Before engaging with us, our client had a mobile app that was a challenge to use. They had fallen under the spell of feature creep, driving complexity up and usability down. While an iOS app, it did not follow Apple’s iOS Human Interface Guidelines—making it unintuitive. Add to that competing product visions that made the value proposition difficult to grasp. So we were called in to help.
Now we were nearing the end of an engagement that transformed more than the app’s design. With a clearer value proposition in place, the app now had a cleaner and stronger user experience. We identified and added missing elements in the user experience; like an onboarding workflow that gave users a reason to come back to the app, as well as features supporting the app’s purpose as a social platform that made it more sticky. Not only did we have an impact on the app, but we also had the opportunity to provide strategy and guidance, strengthen the client’s product management process and mentor some members of their team.
We were riding high, proud of the work and the product. We pride ourselves on becoming part of the teams we work with and always leaving the team and the product in a better place than when we started. So why did we turn down a second engagement and $60,000? Don’t get me wrong, $60,000 for an extension to an engagement would normally be music to our ears. However, in this case, based on our company values, we could not say yes.
The client wanted us to start designing for “Phase 2” to start enhancing the product. However, the product was still under development and had not launched. To us, there was no value to the business or to users in working on further refinements without further validation.
We suggested a number of ways to validate key features and business assumptions with customers, but the client felt they were too close to release to stop now. Without a wider user pool, we felt it would not be possible to make decisions that brought value. We needed not just user-centered design at this point; we needed to see how groups of users interacted to measure what needed to come next. So, we had to say no to that version of Phase 2.
We did not end the relationship—we loved the product and working with the team. Instead, we proposed a different Phase 2, one that provided a strategy for building feedback loops which we could help them with when they were ready to get the app in the hands of a wider group of users. That way, we could rejoin the team at the optimum time to bring the most value to the business and users.
Our job is to help companies maximize value while reducing risk. That sometimes means turning down work or helping a company use validated learning to decide to pivot, persevere or pull-the-plug—even if that means our engagement ends sooner.