Season 4

|

Episode 2

Designing with a growth mindset

Kate Syuma

Past Head of Growth Design @ Miro

Dec 28, 2023

Dec 28, 2023

|

44 mins

44 mins

music by Dennis

About this Episode

Kate Syuma was the 3rd designer at Miro and went on to become the Head of Growth Design during her 6+ years at the company. This episode is a masterclass in designing for business impact. We discuss:

  • Her process for identifying the aha moment in your product

  • How Kate overcame imposter syndrome in her first year

  • Ways designers can ask better data questions

  • Insights from researching onboarding at 80+ companies

  • The importance of designing for emotion vs. solving problems

  • a lot more

If you want to learn more about Kate definitely check out Growthmates ✌️

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Lauren LoPrete

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David Hoang

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Adrien Griveau

Founding Designer @ Linear

Femke

Design Lead @ Gusto

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Deep Dives

Get our weekly breakdowns

Insights + resources from top designers πŸ‘‡

Lauren LoPrete

Director of Design Systems @ Cash App

David Hoang

VP of Marketing and Design @ Replit

Adrien Griveau

Founding Designer @ Linear

James McDonald

Designer @ Clerk

Femke

Design Lead @ Gusto

Join 10K+ designers

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Transcript chapters

How Kate landed the role at Realtime Board

For the context, I didn't have experience working on these type of SaaS. Startups, digital, like desktop work products.

I was in agency world and I wasn't happy in the agency world, to be honest, when the recruiter from real time board reached out to me first, but I also wasn't ready to join the company like real time board. I had like this imposter syndrome that I felt, no, no, no. Not now in a couple of years, maybe after I gained my cases and experience in agency world, I will be ready to join this company, but not today.

But then I don't know, something just happened over weekend and I decided to do the test home tasks. So I just did that. And then in one day and meeting with all the people in one room, because the company was quite small that time. I received the offer and it was my birthday by the way And I was just oh my god.

It's a sign that I really need to to make that step and

How Kate landed the role at Realtime Board

For the context, I didn't have experience working on these type of SaaS. Startups, digital, like desktop work products.

I was in agency world and I wasn't happy in the agency world, to be honest, when the recruiter from real time board reached out to me first, but I also wasn't ready to join the company like real time board. I had like this imposter syndrome that I felt, no, no, no. Not now in a couple of years, maybe after I gained my cases and experience in agency world, I will be ready to join this company, but not today.

But then I don't know, something just happened over weekend and I decided to do the test home tasks. So I just did that. And then in one day and meeting with all the people in one room, because the company was quite small that time. I received the offer and it was my birthday by the way And I was just oh my god.

It's a sign that I really need to to make that step and

Kate's first year at Miro

The [00:01:00] first year was very very challenging because I was also finishing university And I was like doing these things all in parallel Waking up. I don't know it's a Starting like starting at 8 finishing that and then going to work and working like it was intense However, I really loved that and I think for the first couple of months it was like the most intense learning curve, how to connect all these priorities, how to manage my time, how to provide and deliver value on something that I'm not experienced in and just admit that I'm not experienced in that and be open to receive as much feedback as I can.

So I was. Very honest with my manager that time I was very vulnerable that time and I shared like, Hey, I'm so grateful that you hired me, but I need to learn and I need your support and after 2 months, I started.

Receiving the signals that I'm working well, [00:02:00] there is trust and I'm building autonomy. And after that, I think it became easier for me. It became easier to knock the door to the leadership meetings. It just became more easy for me to become more. Active and proactive. What really helped me is that I read this book, which is called like mindset. It's about growth mindset. And, , the basic idea is that you need to say yes to more things and then figure out how to deliver on them and like prioritize. Combining different priorities in parallel, like saying yes to more stuff, all of that just became amazing for me as a learning curve.

Kate's first year at Miro

The [00:01:00] first year was very very challenging because I was also finishing university And I was like doing these things all in parallel Waking up. I don't know it's a Starting like starting at 8 finishing that and then going to work and working like it was intense However, I really loved that and I think for the first couple of months it was like the most intense learning curve, how to connect all these priorities, how to manage my time, how to provide and deliver value on something that I'm not experienced in and just admit that I'm not experienced in that and be open to receive as much feedback as I can.

So I was. Very honest with my manager that time I was very vulnerable that time and I shared like, Hey, I'm so grateful that you hired me, but I need to learn and I need your support and after 2 months, I started.

Receiving the signals that I'm working well, [00:02:00] there is trust and I'm building autonomy. And after that, I think it became easier for me. It became easier to knock the door to the leadership meetings. It just became more easy for me to become more. Active and proactive. What really helped me is that I read this book, which is called like mindset. It's about growth mindset. And, , the basic idea is that you need to say yes to more things and then figure out how to deliver on them and like prioritize. Combining different priorities in parallel, like saying yes to more stuff, all of that just became amazing for me as a learning curve.

Knocking on the door of leadership meetings

You said this phrase knocking on the door of leadership meetings, which I really like. Can you talk a little bit more about what that looked like?

I Was lucky because the culture at Realtime Board was great. It was just great. I, sometimes I didn't even have to knock the door. People just invited everyone [00:03:00] designers, engineers to leadership meetings to align on strategy, to see what is happening to have visibility to all of these things.

So I got invited a couple of times, but then I just asked to invite me regularly, or sometimes I was just. I was just looking at calendar, I saw a meeting and I asked if I can join like in the first month, to be honest, I was just sitting with my notebook, a physical one, and just taking a lot of notes.

I was writing all the words. I couldn't understand, like, what does it mean weekly active users? Oh my god this definition that definition and all of these things not actually participating actively on these meetings, but observing and collecting knowledge and then after a year or so when I already got some scope and role.

And I could speak up more about my inputs and ask more questions on these meetings. But I think the approach was like that. And I think that was [00:04:00] one of the most important things that I did in my past, because these helped me gain this business context. Not just design context or understanding how to create the product design artifacts, but also business context.

Because when you are listening to these people, when you're listening to how CEO and CPO are discussing the strategy for the next year, what is happening with the market, what is happening from the customer's standpoint, what is happening with sales. You just understand way bigger picture that can help you, you know, design better solutions in the end.

Knocking on the door of leadership meetings

You said this phrase knocking on the door of leadership meetings, which I really like. Can you talk a little bit more about what that looked like?

I Was lucky because the culture at Realtime Board was great. It was just great. I, sometimes I didn't even have to knock the door. People just invited everyone [00:03:00] designers, engineers to leadership meetings to align on strategy, to see what is happening to have visibility to all of these things.

So I got invited a couple of times, but then I just asked to invite me regularly, or sometimes I was just. I was just looking at calendar, I saw a meeting and I asked if I can join like in the first month, to be honest, I was just sitting with my notebook, a physical one, and just taking a lot of notes.

I was writing all the words. I couldn't understand, like, what does it mean weekly active users? Oh my god this definition that definition and all of these things not actually participating actively on these meetings, but observing and collecting knowledge and then after a year or so when I already got some scope and role.

And I could speak up more about my inputs and ask more questions on these meetings. But I think the approach was like that. And I think that was [00:04:00] one of the most important things that I did in my past, because these helped me gain this business context. Not just design context or understanding how to create the product design artifacts, but also business context.

Because when you are listening to these people, when you're listening to how CEO and CPO are discussing the strategy for the next year, what is happening with the market, what is happening from the customer's standpoint, what is happening with sales. You just understand way bigger picture that can help you, you know, design better solutions in the end.

Gaining confidence as a designer

What actually was happening internally to get you to the point where you felt confident speaking up and having confidence in your ideas that like they have worth. And I should put my voice out there in these situations.

tHe first moment when I felt that I'm comfortable speaking up happened after the first year. For [00:05:00] the whole year, I was absolutely terrified and anxious every time I opened my mouth and asked a question. I was shaking. I was like, absolutely not, not myself. , Because I think I, understood that , I don't have enough experience.

I don't have enough knowledge about this field. time is the best medicine for everything and just working with these people, getting used to the culture, gaining experience. This time helped me gain more experience. Just helped me became, become more comfortable and more. opinionated in my questions and my feedback and my point of view, not just asking the question for the sake of asking, you know, just, just to raise the hand and show that I'm here.

I'm active and proactive. No, I didn't like that. So just to think really what you want to get from that discussion. and it's also about trust. So I think. [00:06:00] To build trust for me, at least it takes time to build trust with anyone who I'm working with, with the team or leadership. So for me, it took a year and also because like I was balancing and combining many priorities, including my education, it just took a bit longer, I think.

And then as a leader, I tried to like actually wear myself in shoes of my direct reports and help them overcome for that a bit. So I want to make it, um, I want to make it a little bit smoother or faster. So it will not take a year to build that relationships to speak up, to be comfortable with that.

You said point of view. Which made me go back to some of the early manager conversations that I was having when I first joined Maven as a startup and my direct report was one of the co founders trans, and he made a habit of. Once a month asking me, what do you think we should do, like from a high level product vision standpoint.

And as I started to anticipate those questions, it was like forcing me to think [00:07:00] critically about product roadmap and what I think like the competitive angle could be for the company. And I maybe hadn't actually considered how valuable that was until right now, because it forced me to have that point of view, which forces me to become a better.

Designer and to have conviction about like my ideas. So it's kind of a, an interesting angle. And maybe if you're listening you're not in a situation where you're getting asked that question, ask yourself that question and force yourself to have that point of view, because yeah, you probably grew a lot from something like that.

absolutely. . And I think the role of a leader in any company is to think about how to ask these type of questions to their people. Because sometimes I also receive these questions, from our CEO and. That was actually not comfortable to receive that question because I didn't know the exact answer to these questions.

They were very thought provocative in a good way, and it really, pushes you to think in a [00:08:00] different way. it's the best learning curve. And also it helps to build trust, because if people are asking these questions, they probably trust you and they want to hear your point of view. .

Gaining confidence as a designer

What actually was happening internally to get you to the point where you felt confident speaking up and having confidence in your ideas that like they have worth. And I should put my voice out there in these situations.

tHe first moment when I felt that I'm comfortable speaking up happened after the first year. For [00:05:00] the whole year, I was absolutely terrified and anxious every time I opened my mouth and asked a question. I was shaking. I was like, absolutely not, not myself. , Because I think I, understood that , I don't have enough experience.

I don't have enough knowledge about this field. time is the best medicine for everything and just working with these people, getting used to the culture, gaining experience. This time helped me gain more experience. Just helped me became, become more comfortable and more. opinionated in my questions and my feedback and my point of view, not just asking the question for the sake of asking, you know, just, just to raise the hand and show that I'm here.

I'm active and proactive. No, I didn't like that. So just to think really what you want to get from that discussion. and it's also about trust. So I think. [00:06:00] To build trust for me, at least it takes time to build trust with anyone who I'm working with, with the team or leadership. So for me, it took a year and also because like I was balancing and combining many priorities, including my education, it just took a bit longer, I think.

And then as a leader, I tried to like actually wear myself in shoes of my direct reports and help them overcome for that a bit. So I want to make it, um, I want to make it a little bit smoother or faster. So it will not take a year to build that relationships to speak up, to be comfortable with that.

You said point of view. Which made me go back to some of the early manager conversations that I was having when I first joined Maven as a startup and my direct report was one of the co founders trans, and he made a habit of. Once a month asking me, what do you think we should do, like from a high level product vision standpoint.

And as I started to anticipate those questions, it was like forcing me to think [00:07:00] critically about product roadmap and what I think like the competitive angle could be for the company. And I maybe hadn't actually considered how valuable that was until right now, because it forced me to have that point of view, which forces me to become a better.

Designer and to have conviction about like my ideas. So it's kind of a, an interesting angle. And maybe if you're listening you're not in a situation where you're getting asked that question, ask yourself that question and force yourself to have that point of view, because yeah, you probably grew a lot from something like that.

absolutely. . And I think the role of a leader in any company is to think about how to ask these type of questions to their people. Because sometimes I also receive these questions, from our CEO and. That was actually not comfortable to receive that question because I didn't know the exact answer to these questions.

They were very thought provocative in a good way, and it really, pushes you to think in a [00:08:00] different way. it's the best learning curve. And also it helps to build trust, because if people are asking these questions, they probably trust you and they want to hear your point of view. .

Deciding between management vs. IC tracks

So let's fast forward the story a little bit, because at some point you're actually given the opportunity to transition into more of a management. Track. Can you take us to that moment and how you thought about the decision and how that impacted the rest of your journey at real time board and eventually rebranding to Miro.

After I think three years of working at Real Time Board, I was thinking what's next, what I really want to do.

I already was like lead product designer in growth covering four teams, I think, simultaneously. And for me, it was just. important and pivotal to make this decision as soon as possible. Should I go to the IC track and just deepen my expertise in product design, in craft, become like more like senior hands on specialist, or [00:09:00] I want to explore something else?

SO I think I just tried to dive deeper into my aspirations. What I really love at my day to day job. these things were like. Behavioral design. I also was very deep into user research. I really loved doing this aspect of, of my day to day work. The second part was psychology. , I started diving into that myself and I started diving into that from the user psychologist standpoint.

And then the third aspect that I was very passionate about was like this business acumen and how to combine these three things. And what can be an interesting role for that? So, for me, the design manager opportunity inside the growth team or growth stream in particular was a great combination for that, because in that role,

you can practice psychology and day to day job because you are a people manager. You talk to people, you need to understand them very well. Then you, you can also practice practices from the behavioral design [00:10:00] standpoint, because in growth, you really need to think about that deeply. And the business acumen, of course, it's like from the managerial type of the role, and also from the growth stream standpoint, And for me, this transition was also designed as an experiment. Together with my manager, we planned this. experiment for the next six months with some looking back, I would say quite ambitious goals because I had to hire the team in three months, I think.

And for the next three months I had to onboard the team and scale it further. And, you know, after three months of this experiment, I was still lead product designer. I hired. First three designers to the growth team. I was so happy. I felt like, Oh my God, I nailed that. The most complex part. Is done, I will just relax and become a design manager, but then the most interesting part just started after that and scaling [00:11:00] the team, retaining the team, educating the team. Like, you know, aligning with stakeholders, all of that just happened in the next years of my, leadership journey, but I'm very happy that I made this transition because I really think for like the next several years, I felt myself more connected to my work, connected to through people who are creating great experience.

And I think it was right for me because I, now I, I'm happy to do some hands on from, from time to time, but I think this is just not my core strength. And, you know, we need to build on top of our strengths, not on top of our weaknesses. We need to build on top of strengths and then, you know, feel, fill in the gaps in terms of weaknesses.

Deciding between management vs. IC tracks

So let's fast forward the story a little bit, because at some point you're actually given the opportunity to transition into more of a management. Track. Can you take us to that moment and how you thought about the decision and how that impacted the rest of your journey at real time board and eventually rebranding to Miro.

After I think three years of working at Real Time Board, I was thinking what's next, what I really want to do.

I already was like lead product designer in growth covering four teams, I think, simultaneously. And for me, it was just. important and pivotal to make this decision as soon as possible. Should I go to the IC track and just deepen my expertise in product design, in craft, become like more like senior hands on specialist, or [00:09:00] I want to explore something else?

SO I think I just tried to dive deeper into my aspirations. What I really love at my day to day job. these things were like. Behavioral design. I also was very deep into user research. I really loved doing this aspect of, of my day to day work. The second part was psychology. , I started diving into that myself and I started diving into that from the user psychologist standpoint.

And then the third aspect that I was very passionate about was like this business acumen and how to combine these three things. And what can be an interesting role for that? So, for me, the design manager opportunity inside the growth team or growth stream in particular was a great combination for that, because in that role,

you can practice psychology and day to day job because you are a people manager. You talk to people, you need to understand them very well. Then you, you can also practice practices from the behavioral design [00:10:00] standpoint, because in growth, you really need to think about that deeply. And the business acumen, of course, it's like from the managerial type of the role, and also from the growth stream standpoint, And for me, this transition was also designed as an experiment. Together with my manager, we planned this. experiment for the next six months with some looking back, I would say quite ambitious goals because I had to hire the team in three months, I think.

And for the next three months I had to onboard the team and scale it further. And, you know, after three months of this experiment, I was still lead product designer. I hired. First three designers to the growth team. I was so happy. I felt like, Oh my God, I nailed that. The most complex part. Is done, I will just relax and become a design manager, but then the most interesting part just started after that and scaling [00:11:00] the team, retaining the team, educating the team. Like, you know, aligning with stakeholders, all of that just happened in the next years of my, leadership journey, but I'm very happy that I made this transition because I really think for like the next several years, I felt myself more connected to my work, connected to through people who are creating great experience.

And I think it was right for me because I, now I, I'm happy to do some hands on from, from time to time, but I think this is just not my core strength. And, you know, we need to build on top of our strengths, not on top of our weaknesses. We need to build on top of strengths and then, you know, feel, fill in the gaps in terms of weaknesses.

The importance of psychology

I want to talk more about the growth design team and what that actually looked like. Really quickly though, I want to go back to something you said, which is this emphasis on [00:12:00] psychology, because I think as designers. You know, I can think of 20 different tweets that I've seen where it's talking about, well, you know, psychology is the most important thing that you have to understand as a designer.

And it's way more important than everything else. And I think years ago, I actually was self conscious about that element of my practice because I didn't know, like, do I actually understand user psychology? What does it look like to grow in this area and how does it actually impact my day to day? As a designer.

So maybe you could talk to that version of myself. Like what impact did psychology have on how you designed and what did it look like to actually grow that muscle?

I think everything started with the understanding that you really need to talk to your users a lot. And user research is the best area or field to practice that muscle and become more like learning by doing, this started with me [00:13:00] after like a couple of years in the company when I.

even had a moment when I wanted to fully transition to become a user researcher because I was doing this every day, like literally there was a year when I conducted more than 100 user interviews. And for me, it just became. Um, and you norm of thinking of working of designing, I couldn't imagine how can I do that without these conversations with people and observing how, how they use the product and the psychology behind that and like, why psychology is important If we just design through the mockups, this is not the experience. This is just the visualization of some interface. But in order to design the interface, you need to understand the user journey. In order to understand the user journey, you need to understand how user thinks about.

solving a particular problem. And in order to map out this understanding, you need to understand how user thinks about these problems and what might be the bottlenecks, , what [00:14:00] could worry user, what could create the anxiety in this flow or journey, how to prevent them from these emotions or how to shift this emotion to another emotion.

And just thinking through that lens helps you design more natural, , experiences in the end, rather than just a random mock ups. , think through flows and think through actual experiences and how to train that muscle. I think, , there is a one quite good course for that user psychology by growth.

design. I hope like the community knows that. Yeah. I was actually one of the first. early adopters of their course, four years ago, I think, when they just launched that. I think over this time they even improved that. And it's like, it's just a good foundation just to organize some patterns and some Things in your mind and just use them day to day.

There are different, Existing mental models [00:15:00] and situations. So like for example, Ikea effect This is a psychological principle that users are more used and more engaged with experience that they invested themselves and like that they contributed or created themselves, but this is interesting also in terms of, , emerging AI, because AI will do everything for us.

You just need to press the button and everything will be done. But then my question to that experience is how we can create this belonging emotional belonging to these. experiences, we need to figure out how to do that

The importance of psychology

I want to talk more about the growth design team and what that actually looked like. Really quickly though, I want to go back to something you said, which is this emphasis on [00:12:00] psychology, because I think as designers. You know, I can think of 20 different tweets that I've seen where it's talking about, well, you know, psychology is the most important thing that you have to understand as a designer.

And it's way more important than everything else. And I think years ago, I actually was self conscious about that element of my practice because I didn't know, like, do I actually understand user psychology? What does it look like to grow in this area and how does it actually impact my day to day? As a designer.

So maybe you could talk to that version of myself. Like what impact did psychology have on how you designed and what did it look like to actually grow that muscle?

I think everything started with the understanding that you really need to talk to your users a lot. And user research is the best area or field to practice that muscle and become more like learning by doing, this started with me [00:13:00] after like a couple of years in the company when I.

even had a moment when I wanted to fully transition to become a user researcher because I was doing this every day, like literally there was a year when I conducted more than 100 user interviews. And for me, it just became. Um, and you norm of thinking of working of designing, I couldn't imagine how can I do that without these conversations with people and observing how, how they use the product and the psychology behind that and like, why psychology is important If we just design through the mockups, this is not the experience. This is just the visualization of some interface. But in order to design the interface, you need to understand the user journey. In order to understand the user journey, you need to understand how user thinks about.

solving a particular problem. And in order to map out this understanding, you need to understand how user thinks about these problems and what might be the bottlenecks, , what [00:14:00] could worry user, what could create the anxiety in this flow or journey, how to prevent them from these emotions or how to shift this emotion to another emotion.

And just thinking through that lens helps you design more natural, , experiences in the end, rather than just a random mock ups. , think through flows and think through actual experiences and how to train that muscle. I think, , there is a one quite good course for that user psychology by growth.

design. I hope like the community knows that. Yeah. I was actually one of the first. early adopters of their course, four years ago, I think, when they just launched that. I think over this time they even improved that. And it's like, it's just a good foundation just to organize some patterns and some Things in your mind and just use them day to day.

There are different, Existing mental models [00:15:00] and situations. So like for example, Ikea effect This is a psychological principle that users are more used and more engaged with experience that they invested themselves and like that they contributed or created themselves, but this is interesting also in terms of, , emerging AI, because AI will do everything for us.

You just need to press the button and everything will be done. But then my question to that experience is how we can create this belonging emotional belonging to these. experiences, we need to figure out how to do that

What is unique about a growth design team

Yeah. It's interesting. Like going beyond does this solve the problem? Check yes, check no. And actually really thinking about the emotional component. I do like that as a lens for how to apply this psychology. You've now used this phrase growth design a few times, and, you know, you kind of made a career in this world. Can you give us a little bit of a sense of like, what is actually unique about a growth design team versus what we think of [00:16:00] as more of like a traditional product team?

I think it's the approach when you are optimizing for learnings rather than just experiences. And this is why you experiment a lot and this is why you need to rate a lot the growth teams are not feature based teams. These teams are focused on flows. Let's say, if this is about activation, then this team is thinking of first user experience when they sign up, , then when they have the onboarding experience and how they activate and it can be like interaction with everything inside the product.

And this team is thinking through all of these parts of the experience, not just one feature or one button or one screen inside the product. Actually today I was reading about, different approaches to product management, , from Marty Kagan. The author of empowered, inspired books and about team cultures, and he was talking about. , the teams that should be focused on something beyond features.

So product teams shouldn't be focused on features. And the thing, [00:17:00] the framework or the approach that growth teams are representing can be. The transition to something new, to a bit of different team dynamics and different team culture and different approach to building products. Because I see a lot of core teams and like traditional, as you've mentioned, traditional teams now are shifting towards this iterating, experimenting, uh, approach way more than before.

And I believe in the future, we will not have this definition or like. Separation, like growth team, core team, anybody's else team. It will be more common for more teams to, to do it through, through that lens.

What is unique about a growth design team

Yeah. It's interesting. Like going beyond does this solve the problem? Check yes, check no. And actually really thinking about the emotional component. I do like that as a lens for how to apply this psychology. You've now used this phrase growth design a few times, and, you know, you kind of made a career in this world. Can you give us a little bit of a sense of like, what is actually unique about a growth design team versus what we think of [00:16:00] as more of like a traditional product team?

I think it's the approach when you are optimizing for learnings rather than just experiences. And this is why you experiment a lot and this is why you need to rate a lot the growth teams are not feature based teams. These teams are focused on flows. Let's say, if this is about activation, then this team is thinking of first user experience when they sign up, , then when they have the onboarding experience and how they activate and it can be like interaction with everything inside the product.

And this team is thinking through all of these parts of the experience, not just one feature or one button or one screen inside the product. Actually today I was reading about, different approaches to product management, , from Marty Kagan. The author of empowered, inspired books and about team cultures, and he was talking about. , the teams that should be focused on something beyond features.

So product teams shouldn't be focused on features. And the thing, [00:17:00] the framework or the approach that growth teams are representing can be. The transition to something new, to a bit of different team dynamics and different team culture and different approach to building products. Because I see a lot of core teams and like traditional, as you've mentioned, traditional teams now are shifting towards this iterating, experimenting, uh, approach way more than before.

And I believe in the future, we will not have this definition or like. Separation, like growth team, core team, anybody's else team. It will be more common for more teams to, to do it through, through that lens.

How growth design teams operate

Can you go a little bit deeper on that? Like, what does it look like for a team to truly operate around experiments? Maybe there's even like an example that you can share.

Yeah, let's take, , a typical growth stream, uh, composition that is usually focused on the whole funnel and teams [00:18:00] inside this growth stream. Let's say they are, , decomposed as like acquisition, activation, engagement and monetization, for example, or there is one growth team that is thinking through , all of the steps of this funnel, and then let's zoom into the activation step of that journey and inside the activation step at the growth team is thinking, okay, what do we mean by activation? What does it even mean? So what is the core value of our product? What do we want to deliver? Take Canva as an example, and probably the core value of Canva as a product is to create certain, , tangible outcome for the, for creators to promote their business.

And then what is the , first value that we can give to users to just experience the product? What is this aha moment? And then we can think about what it can be. And then you just think through that concept of activation. Uh, what is the [00:19:00] setup moment? What is the aha moment? And what is habit moment?

And then you're thinking how to lead user towards each of these moments and each of these value points through the product experience. So what we should do in the first experience, what we should even show on the website, how we can position our product and our value on the website when user just.

First, so our product, then during the sign up flow, how we can guide user for the sign up flow to personalize this experience, to make sure they will experience this first minimum value, how we can make sure that user experienced this aha moment, how we will measure that, what will be the steps in the product or flows, what we should trigger users to do inside the product.

How we need to communicate to users after this first experience, what emails we could, we should send to this user and all of these things, which is like a connection of the. user experience of data, because in order to measure activation, you need to [00:20:00] define it through data. Um, then you define it first use, you build this experience.

And when you, then you start observing what is working, what is not working, where are the biggest drops are happening? So let's say our users are not even getting to set up moment. They are dropping right after signing up and they are not coming back to our product. at all. What is happening here? How we can understand that.

We go, we research, we understand that. We create a set of experiments. We create a set of experiments. We launch them. We analyze them. And we never just stop. We, we understand what works, what not. And we iterate second time, third time. We iterate as long as it takes to make it like, to move the needle. this continuous process of experimentation,

and we can talk more about that on the onboarding experience if you want,

How growth design teams operate

Can you go a little bit deeper on that? Like, what does it look like for a team to truly operate around experiments? Maybe there's even like an example that you can share.

Yeah, let's take, , a typical growth stream, uh, composition that is usually focused on the whole funnel and teams [00:18:00] inside this growth stream. Let's say they are, , decomposed as like acquisition, activation, engagement and monetization, for example, or there is one growth team that is thinking through , all of the steps of this funnel, and then let's zoom into the activation step of that journey and inside the activation step at the growth team is thinking, okay, what do we mean by activation? What does it even mean? So what is the core value of our product? What do we want to deliver? Take Canva as an example, and probably the core value of Canva as a product is to create certain, , tangible outcome for the, for creators to promote their business.

And then what is the , first value that we can give to users to just experience the product? What is this aha moment? And then we can think about what it can be. And then you just think through that concept of activation. Uh, what is the [00:19:00] setup moment? What is the aha moment? And what is habit moment?

And then you're thinking how to lead user towards each of these moments and each of these value points through the product experience. So what we should do in the first experience, what we should even show on the website, how we can position our product and our value on the website when user just.

First, so our product, then during the sign up flow, how we can guide user for the sign up flow to personalize this experience, to make sure they will experience this first minimum value, how we can make sure that user experienced this aha moment, how we will measure that, what will be the steps in the product or flows, what we should trigger users to do inside the product.

How we need to communicate to users after this first experience, what emails we could, we should send to this user and all of these things, which is like a connection of the. user experience of data, because in order to measure activation, you need to [00:20:00] define it through data. Um, then you define it first use, you build this experience.

And when you, then you start observing what is working, what is not working, where are the biggest drops are happening? So let's say our users are not even getting to set up moment. They are dropping right after signing up and they are not coming back to our product. at all. What is happening here? How we can understand that.

We go, we research, we understand that. We create a set of experiments. We create a set of experiments. We launch them. We analyze them. And we never just stop. We, we understand what works, what not. And we iterate second time, third time. We iterate as long as it takes to make it like, to move the needle. this continuous process of experimentation,

and we can talk more about that on the onboarding experience if you want,

Onboarding masterclass

yeah. I'd love to, I think that we should drill into that because you're obviously like. Researching and also thinking super [00:21:00] deeply about this. You have a bunch of experience designing different phases of onboarding at Miro. So yeah, let's go a little bit deeper and maybe you can even share a little bit from your own experience and kind of how you've approached onboarding in the past and, , different examples of like lessons that you've learned and how you've iterated off of that.

When I say user onboarding, I don't mean tutorial.

or sign up flow, or just the first session. This is a continuous journey. And a lot of companies or products still think that this is just a tool tip and tutorial checklist, bye. We need to walk user through these steps continuously inside the product.

And sometimes some complex B2B products, the moment to activate. Is not in a day or two. Sometimes like products they are more complex in terms of setup and it can take weeks.

So then what, what, how does it look like this week's experience for, for users? So this all is about user onboarding. In terms of examples, I think at [00:22:00] Mira, when, , we started working on, , user onboarding, , I was this founding designer in the growth team that time. Uh, it was great to experiment a lot and learn a lot. And one of the. Um, examples was that adding more things into this signup flow didn't help us at all.

So basically what, uh, the hypothesis that, , we had that time was that users don't see the value of the product or they don't see the product. Itself during the sign up flow what if we show a little bit of like sneak peek at the product and make it? Interactive and make it fun and make it delightful, you know What can happen then?

So the hypothesis was that Users like we believe that users Like, you know, sign up or like go through the whole sign up flow successfully because they don't see the value of the product and they are not motivated to, to do that. So this is the hypothesis. The [00:23:00] prediction or assumption was that if we show a little bit of the product.

Then users will activate more, like, uh, will convert more on this signup journey. And the reality was that users were distracted by these visuals. Users were distracted by these additional animated visuals. They tried to interact with them, but they were not interactive, you know, and then they just dropped on each step a little bit, a little bit, but they dropped.

the solution and the iteration was then actually to remove all of that and it worked way better, but it was too radical. I think if I would come back to this experience, I would like to iterate a bit more granularly on that and find the actual way to deliver or show this value somehow, but maybe make it a bit less noisy, less, interactive so users will not be overwhelmed or distracted by this, but still to somehow validate this hypothesis of showing value upfront, [00:24:00] because I think it's quite interesting, uh, direction, but it also shows that sometimes you will not have a time or chance to get back to this experiment anymore.

And, , if you've made a big, like change. then your product flow or your onboarding flow will look like that for the next several years, maybe, because the company has a lot of priorities to, to focus on. so that was one of the, , examples on the early phase. I think, , another example that, , happened later was that if you focus on big bets, and change a lot of things.

Simultaneously and run this as an experiment, it will be very hard to understand what actually happened and why it is working or why it is not working. The most important thing, what is not working? It will be very hard, but you already invested into that. and the learning from that is that first, it's important to decompose these big bets. Not, don't bet a lot on these big bets and trying to run the first [00:25:00] iteration as soon as you can with the prototype, with anything, don't invest a quarter into this development before you just validated the small version of that and don't underestimate the quick wins because the quick wins or iterations sometimes have a very big impact.

And then you can actually understand why, because it's a small shift, you literally, you can connect the dots, why it happened. So even a small personalization or like deep connection to some personalized experience was way more visible than just creating an absolutely different tutorial, absolutely different sign up flow, absolutely onboarding.

Onboarding masterclass

yeah. I'd love to, I think that we should drill into that because you're obviously like. Researching and also thinking super [00:21:00] deeply about this. You have a bunch of experience designing different phases of onboarding at Miro. So yeah, let's go a little bit deeper and maybe you can even share a little bit from your own experience and kind of how you've approached onboarding in the past and, , different examples of like lessons that you've learned and how you've iterated off of that.

When I say user onboarding, I don't mean tutorial.

or sign up flow, or just the first session. This is a continuous journey. And a lot of companies or products still think that this is just a tool tip and tutorial checklist, bye. We need to walk user through these steps continuously inside the product.

And sometimes some complex B2B products, the moment to activate. Is not in a day or two. Sometimes like products they are more complex in terms of setup and it can take weeks.

So then what, what, how does it look like this week's experience for, for users? So this all is about user onboarding. In terms of examples, I think at [00:22:00] Mira, when, , we started working on, , user onboarding, , I was this founding designer in the growth team that time. Uh, it was great to experiment a lot and learn a lot. And one of the. Um, examples was that adding more things into this signup flow didn't help us at all.

So basically what, uh, the hypothesis that, , we had that time was that users don't see the value of the product or they don't see the product. Itself during the sign up flow what if we show a little bit of like sneak peek at the product and make it? Interactive and make it fun and make it delightful, you know What can happen then?

So the hypothesis was that Users like we believe that users Like, you know, sign up or like go through the whole sign up flow successfully because they don't see the value of the product and they are not motivated to, to do that. So this is the hypothesis. The [00:23:00] prediction or assumption was that if we show a little bit of the product.

Then users will activate more, like, uh, will convert more on this signup journey. And the reality was that users were distracted by these visuals. Users were distracted by these additional animated visuals. They tried to interact with them, but they were not interactive, you know, and then they just dropped on each step a little bit, a little bit, but they dropped.

the solution and the iteration was then actually to remove all of that and it worked way better, but it was too radical. I think if I would come back to this experience, I would like to iterate a bit more granularly on that and find the actual way to deliver or show this value somehow, but maybe make it a bit less noisy, less, interactive so users will not be overwhelmed or distracted by this, but still to somehow validate this hypothesis of showing value upfront, [00:24:00] because I think it's quite interesting, uh, direction, but it also shows that sometimes you will not have a time or chance to get back to this experiment anymore.

And, , if you've made a big, like change. then your product flow or your onboarding flow will look like that for the next several years, maybe, because the company has a lot of priorities to, to focus on. so that was one of the, , examples on the early phase. I think, , another example that, , happened later was that if you focus on big bets, and change a lot of things.

Simultaneously and run this as an experiment, it will be very hard to understand what actually happened and why it is working or why it is not working. The most important thing, what is not working? It will be very hard, but you already invested into that. and the learning from that is that first, it's important to decompose these big bets. Not, don't bet a lot on these big bets and trying to run the first [00:25:00] iteration as soon as you can with the prototype, with anything, don't invest a quarter into this development before you just validated the small version of that and don't underestimate the quick wins because the quick wins or iterations sometimes have a very big impact.

And then you can actually understand why, because it's a small shift, you literally, you can connect the dots, why it happened. So even a small personalization or like deep connection to some personalized experience was way more visible than just creating an absolutely different tutorial, absolutely different sign up flow, absolutely onboarding.

Pitfalls to avoid when designing onboarding flows

You talked about the pitfall of adding too many distractions in the onboarding and like, yeah, you were like showing the product and it looked beautiful. And it did. I I've seen like a little video screen grab of it. It's beautiful onboarding. And you still saw this drop off. I'm curious, like in your research, are there other pitfalls that you see people making [00:26:00] when they design these new onboarding flows?

After I left Mira, I was also considering what might be my next, career paths and experiment with that. And as I've already mentioned, research is one of my, like, just favorite types. work. I realized now I have time and space to do my own research

so this is why together with my ex colleague, we decided to , run this research on user onboarding, , on the industry level and surveyed like more than 80 companies, and in terms of patterns, there are still problems that happened several years ago, like, as I've mentioned, treating onboarding as a first.

experience only, not thinking about this as a sequential experience. Then not investing into lifecycle communication as email communication with the user. Still not happening there. Also I think another Um, in terms of mistakes was generalizing the onboarding experience, making it the same for [00:27:00] everyone.

However, we already know that personalization is the key. Personalization is the best way to improve the activation rate. It's still difficult for companies to define how to do that. And in terms of UX patterns, I think what was also surprising for me that I, as far as I remember, more than 60 percent of companies mentioned that they are relying on step by step tooltips, and this is the method that was like used a lot of years ago.

And we know, like, in terms of user experience, users just. Tend to skip them like next, next, next, done. And this is not learned by doing approach. This is not creating this, you know, labor, illusion or Ikea effect that I was talking about investment loops. This is not about that. companies are still relying on that probably.

And I was surprised to see that because actually the mental models of the user, uh, of our users are very different and we need to provide them, Different learning materials and give them a chance to [00:28:00] choose. probably user, like the, this is my thinking, uh, right now, probably companies at early stages as well, or even at later stages, they are underestimating the importance of user onboarding and they just create something that just works, easy to build, easy to maintain, easy to modify.

And go with that and never come back to that for several years.

A keyword that keeps coming up in this conversation is activate. like, I kind of know what that means, but I also don't tangibly know how to define it if I'm working on my own product. Can you help people listening think about how to define an activated user for their product?

THe activation framework is quite popular.

Like there is the setup moment, a ha moment and habit moment. And the, , setup moment is the moment when user is just set up in the product. The a ha moment is the first moment then user is experiencing this value that you're [00:29:00] promising to deliver and the habit moment is the connection of several actions when user is experiencing this value several times. And to define these moments, it's important to start not from the first one, which is probably counterintuitive, but from the last one. , so you need to identify engaged users in your product who already created this habit and how this habit looks like. You can identify it through the, through data analysis, through retention, regression analysis, or through also understanding who are your paid customers and why they are loyal.

Like why they are paying what, what is happening there. And then you do this regression, to understand what led them to that moment. And you uncover patterns. So for example, sometimes you will uncover that in order for users to come back to the product five times. in a month, let's say, and create this amount of content and do this and that, if it's connected to your [00:30:00] monetization and retention, let's say, they do this in the beginning.

They do this sequence of steps. And then you understand through that, you just decompose, decompose, decompose, and you understand these root causes and you understand Uh, what is the aha moment then you just define it and keep it simple. So Maybe your aha moment of your product like it's just to create one piece of content for a specific use case. And for habit, it's like coming back and creating it several times. Or if it's a collaboration tool, or if it's a tool for teams, then do it collaboratively, do it together with someone.

Like, just keep it simple first, because the, with the evolution of the product, this activation will become more complex anyways. And you don't want to have it in a complex version in the beginning, it will be hard to measure, it will be hard to to play with that. But it really helps when you define these things, because from that your experimentation just becomes way [00:31:00] more conscious and way more evidence based and, you know, rational so I would really recommend to think about that at certain stage, not like at early, early, super early phase, because it's very hard. You need data, you need volume of. users to define this metrics. , but it's really worth it. Yeah.

Pitfalls to avoid when designing onboarding flows

You talked about the pitfall of adding too many distractions in the onboarding and like, yeah, you were like showing the product and it looked beautiful. And it did. I I've seen like a little video screen grab of it. It's beautiful onboarding. And you still saw this drop off. I'm curious, like in your research, are there other pitfalls that you see people making [00:26:00] when they design these new onboarding flows?

After I left Mira, I was also considering what might be my next, career paths and experiment with that. And as I've already mentioned, research is one of my, like, just favorite types. work. I realized now I have time and space to do my own research

so this is why together with my ex colleague, we decided to , run this research on user onboarding, , on the industry level and surveyed like more than 80 companies, and in terms of patterns, there are still problems that happened several years ago, like, as I've mentioned, treating onboarding as a first.

experience only, not thinking about this as a sequential experience. Then not investing into lifecycle communication as email communication with the user. Still not happening there. Also I think another Um, in terms of mistakes was generalizing the onboarding experience, making it the same for [00:27:00] everyone.

However, we already know that personalization is the key. Personalization is the best way to improve the activation rate. It's still difficult for companies to define how to do that. And in terms of UX patterns, I think what was also surprising for me that I, as far as I remember, more than 60 percent of companies mentioned that they are relying on step by step tooltips, and this is the method that was like used a lot of years ago.

And we know, like, in terms of user experience, users just. Tend to skip them like next, next, next, done. And this is not learned by doing approach. This is not creating this, you know, labor, illusion or Ikea effect that I was talking about investment loops. This is not about that. companies are still relying on that probably.

And I was surprised to see that because actually the mental models of the user, uh, of our users are very different and we need to provide them, Different learning materials and give them a chance to [00:28:00] choose. probably user, like the, this is my thinking, uh, right now, probably companies at early stages as well, or even at later stages, they are underestimating the importance of user onboarding and they just create something that just works, easy to build, easy to maintain, easy to modify.

And go with that and never come back to that for several years.

A keyword that keeps coming up in this conversation is activate. like, I kind of know what that means, but I also don't tangibly know how to define it if I'm working on my own product. Can you help people listening think about how to define an activated user for their product?

THe activation framework is quite popular.

Like there is the setup moment, a ha moment and habit moment. And the, , setup moment is the moment when user is just set up in the product. The a ha moment is the first moment then user is experiencing this value that you're [00:29:00] promising to deliver and the habit moment is the connection of several actions when user is experiencing this value several times. And to define these moments, it's important to start not from the first one, which is probably counterintuitive, but from the last one. , so you need to identify engaged users in your product who already created this habit and how this habit looks like. You can identify it through the, through data analysis, through retention, regression analysis, or through also understanding who are your paid customers and why they are loyal.

Like why they are paying what, what is happening there. And then you do this regression, to understand what led them to that moment. And you uncover patterns. So for example, sometimes you will uncover that in order for users to come back to the product five times. in a month, let's say, and create this amount of content and do this and that, if it's connected to your [00:30:00] monetization and retention, let's say, they do this in the beginning.

They do this sequence of steps. And then you understand through that, you just decompose, decompose, decompose, and you understand these root causes and you understand Uh, what is the aha moment then you just define it and keep it simple. So Maybe your aha moment of your product like it's just to create one piece of content for a specific use case. And for habit, it's like coming back and creating it several times. Or if it's a collaboration tool, or if it's a tool for teams, then do it collaboratively, do it together with someone.

Like, just keep it simple first, because the, with the evolution of the product, this activation will become more complex anyways. And you don't want to have it in a complex version in the beginning, it will be hard to measure, it will be hard to to play with that. But it really helps when you define these things, because from that your experimentation just becomes way [00:31:00] more conscious and way more evidence based and, you know, rational so I would really recommend to think about that at certain stage, not like at early, early, super early phase, because it's very hard. You need data, you need volume of. users to define this metrics. , but it's really worth it. Yeah.

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