Description: Create a brand new product to help customers orchestrate their outbound communication.
Goal: Better serve a key use case, prevent churn, increase adoption and close a competitive gap.
Role: Senior Product Designer
(Responsible for leading the project end to end: from digging into each facet of the experience to orchestrating the work of other designers)
If you are curious to learn more about this project, feel free to check out the blog post I wrote about it.
Otherwise, here's a quick summary.
Realizing the problem
Businesses commonly need to send more than one message when driving their customers towards a specific goal along their customer journey.
Back in 2016 we released Smart Campaigns, which tried to help with this need of orchestrating multiple messages.
We took a very opinionated approach with it, putting simplicity at its core and hiding the underlying logic of the customer flow. Customers could just craft each message, put them into a campaign and relax, as we’d automatically determine how to send those messages to the right person at the right time.
This approach resonated with a number of customers. But with time, we found out that for many others, instead of making things easier, it made them more complicated – we had hidden too much of the logic behind the flow of messages.
When describing the process of creating their campaigns, many customers mentioned that they start by planning out their orchestration visually in digital tools or on a physical whiteboard.
Some of the visualisations our customers shared with us
This visual approach would give them confidence in how the orchestration should work, but afterwards they had to spend painstaking hours trying to “translate” those visual flows back into a non-visual Smart Campaign.
Customers were getting lost in implicit logic and struggling to understand their orchestration, which led to problems with adoption and churn. We knew something had to be done.
Learning and understanding
In order to “unbias” our understanding of the problem, we decided to take in a lots of diverse inputs to guide our thinking:
Had we chosen instead to only rely on our own thinking or only on the inputs from our existing customers, we would likely fail to understand why some people churned and why others decided to not even consider Intercom for their orchestration needs in the first place.
Creating a North Star vision of the project
In parallel, we started to disambiguate the vision behind this product: what's the opportunity, how it would roughly work and how it would fit into overall Intercom system.
During the work on the North Star, we've made a number of assumptions, so we deliberately set time to test them before making any decisions.
After playing with a few Principle and Marvel prototypes, we realized that for customers to be able to provide proper feedback something more “real” was needed.
So we partnered with Eoin Nolan, a principal engineer on our team, to build a throwaway prototype of Series and later test it with dozens of customers from different segments.
As a result, we managed to discover dozens of use cases, needs, and confusions we hadn’t previously considered.
Finalizing customer needs and establishing constraints
Based on all of those learnings, we took time to understand the needs we should cater for and the foundational guidelines that will govern how we’ll build series, how teammates will use them, and how series will function consistently and predictably everywhere.
These constraints were limited to the hard choices we had to make that would've been expensive or impossible to change later on and ensured that the design, product and engineering were fully in sync.
Finally, having done all of the things above, we moved to exploring all the gnarly system, UX, interaction and visual design problems.
Finally, after a number of learnings and iterations during the beta, we've released Series to everyone in the middle of September 2020.
Here're some of its key screens and interactions:
We're still waiting to see how Series impacted its key metrics, but the early feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.