Links and articles about technology, design, and sociology. Written by Rian van der Merwe. Follow @RianVDM
Below is a selection of projects I’ve worked on in recent years. My goal is to showcase some of the various product management and user experience design techniques and methodologies my teams and I have used depending on the specific needs of a project. This includes the following areas I specialize in:
- Product discovery: Using design thinking to solve user and business problems and improve product/market fit — see my article Usable yet Useless: Why Every Business Needs Product Discovery in A List Apart
- Product management: Developing product vision and strategy, functional specifications at the right fidelity, designing systems to ensure great execution. See my book Making It Right: Product Management For A Startup World for more (or read an excerpt).
- Development process design: Understanding the needs of developers and the rest of the business, and designing a development process that fits the culture of the organization and gets everyone involved in an appropriate way.
- User experience research: Ethnography, heuristic evaluations, usability testing, participatory design, concept testing, surveys.
- Content strategy: Content audits, style guides, content creation.
- Interaction design: Flow diagrams, wireframes, interactive prototypes, concept development.
In short, I focus on helping teams develop their product strategy, and I help make the strategy real by designing and building products that deliver measurable business results. I further help teams create and execute software development processes that are efficient and tailored to the unique needs of the business.
Author (March 2010 – Current)
I’ve been writing this site for a few years now, but I also contribute to other publications. Here’s a selection of the things I’ve written in other places:
- Most recently I wrote a book on Product Management called Making It Right: Product Management For A Startup World. You can read an excerpt on Medium.
- For A List Apart: Usable yet Useless: Why Every Business Needs Product Discovery
- Here’s a full list of things I’ve written in other places.
Jive Software (October 2014 – Present)
Product Design Director
- Lead product designer on Jive People (a new corporate directory app), as well as several other Jive Internal (social intranet) and External (online communities) projects. Includes user research, product discovery, information architecture, content strategy, interaction design, and prototyping.
- Responsible for all user research at Jive Software, including ethnography and usability testing on our mobile and desktop software.
HealthSparq (April 2014 – September 2014)
Director of Product
I headed up the UX team, and have been responsible for creating our UX strategy. When I started we had 3 visual designers on the team. I’ve since hired a UX Designer and User Researcher, and am in the process of hiring a Content Strategist and another UX Designer to complete our team.
I worked with the team to create a design process that will work for us and the unique needs of the organization. Here’s what we settled on:
On the Product side worked hard to define and deliver the first version of our Unified product to bring e-commerce style shopping to health care.
Here’s a small part of our first whiteboarding session to define the healthcare customer journey:
And here’s a view of the story map we created to define our first release of the product:
We also created a bunch of personas to help us stay focused on user needs. Here’s a small section of one of them:
And here’s a section of the home page for the first release of the product (graphic design by HealthSparq design team member):
Flow Interactive (May 2012 — March 2014)
Director of User Experience
I was responsible for user experience design & strategy projects, business development, and training. This included:
- Finding and securing new clients for the business, and maintaining positive client relationships.
- Client and project management on several UX projects simultaneously, including management of the internal team on each project.
- A variety of hands-on user experience design activities, including usability testing and user research, information architecture, content strategy, and interaction design.
- Development and conducting of training on User Experience Design and Product Management
Here are some selected projects I worked on:
- Direct Axis — contextual interviews, personas, customer journey mapping, UX strategy
- Juniva — personas, customer journey mapping, interaction design, graphic design, front-end development (see juniva.com)
- Obox — usability testing (see the client’s write-up of the process)
- Vumi Go — personas, customer journey mapping, interaction design, usability testing, graphic design (see Case study: redesigning Vumi Go)
- Virgin Active — usability testing
- ificould — information architecture, interaction design (see ificould.co.za)
- Primedia — user research, UX strategy, concept development
- Discover Africa — Product Discovery and UX strategy
- Design Indaba — Product Discovery and Product Management coaching
- Takealot — personas, customer journey mapping, interaction design, graphic design (in development, not live yet)
- Mr Delivery — personas, customer journey mapping, IA and content strategy, interaction design, graphic design, front-end development (in development, not live yet)
Below are some images that show our work process on selected projects
Initial interface sketch:
Prototype in Axure:
Persona workshop aftermath:
Sketch for a new checkout process:
Note-taking during research:
Analysis after research:
Initial customer journey sketch:
Final customer journey, on client’s office wall:
kalahari.com (December 2010 – May 2012)
Head of Product Management and User Experience Design
Check out Case study: the user experience of kalahari.com, one year later, in which I go over many of our accomplishments in 2011.
Here are some selected projects I led me team through:
- Established a successful product development process from idea conception and prioritization to processes for design cycles, functional specifications, and technical implementation
- Introduced a systematic approach to user-centered design, including user research and UX-driven interaction & visual design
- Created the Product Council, a cross-functional body of leaders who steer the prioritization and roadmap for kalahari.com
- Ongoing redesign of the entire kalahari.com front-end through regular, incremental improvements to the user experience.
- Facilitated user experience and product management workshops with sister companies in Cape Town and South-East Asia.
- Some success metrics:
- Checkout redesign: 7% increase in completion rate
- Registration redesign: 18% increase in completion rate
Selected artifacts from projects
Customer journey map:
Wireframe for Checkout redesign:
Final Checkout redesign (produced by Visual Designers)
Yola.com (October 2009 — November 2010)
Product Manager and user experience designer
Here are some projects I worked on:
- Main website: Led the redesign of the Yola website, resulting in a 25% increase in first-time visitor sign-up conversion and a 10% decrease in bounce rate
- User account area (My Yola): Led the redesign of My Yola from basic sites listing to full-fledged account and site management area
- All payment/checkout flows: Led the redesign of payment screens that resulted in 28% increase in completion rate for domain purchases
- Sign up and user onramp: Led redesign of sign-up flow that resulted in 44% increase in the number of websites published with Yola
- Revenue-generating products (e.g, bundled packages): Led design and implementation of a revamped Pro package that resulted in a 280% increase in revenue from the package
Below are some artifacts from the different projects.
Flow diagram for redesigned bundled packages purchase flow
High-fidelity mockup for new home page (produced by Visual Designers)
eBay (April 2005 – October 2009)
User experience researcher
Here’s an overview of some of the projects I worked on:
- Responsible for the planning, execution and business impact of eBay’s Product Health program, which is a holistic research program that drives global product strategy and resource allocation through insights from a variety of user assessments of our site experience. We utilized surveys, true-intent studies, advanced in-page analytics, site logs/web analytics, and qualitative insights.
- Managed the team that executes the program, and worked with leaders across the design, business and engineering organizations to develop product strategy based on the insights, and provide success metrics to measure the impact of product changes.
- Collaborated across functions to write and scope requirements for new products and changes to existing features, from product discovery through execution.
- Products worked on included Home Page, Search, My eBay, Registration, Seller listing page, and eBay Daily Deals.
And finally, here’s a photo of my happy place: