designers and responsible for deprioritizing product debt, and no it’s not a good practice. So how can we help
people in our audience who are designers avoid being ganged up on, and making sure
that product debt remains a priority? Absolutely. So as a designer it’s great
to be able to focus on the research, to focus on the user experience, but you
should also focus on being a really good facilitator: control the dialogue around
feedback. Okay. Focus on the product vision and product strategy and the
business strategy and then connect that design feedback to it. Okay, so what does that
look like in practice, as an example? Sure, so let’s say for example, a business
strategy is to improve the number of active daily users for monetization
reasons, right? So you want to make sure that the user experience
is being focused on building up to that and meeting that metric. And so one more
thing, you can totally work with PM’S on this as well. Okay, so as a designer
approach a PM, and how would that help? So you can work with Product on this by
pulling the data and looking at it together and then figuring out where the
areas you want to improve on. Great so it actually provides some evidence for why
you need to pay down that product debt. Exactly. What about engineers? I’m sure
they want to contribute and make sure that the conversations are useful. Absolutely and I love it when engineers are in those conversations on product
with us. What someone like Ronan could do, if he was concerned about data
visualization, he could come up to one of us as designers and say, “hey how does
this idea of introducing data vis tools really fit in with the product vision,
what do you think?” Just coming from a place of curiosity is really helpful. Yeah. And that creates this really positive dialogue. And he’s probably gonna learn
more and not jump to, “oh my gosh, this is gonna cause a performance issue and a
bottleneck” and all this stuff. Exactly and I think riffing with- I love the
riffing that happens between designers and developers because you can come up
with some really creative solutions, you otherwise would not have come up with
separately. So what can teams do to continue to prioritize and pay down
product debt? Sure. What my belief is, is that developers should be brought in to
work early, and often. So they should be in the future ideation process, oh I will
have devs sketch with us on UI’s. Oh great, yeah. And how does that help? It makes a huge difference because by being involved early and in frequent times,
they’re able to contribute ideas and also understand and have user empathy.
And so they’re- the work that we create together is not gonna be overly complex,
it will be well thought out and by the time that the work comes to them their-
it’s not a surprise. They know what to expect. These are fantastic tips, Leslie
thank you so much for sharing them with us today. You’re so welcome. Now, Leslie
and I want to know how do you handle product debt at your company? Let us know
in the comments below this video. Okay that’s it for today’s Build Tip! Be sure
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Build Tips like today’s. And special thanks to our sponsor, Pivotal
Tracker, for their help in producing this episode. Ciao for now. This episode of Build is brought to you by our sponsor, Pivotal
Tracker. *BLOOPERS* So then as a team, how can we continue to make sure we prioritize and
pay down tech- ugh why does tech debt keep coming up? Because it’s just like the thing that – I know! Right? Ugh, tech debt. Okay. Product debt! Product debt! Yeah.
Product, product debt, product. So much p-p-product. Like Poornima, product. It’s all about the product! Poornima is all about the product. Love it! That’s gonna make a great blooper by the way. Yeah. Okay. So what can we do as a team, both engineers,
designers, and PM’s to continue to prioritize and pay down that tech debt? OH MY GOD, I DID IT AGAIN! I didn’t
even catch you when you said that. This will be the last time, I’m sure. Yes. *offscreen* Just “PRACTICE” down your whole arm. Why don’t you write “product debt” on there and then she won’t forget it. Write it 500 times. Yes okay.