I met the founders of Notion, after giving a talk on making smart home products more human at Refresh Denver. I met Ryan again as a Senior UX Designer at Slice of Lime when Notion was a part of the TechStars 2014 program. Slice of Lime was as part of TechStarts mentorship program and it was a natural fit that I became their mentor. In 2015, a co-worker became Notion’s Design Director and after his departure later that year, I was approached by Notion and became their temporary Design Director, on a part-time freelance basis, to support their design needs.
With a successful Kickstarter campaign underway and hundreds of customers already using Notion, a wealth of analytics, feedback, and suggestions were coming in. The feedback provided useful information on software bugs and suggestions for features outside the capabilities of the product. However, the analytics showed people were getting stuck during installation and setup; two key areas to make Notion’s home monitoring system work but the analytics didn’t tell us why.
With a balanced team representing software architecture, Android and iOS leads, and marketing I facilitated a Research Planning Workshop to uncover why people were getting stuck. The workshop reveled three areas of exploration:
- the out of box experience (OOBE)
- the installation and pairing of the Notion bridge
- the adding of sensors and tasks
A formal research plan was created in order to document and provide a repeatable research process for the team’s future efforts and included contextual research and usability testing with six participants in the Denver area. We did this to understand peoples pain-points around the first-time opening the Notion packaging or OOBE, the account creation process and the product and app setup process. Within a week, 6 participants were recruited and a few days later the research began.
As a researcher in the field, it’s difficult to go alone. For the six sessions, a different member of the team accompanied me to help document the sessions, provide technical support and provide a secondary interpretation of each session. More importantly, each member was from a different area of the Notion team; architecture, software dev and marketing. The experience they gained was invaluable in helping build empathy and understanding with the people they are building Notion for.
The wealth of information collected provided the Notion team with clear and actionable design insights for their packaging and iOS app. The research also provided them with a set of validated assumptions and answers to their questions allowing them to confidently adjust and move forward with their product launch road map.
Coming in as a designer and taking over where another left off doesn’t come without it’s challenges. Respecting what was created before you helps reduces those challenges and allows you to focus on making was created better. With actionable design insights in hand, I was able to
- evolve the OOBE
- streamline the installation and pairing process
- simplify the flow for adding sensors
- make hardware recommendations that would allow for easier installation and use of Notion systems
Over the next 10 months, following our road map, the team and I designed and implemented new features in two week sprints for the iOS and Android native apps.
I also continued to evolve marketing website and continue to represent and evolve the Notion brand through tertiary online and offline marketing and branding efforts.