Lessons from Building a Consumer Product

Your product is not just the UI.

I recently had the opportunity to help build and launch a consumer-facing product: Clio for Clients.

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Your product goes beyond the UI

I came across this tweet while in the development process, and it really shaped my philosophy on building for a completely new type of user:

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  • Why are they relevant to me?
  • What do I do now?
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Messaging

Imagine receiving an email from a company you don’t recognize. Put yourself in the recipient’s shoes: Does your copy speak to them? Does it convey the answers to those who/what/why questions? Is it filled with complex customer-facing jargon, or does it use simple, consumer-friendly language?

Copy

While copy is similar to messaging, I view them as distinct. Messaging is about conveying your positioning and value propositions, while copy is about establishing trust and comfort with your users. (Imagery also plays a big part in this.)

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Channels

By channels, I’m referring to the avenues and spaces through which the following actions take place:

  • Signup (what is required? What can come later?)
  • Onboarding & setup (how do you set the user up for success?)
  • Settings (how can users customize the product to their liking?)
  • Login (how will subsequent attempts to access the product work?)
  • Support (what if users get stuck on something? How can they get assistance?)
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Features

When scoping the feature set for a consumer product, there’s two things to keep in mind:

What is the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) you can ship to your users?

When building out this new client portal, there was a long laundry list of features we originally thought of, and that we could’ve deemed must-have for launch. But, we didn’t want to delay getting value out the door to customers, nor did we want to go too far down a path without getting enough validation & feedback that they were valuable for customers.

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How are consumers’ needs different than your customers’?

When we started out, we initially assumed the functionality of the documents and messaging features for our consumer-facing app could be similar — if not identical — to the app we’d built for our customers. Because we assumed their needs were similar.

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  • Always be improving your copy, and test it with your target segment.
  • Building a product is about the end-to-end experience, not just the UI.
  • Don’t lean into existing functionality; approach discovery with a fresh set of eyes, to define the optimal user value.

Written by

Product @GoClio. Ex: @Thumbtack, @DoMeetings.

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