UX Follow-Through

Marketo Retrospective Part 2
As part of a series, I am doing retrospective lessons from my 9 years at Marketo. The time was filled with good and bad and everything in between. Looking back is the best way to learn and do better in the future. This time, I am looking at UX follow-through.

UX Follow-Through
In the beginning, I designed the Marketo Smart List and said, “It is good.” Well, that’s not true. It actually sucked at first. People don’t remember how buggy it was in 2007/2008. Also, the interface lacked much of the elegance it has today. The reality is that the current Smart List is version 6. Paul Abrams and I worked hard to polish it and rework it until it was just right. We had good UX follow-through. We didn’t just stick with version 1 and the effort paid off. People today love the Smart List.

Unfortunately, most of the other features of Marketo did not get the same benefit.  The story explaining why that was the case is basically the same for each feature. Here is one example: Workspaces.

Marketo Workspaces were designed while I was gone in 2010, but I inherited it once I got back. Once you inherit something, you need to own it as much as if you built it yourself. In this case, the lack of a central “HQ Workspace” made it nearly impossible to manage shared assets amongst the different workspace groups. It was pretty obvious at the time that this was a miss and needed refinement and features. However, what happened was the the “powers that be” decided NOT to follow-through with the feature. They cut it short and released the (unfinished) feature, never to be worked on again. My efforts to keep going on the feature were fruitless. I was disappointed and not proud of the feature, but I couldn’t do anything to prioritize fixing it.

One might say that I should have designed the feature perfectly the first time, but this just isn’t the way the world works. No one (to my knowledge) designs things perfectly the first time. Great products require some revolution AND some evolution. This is a key lesson learned and something I would do differently the next time around.

Other features that had UX or features stripped out and were hardly improved after the initial release. Marketo features without the UX follow-through include:

  • Revenue Modeler
  • Operational Reports
  • Social Widgets
  • Programs
  • Calendar
  • RCE
  • All the Analyzers
  • Import Library

This isn’t to say the features are worthless, far from it. Rather, this is about following through on a half-created great idea. Those features were great, but needed more effort. They needed time to evolve.

One technique is to ban all time-boxing in the product development. Release the feature when its finished, not when the due date is up. It is true that engineers and designers might fiddle with things for a while, but maybe they are doing important fiddling. Let the designers and engineers figure out when they are done. Focusing too hard on a date will force everyone into thinking about cutting corners rather than delivering a lovable product.

The good news is that so few products have follow-through. It means you can be really great in comparison. Just remember, people don’t care how hard it is for you or when you launched it. They care how it makes them feel. Focus on that and you have a much better chance to succeed.

Whatya think?