How to Define and Deliver an A+ Product In 3 Months – Tips for Successfully Working With an External Design Firm Halfway Around the Word

After receiving feedback from our users, both startups and enterprises, we decided to give them what they requested – a bulked up prooV.

With a company mission of helping to facilitate the adoption of innovation and technology by simplifying the PoC process, and with a strong initial product backing us, we set out to improoV the PoC process even more.

The First Step

Nate VeredIn my product-mind opinion, the toughest part of any project is the first. Not only do you need to create a whole new “thing”, but you need to do it so well that you want to show it off to the world. Due to our desire of wanting to put a version 2 into the hands of our users as fast as possible, we decided to double down and collaborate with a design firm.

It was my mission to find a company that would deliver exactly what we were requesting. I started searching for consultants via LinkedIn day-in and day-out until I came upon DesignMap, a SF based firm that had experience working with B2B SAAS companies.

As 2.0 launches, I reflect on our journey and the top lessons we’ve learned in hopes that you take some things away and avoid potential mistakes yourself.

1 ) Set Boundaries

This is crucial. We learned early on that we needed to be very clear about both what we wanted, and didn’t want, in order to be as efficient as possible. Before we even put pen to paper, we got a detailed SOW (statement of work) including an executive summary, timeline, tasks, deliverables and the total price.

Knowing what you want to get out of a relationship and setting your expectations accordingly, aligns all parties and avoids any future stalls or arguments.

2) Know the Importance of Face-to-Face Time

Since time was not on our side with a 10 hour time difference between us and SF, we decided to pick up and fly to SF to meet the people responsible for the magic that it DesignMap.

Not more than a few hours after walking off the plane did we sit down for a team kick-off session in order to give an all around scope of the product and our vision. We defined team roles, spoke about deliverables and deadlines, created personas (tip- this is much easier to do if you’re familiar with your customers), and raised concerns – the start to an intense and creative-thinking filled week.

After leaving the initial meeting, we all agreed that the face-to-face interaction was essential for the two firms to work together and create a great end result. I can’t stress enough how crucial this was, as it truly planted the seeds for our future collaborative success.

3) Talk and Draw it Out

Once we had defined the tasks and goals with DesignMap, we started to work on specific user flows.

Here’s how it went down: The first step was for the interaction designer to create early whiteboard sketches, with us advising them about critical components. We needed to be very clear about what we did and didn’t want and be confident with our decisions. Next, the sketch would get reviewed and tweaked. Once it was perfect, the final draft would get sent to us for review and after a final approval, it was given to the visual designer to work it onto the page of the platform that it would appear on.

With this quick assembly-like system of talking, brainstorming and drawing (repeat), we were able to save time. By the end of the week we already had one page completed!

4) Work Around the Clock

Once we returned from our week long intensive trip (and recovered from the jet lag) we implemented a plan. For the next three weeks we had “fill in” sessions, but this time with us, the Israel based team, consisting of Product and R&D front-end members. We would review the work received from SF, which was done the day before, and every evening would have a conference call with DesignMap back in SF to discuss.

Within the product department we used Trello to define and prioritize tasks, InVision to provide high-fidelity prototypes, and most importantly, Sketch to bring our ideas to life.

With these practices, and communication tools to keep in touch with a firm half-way around the world, we created 30 specs and after just 3 months, brought 2.0 to life.

Lastly and Most Importantly

Move fast but move smart. We knew that if we didn’t move fast and deliver a WOW finished product we would let our users down. What helped us make 2.0 the great product it is, is the passion, enthusiasm and vision behind it.

Implement a great model, nourish a great culture, and most importantly, support a great team because without them, you’re nowhere.

I hope these tips help you in taking your product to 2.0 and beyond. If you went or are going through a similar process, please share your comments and/ or questions and I’d be happy to offer advice where I can.