Product People: an interview
Dawson Andrews travels the world talking to the best digital product managers, unicorn executives, design and engineering leaders. We cover everything from product management to user on-boarding and from churn analysis to pattern libraries.
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Dawson Andrews builds and designs digital products from their offices in Belfast and Sydney. This series is conducted by Cameron Stewart and takes place via video call within Dawson Andrews HQ.
Want to take part? Contact Cameron.
Niice is a visual collaboration tool for creative teams that’s taking the design world by storm. We’ve worked with Chris quite a bit so we volunteered him as our first Q&A guinea pig. We rambled a lot but there are some real product management gem’s in here.
Tired of the waffle? Skip to the best parts… 9.55 and 16.41.
1.25 - Chris attempts to explain what Niice is; Pinterest meets Google docs.
2.30 - How do people use Niice? Brainstorming, research, showing work in progress, discuss visual concepts.
3.49 - It’s about gathering a visual vocabulary for a project.
5.50 - We’re narrowing our focus onto who we believe are our true sustainable customer base.
It was key to define who is actually going to pay us rather than those who just find us useful.
8.10 - Used to look at interior design and photography industries but we’ve learnt the business models have a lot of barriers to entry.
9.20 - The advertising industry is our core target. It includes photography and animation but they’re bundled up in an agency that have a budget to pay for efficiency. That was a key understanding for us.
9.55 - Andrew finally chips in and summarises for us ;
What you’ve described is a transition from designer to business person/product manager. The other main transition is your target audience which has changed from photographers/fashion stylists; a low customer acquisition cost and relatively self-servicing however after 3/4 months churn is kicking in. You weren’t getting that customer lifetime value curve where they sign up and pay for a few years at $15/mo. Transitioning to what might be a harder sell - big agencies of 20-100 person design teams with huge productivity issues, there’s a business case, and while customer acquisition cost is higher you’ve got a much longer customer lifetime value and hence, a stronger business case for Niice.
11.30 - refining a pricing model; $10 SaaS online deals vs. enterprise model. It’s the same product but how we sell it looks a lot different now - we need to paint the business case really accurately for them.
12.40 - Chris’ journey; transitioning from a designer to a product owner and lessons learned;
The sales process of talking to customers is actually product discovery, you’re picking off insights around a business case which makes the features that you choose to develop in the upcoming months an awful lot stickier. Changing mindsets within design teams is key - owning that they are still designing when they aren’t behind a screen, that churn is as important as pixels, or in Chris’ case, focusing on customer lifetime value over fonts.
15.35 - “It doesn’t matter how good a product is if I don’t communicate how they can use it and where the value is in their workflow.”
16.41 - Product management in a nutshell;
If you make something interesting you get traffic, but that’s it.
If you make something useful you get users but that’s it.
If you make something valuable you get customers.
(And you need a significant number of them to build a sustainable business.)
17.51 - A blast from the past; Niice’s first Feature Dependancy Chart and how it effected the restructuring of Niice’s functionality set.
19.22 - It was a very useful tool but it only shows you half the picture; it shows you what has happened in the past, not what is going to happen. If you’re making decisions purely on that because you can never justify a new feature.
22.35 - Sometimes we got the balance wrong - we made things easier for 10% of people but harder for 60%.
25.00 - The evolution of Niice; What is your strategy around development and release cycles?
V1 - V1.5; Search engine & moodboarding tool
V2; Creative presentation and discussion/feedback tool.
27.06 - The market runs on decks which is hugely costly for agencies given the time it takes to create a slide deck. Our understanding has grown and with it, our product has grown to address that.
28.30 - Rather than rely on our customer to work it out, we’re working harder for them. We’re currently working on templates of boards; giving them a headstart in their presentation so they can fill in the gaps rather than have to work out what the gaps are in the first place.
28.50 - We’re also developing communications tools around the boards themselves, commenting/collaboration and general platform development.
30.10 - V3 of Niice, repositioning Niice. Search in support of boards rather than the other way round as it currently stands.
35.50 - Tech stack overview; Rails, React, separating things out to be more API based. It’s always changing though - it’s just important we’re able to adapt easily and fast - we assume that what we have now might be extinct in 3-5 years.
40.40 - "What is the biggest product myth?"
Build it and they will come. I mean they might but whether they’ll give you any money?
Niice was born 4 years ago and we’ve been there since day 1. It’s now a fully blown SaaS company and used by thousands of creative teams every day, including companies like Nike, TIME, AirBNB and more.Read Case Study