Links and articles about technology, design, and sociology. Written by Rian van der Merwe.


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 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, customer journey mapping, functional specifications at the right fidelity, designing systems to ensure great execution – see my book Making It Right: Product Management For A Startup World, or read an excerpt from it)
  • 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 and prototypes, concept development)

In short, I focus on helping teams develop their digital 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.

If you’d like to find out more or discuss working together, you can view my LinkedIn profile, or send me an email.

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:

Jive Software (October 2014 – Present)


  • Product Design Director

HealthSparq (April 2014 – September 2014)


  • Director of Product

Selected projects

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’ve been working 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:

Design Process

On the Product side we’ve been working hard on defining and delivering 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:

Story map

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

Selected projects

  • Direct Axis — contextual interviews, personas, customer journey mapping, UX strategy
  • Juniva — personas, customer journey mapping, interaction design, graphic design, front-end development (see
  • 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
  • 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:

Vumi initial

Prototype in Axure:

Vumi prototype

Persona workshop aftermath:

Persona board

Sketch for a new checkout process:

New checkout sketch

Note-taking during research:

New checkout sketch

Analysis after research:


Initial customer journey sketch:

Journey sketch

Final customer journey, on client’s office wall:

Customer journey final (December 2010 – May 2012)

I recently wrote Case study: the user experience of, one year later, in which I go over many of our accomplishments in 2011.


  • Head of Product Management
  • Head of User Experience Design

Selected projects

  • 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
  • Ongoing redesign of the entire 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:

Kalahari journey


Development process:

Kalahari PDLC


Wireframe for Checkout redesign:

Checkout wireframe

  Final Checkout redesign (produced by Visual Designers)

Checkout Visual Design (October 2009 — November 2010)


  • Product Management
  • User experience design

Selected projects

  • 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

Selected artifacts from projects

Flow diagram for redesigned bundled packages purchase flow


Yola flow chart


High-fidelity mockup for new home page (produced by Visual Designers)

Yola home page

eBay (April 2005 – October 2009)


  • User experience research
  • Product strategy

Selected projects

  • 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.

A perfect day