Scott Belsky on Crafting the First Mile of a Product

This is a really great interview with Scott Belsky, cofounder of Behance, over on Design.blog. He hits on the “first mile” of a product—the initial interaction a user might have and why it’s so important:

A failed first mile cripples a new product right out of the gate. Your product may get lots of downloads or signups, but very few customers get on-boarded and primed to the point where they know three things: (1) why they’re there, (2) what they can accomplish, (3) and what to do next (note: users don’t need to know how to use your product at the beginning, they just need to know what to do next!). Once a new user knows these three things, they have reached “The Zone.” Fantastic businesses are built when the majority of users that express interest in a product are able to get on-boarded and into The Zone.

If you’re not following Design.blog just yet, I would recommend doing so. The team behind it at Automattic is creating some really awesome content.

Pairs well with: How to Power User Onboarding with Small Wins

Tips for Effective 1-1’s

I’ve been really digging the information that Lighthouse has been putting out on their blog and the discussions they’ve started on their Twitter account. Recently, they posted this piece on having effective 1-1 meetings with your manager.

Regular 1-1’s are incredibly important, but far too often, I think they’re scheduled out of necessity (“I guess we have to do it”). Instead, they should be something you look forward to in your week, a discussion about career goals, team dynamics, and big picture items.

Regardless of whether you lead a team, I would recommend giving this a read and implementing the various points. One thing I’ve recently tried to implement—avoiding status updates:

When a manager or team member says they don’t see the value of 1 on 1 meetings, it’s a virtual certainty they spend most of the meeting talking about projects and status updates. That’s a huge waste.

Hungry for more? Here’s how I run 1-1’s.

Shawn Blanc on Content Strategy

First and foremost: your content strategy should be focused on serving your audience.

Does your content strategy have only the best in mind for your audience?

Consider if your content strategy does the following…?

  1. Does it provide value at all times…?
  2. Is it relevant at the readers’ time of need…?
  3. Does it serve your business goals…?

Shawn Blanc has been making a living from his blog and various products for the past five years. He recently put out a three-part series on content strategy that is worth a read if you’re serious about making a living from your writing (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3). Shawn draws from real expertise built up over years of doing the work.

I wasted 4 years of my life doing this

The traditional model of university education is broken. You jam four years of knowledge into your head and hope you can retrieve it later when you need it. (Even worse, it will cost you at least $40,000 by the time you’re done).

There’s a better way.

Instead of getting a big education and trying to build a big product, it’s better to get a small education and launch something small.

Justin Jackson in his piece on Medium, which was a really solid read detailing his background in marketing. He just launched a course Marketing for Developers that’s now available.

Marketing involves far more than running social media ads and Buffer-ing a stream of tweets. It involves psychology, pricing, landing pages, etc. If you’re interested in learning more about these things, Justin seems to be figuring it out.

The Problem with “Constructive Feedback”

It’s hard to sound or be humble when saying, “I’ve got some constructive feedback for you.” This sounds like you’re saying that you know a truth that the other person doesn’t know, and you’re going to tell them this truth. It’s sort of like saying, “You have a problem, I’m going to tell you what it is, and you’re going to fix it. And moreover, you’re gonna like fixing it.”

Kim Scott writes about the problems with “Constructive Feedback.” (h/t Simon).

If you’re looking for a follow-up read, this piece about giving high performers feedback has been helpful.

Does that matter?

A screenshot of the header to Fried's blog post "Does that matter?"

Jason Fried, founder and CEO of Basecamp, published a great piece on Signal vs. Noise that I just stumbled upon thanks to Twitter.

Being able to see what matters, to know what’s worth doing is an instinct you can hone, a skill you can build. I’d consider it a top requirement for anyone tasked with making key decisions.

I would expand that to say it’s a top requirement for anyone. Making key decisions about what to work on is something we all face.

I’ve had the same conversation a few times now with new Happiness Engineers that start at Automattic. When they first join the company, they’re obviously excited and ready to make a big impact. They dive right in to every project they find helping out here and helping out there.

For a short time, the juggling act works, and everything is sustainable. Over time, the foundation starts to crumble, and they become overwhelmed, forced to take things off their plate to maintain some sense of sanity.

I know this feeling all too well because it happened to me.

Continue reading “Does that matter?”

How do you push people without killing morale?

I recently read a piece by Christian Bonilla over on Smart Like How about pushing people without killing morale. I particularly enjoyed this bit about energy and enthusiasm as a bank:

Think of the energy and enthusiasm of your team as a bank with high interest rates. When you borrow from the energy bank, it takes time to pay off that loan. You have to let reserves build back up. Borrow too much or for dumb reasons, and the bank will cut you off.

The whole article is worth a read. Christian emphasizes another piece that I think might even be understated.

The goal is to make the person understand the need so that they take ownership of the assignment and get it done. If you have to force someone, that means they’ve refused to take ownership and you’ve got a potentially toxic situation on your hands.

The best leaders do three things really well:

  1. Set a standard of excellence on the team that drives everyone forward.
  2. Describe what the future should/could look like.
  3. Provide frameworks and tools so that team members can self-evaluate their progress.

If you have all three things in place, you’ll rarely have to force anyone to do anything. If you have to “pull rank” (to quote the article), look back through the list above. I would bet at least one of the three items wasn’t detailed enough.

NFL and the American Cancer Society

In fact, the NFL’s claim of 100 percent proceeds from auction and 100 percent proceeds from retail has translated to an average of just $1.1 million every year since they partnered with ACS six years ago. That’s less than .01 percent of the approximately $10 billion the league made in revenue last year.

Really interesting/eye-opening article on Vice about the NFL pink campaign meant to raise awareness for breast cancer.

(H/T Next Draft which I discovered through Matt)

Buy Experiences, Not Things

Essentially, when you can’t live in a moment, they say, it’s best to live in anticipation of an experience. Experiential purchases like trips, concerts, movies, et cetera, tend to trump material purchases because the utility of buying anything really starts accruing before you buy it.

Fantastic piece on the Atlantic regarding spending money and happiness. Meshes well with some of my thoughts on spending money.

(H/T Diego)

Living a Meaningful Life

James Clear on living a meaningful life:

There are people who make each day a work of art by the way they do their work. There are unsung teachers who shift the minds of children, garbage men who keep society running smoothly, grocery store clerks who bring a smile to the face of people in the checkout line, and unknown artists who create beauty for a handful of fans. It’s not about what you do, it’s about how you do it.

If you’re looking for an inspiring writer to follow, I would highly recommend James. Few people have perfected the right blend of psychology, science, and story-telling like he has.