Mobile Conversations: A Journey in Product Development
By Jeremy Wight, Engineering Manager at InVision
February 02, 2017
Sometimes you make the wrong choice and have to throw away substantial investment for the sake of a better user experience.
At InVision we have a big vision of creating the tools that are shaping the future of our world. By equipping designers, developers and makers, we are contributing to that future by providing the tools to design and develop it rapidly and collaboratively. As we continue to mature as a product, we are constantly attempting to better address our users pain, and mobile-done-right can be a key contributor to addressing the pain felt during rapid design collaboration.
This year we have begun to re-imagine our mobile experience, and what it would look like to take it from a mere prototyping sidekick to a key in the design collaboration workflow.
One of those keys, is our newest tool Conversations.
Building software is hard, and Conversations was no different. Properly addressing our users pain around mobile collaboration was not an easy process, from both a technical and product standpoint.
Sometimes, your first attempt misses the mark
We had a beta version of Conversations for several months, which, mirrored the existing Inbox and Commenting systems in our web application.
Mistake: Assuming what works on the web, will also work in mobile.
As we were initially developing, we tried to fit into mobile what appeared to be working in the web app. This seemed like a good method to quickly deliver value and a consistent experience to our users, and we executed on it quite rapidly. We were very excited when it initially launched and we had given our beta users a way to aggregate their commenting around a prototype into those threads. [Digital] High fives all around, we shipped it!
Unfortunately, we failed to step far enough back and really evaluate what the need behind the need was, and how we could best address this in the mobile context.
Our new Product Manager, Jason Lang, stepped in just before we delivered the initial beta. With his deep experience in mobile and enterprise messaging, he began to listen, question, and dig deeper into the value that we could deliver on a mobile platform. It did not take long for Jason to dig far enough before the solution became clear.
By reframing the focal point of the user interaction around the user, rather than around the prototype, we could provide a much better experience.
It sounded great from a user perspective, however at the time, this was frustrating as an engineer.
We had invested a not-trivial amount of time into the current version, and the new concept (which would become Conversations) required a lot of rework: API endpoints to deliver data in different ways, a good deal of background logic and a very different UI than before, which required new testing patterns, research, etc, etc…
Although as an engineering leader I was frustrated, as a user advocate and product developer, I realized that Jason was right. We could deliver a much better experience to our users, who we now understood better, by halting further work on the Inbox Beta and beginning the work for Conversations.
The new Conversations … Design Collaboration. Anywhere.
As a developer, whenever we realize that we can move from an experience which is sufficient, to one that will delight, even if it means sacrificing something which you have built, we have to be willing to sacrifice that time and effort to build the right thing. Although it took several more sprints of effort to get right, Conversations is a much more user-centric experience, which brings collaboration to a near real time experience.