Update May 30: They’re working on it. Scroll to bottom for more.

I caught about half of the Google I/O 2015 keynote over lunch with some of the Product team at Percolate. I’d say it was a solid set of announcements, though nothing super mind-blowing. The pick for biggest announcement is probably Brillo and Weave, an operating system and set of API’s for the Internet of Things. I’m not too familiar with the IoT world but these products could have the potential to join Chrome and Android as major product lines for Google one day if they can win the standards war.

What About Material Design?

As a company that’s really engineering-driven at its heart, user experience and aesthetics have sometimes taken a backseat in Google products in the effort to build novel and powerful applications of technology. There’s that infamous story of the frustrated designer who was asked by Marisa Mayer to test 41 different shades of blue on a design. Continue reading

When I moved to New York City a year ago, I had a plan to become a product manager in a technology firm. After interviewing for PM roles at Pivotal Labs and Meetup, I met with Noah, the CEO of Percolate. He told me that they didn’t have a PM function and but that he was looking for hackers on the marketing team.

I jumped in with two feet — producing blog posts, case studies, white papers, webinars, films, and independent research — and learned a ton about marketing enterprise software. But I continued be passionate about directly building technology products. And in 2015, I finally got my chance to do it. Continue reading


While on my Peru trip earlier this year, I read a great book  called Product Design for the Web: Principles of Designing and Releasing Products for the Web.

As one of two interaction designers who joined Etsy in 2010, Randy Hunt, now creative director, has written the book on best practices of product development for successful modern-day Internet companies. I highly recommend it.

I sat down with Randy recently to learn more about his perspective on product design. But before I jump into that conversation, here’s a brief look at some of the big ideas from the book:

Takeaways From Product Design for The Web By Randy Hunt

Note: these are not direct quotes but pretty close paraphrases

  • Great products are understandable (set expectations and live up to them) and meaningful (help people solve problems or accomplish goals) and, hopefully, delightful
  • It can be helpful to reimagine your product spec as a press release defining what the update is, who it is for and why it matters Continue reading

[well]Disclaimer: Rap Genius was in the YC S11 batch along with Ridejoy. I’m friendly with the founders but have no financial stake in this article nor many details of their future plans (besides world domination of course =D)[/well]

On Tuesday, Jan 28, 2014, Rap Genius launched their iPhone app, Genius, a project cofounder Tom Lehman called “the true launch of Rap Genius“.

Having started as an annotation platform for rap lyrics, Rap Genius has since branched into rock, poetry, and even news. Until now, they were only available on the web or via a mobile website. But a native app has been in the works for a LONG time – remember their ad for a “Mobile Czar” way back in October of 2012?

Lehman also says that 50% of Rap Genius traffic is mobile and they only expect it to grow, so Genius is basically represents their first iteration of the future of their product and company. Given how crucial this app is, I thought it’d be valuable to study the app’s design for lessons and ideas.

The Genius Design Teardown

[Click to enlarge]
[Click to enlarge]

Genius takes us through a basic set of explanation screens when you first open the app. The key feature being the reading of annotations, with three secondary features of getting lyrics and annotation of your own music library, playing the actual song of the lyrics you’re reading, and a Shazam-like music recognition feature. You’re then prompted to sign up, sign in or, if you’re reading carefully, use the app without doing either.


I think they’re right to focus on the music annotation as the primary benefit. I assume they are not only trying to satisfy their core user base, but also expand their audience, many of who might not even be aware of their core offering. The other features seem pretty neat though – we’ll see more about them in a second.

Continue reading

Innovating on the Lecture - How I Got a Crash Course on Design Thinking at DTDC

When I moved to Washington DC, one of the few people I knew was Wendi Chiong, a good friend from Stanford who is a co-organizer of a Meetup group called Design Thinking DC (DT:DC).

DT:DC’s mission is to bring together “people from business, design, technology … for radical collaboration on methodologies, practices and experiences to facilitate and deliver innovation in the world.”

Last week I got a crash course in design thinking as a participant in their 22nd Meetup: Co-Designing New Lecture and Talk Experiences

How Can We Innovate on the Lecture?

Design Thinking DC recently surpassed 1400 members, and they’re trying to figure out ways to adapt to their growing ranks. While people tend to prefer smaller events, with so many members, hosting only small group events means most people get shut out from actually attending.

So they did the brave thing and decided to apply design thinking principles to their own problem, and engage their community in solving the problem. In essentially a two-and-a-half hour session, they lead a group of ~50 people through a design challenge focused around creating better ways to engage large groups of people with DT:DC.

Setting the Scene

2013-08-14 19.06.34

We all sat down in tables of 6-12 people with design packets that we would use to work through the exercises. The event was primarily led by Dawan Stanford, who’s the lead organizer at DT:DC. He started with an overview on the history of the group and how they started with smaller, hands-on design-oriented workshops. As the group has grown, it’s become harder to only do small group events – the meetups would fill up in hours, leaving many members high and dry.

On the other hand, they didn’t want to just revert to lecture-style events that are dry and passive. So the point of this event was to use design thinking to craft a better “Large Group Experience” (LGX).

There are a lot of definitions for Design Thinking, but I’d describe it as taking a customer facing mentality and a set of creative processes toward solving key business challenges. Wendi presented a framework developed at the Stanford d.school which goes:

  • Empathize
  • Define
  • Ideate
  • Prototype
  • Test

Fortunately for us, they had prepared a lot of materials and a game plan so even if we were new to design thinking, we would still be able to jump right in. Continue reading