04 Dec The Product Prize-Fight: Our founders discuss design
As a startup, there are a lot of things to figure out. In the product design process, many questions arise in the early stages about vision, strategy, and incorporating market feedback. Today we will share some insight about how Treeveo attacks these questions.
At Treeveo, we have a tight-knit group that does a great job of working through these real-life scenarios – but it isn’t always cake and punch. At times, it can drift closer to the side of punch…and i don’t mean the party beverage.
I had a chance to sit down with our founders Jeroen Kemperman (Chief Hustler/CEO) and Paulo Martins (Product Guru/CTO) to discuss how the product design process has evolved. Here’s what they had to say.
As CEO, how do you see your role in the design of the Treeveo product?
Jeroen: My main goal is to get out of the building – if you will. The business team and I are the eyes and ears outside of the company. What I need to do is make sure what the market wants is being communicated correctly to the product team. Everyday I have clients asking about potential features for Treeveo. At that point, I have to discuss with Paulo about what actually needs to be done to solve the problem of the user – as opposed to just trying to implement every feature suggestion.
My role is also to lead the “rope-pulling” process. This is the battle between “get it out now” and “get it perfect” – striking that perfect balance can be difficult. It’s important for our sales team to be able to ping users and leads with new product feature quickly, but the quality of the feature is also crucial for the sale. What’s not my job is to make decisions about how something is to be implemented, or minimum quality of the design.
As CTO, what is your role in the design process?
Paulo: My role is to bridge the gap between the business side and the technical side. We want to have unique and relevant features, so I try to understand the real needs of the customers and the problems they are trying to solve. Someone may like coffee and toast while using our tool, but obviously we can’t implement a coffee making feature in our app. I try to ask “what value does this feature add for all Treeveo users, and does this align with our strategy?” – as opposed to taking someone’s personal opinion about every feature.
Once we know what we want to implement, we have to know how to make it an awesome. As much as I carry the weight of the technical implementation, I also have the “moral” weight about how to create the wow factor. I have to stay on top of trends in design, and cool looks that are consistent with the experience we want to create for users. On the technical side, I do most of the planning for implementation to help eliminate free-styling during the process. Letting our team know how we are going to go about it, and what to look out for when executing the code.
What‘s one major lesson you’ve learned as CEO while working through the design phases for Treeveo?
Jeroen: Things are much more evolved than when I coded the core 2 years ago. Most of the time you can’t just copy & paste code and make it work. Some things that I think can be done quickly, actually take quite a long time. So I’ve really developed a respect for the entire design process. The type of dynamics, formatting, and animation you create are important – not just adding a button in every free space. The process is involved. And because of that, I have had to create a filter between what I hear from clients, and what I pass along to Paulo for design.
What advice would you have for people who work on the the front-end of design, but don’t understand the back end?
Paulo: The problem is not developing things, because over time it can always be done. There is always a solution to make it better, faster and more efficient. But it’s not always something that we can drop what we’re doing and work on. There is a design and implementation process that has to take place in order to create great features. And you have to believe what the technician is telling you about how long the work is going to take.
Working with someone you trust is the most important thing. It’s healthy to question and understand why something may take more or less time, but as long as the team is aligned, each person should own their domain and be responsible for it.
What advice would you have for a startup whose CEO is not a technician?
Jeroen: I say it all the time. Every startup CEO should learn how to code a little bit. Besides being able to build a website or a prototype, you need to know enough to understand the struggle – staying up until 4am to style a web page or trying to build an algorithm. In the same way, the developer should jump in on a sales call from time to time.
You have to accept that some things on the technical side are different than you think they are or you want them to be. You have to trust that the product guy feels the same weight on his side as you do when pitching to a potential client.
To learn more about Treeveo, visit Treeveo.com.