Cocreating a product vision

SEEK is the largest online employment marketplace in Australia.

With size comes complexity, and SEEK's numerous product teams were finding it difficult to visualise how their individual efforts would come together to create a superior experience for our users.

The challenge

At any one time, SEEK has dozens of projects running in parallel, either building new products or improving existing ones.

In this cycle of continuous improvement and tactical product development, it is easy to lose track of the bigger picture. It becomes hard to see how all the products will fit together and where the company is going to be in two, three or five years time.

Mockups – the obvious choice

Whenever we started discussions on how to articulate our product vision, inevitably someone would say 'why don't we just mock up what it could look like?'.

I've attempted this approach before and know that there are many problems with it – I will name just three of the biggest ones:

So what's the alternative?

Before settling on how to articulate the vision, I decided to find out what the team understood the purpose of a product vision to be, and what they wanted to get out of it. I surveyed around 30 people from the teams whose products would be affected.

Defining the deliverables

The resulting definition of the vision purpose guided the proposal for how to articulate the vision.

The process | journey mapping

Coming up with the above deliverables as a team was by far the most important artefact of the whole process. Over the course of three monhts, I engaged the entire Advertiser stream at SEEK (around 100 people), including designers, developers, testers and everyone else involved in delivering the products.

Step 1. review existing research

The first step was to review all the relevant user research performed over the last three years, and identify pain points and opportunities we could use as a starting point for journey mapping.

Step 2. user journey mapping workshops

Prior to the workshops, I defined the format of the journey map we wanted to walk away with.

The proposed journey map format

The workshops were tightly timed, as I had to run nine of them, with around ten people in each.

Creating the journey map together

At the end of each workshop, we had a large amount of information that had to be synthesised into something that could be shared with the wider team.

Journey map workshop output

Step 3. creating detailed journey maps

Based on the output of the workshops, I created three detailed journey maps, each covering a different user segment.

The format I came up with covered pain points, opportunities, products and aspirational touch points.

Detailed journey map (deliberately blurry due to commercially sensitve nature of the content)

Each touch-point described how the user would interact with SEEK and contained a progress bar indicating how well we belived we understood the problem space as well as a reference to a wireframe, if relevant.

Journey map touch point

Step 4. creating wireframes

During the workshops, we identified touchpoints where we belived it would be valuable to see more detail. For these touchpoints, I came up with high level wireframes to illustrate how they might play out.

It was important to keep these at a high enough level to reflect the uncertainty we had around them, while providing enough detail for them to be useful.

Wireframes to support touch points on the journey map

Step 5. review journey maps and wireframes

I had a lot of stakeholders to review the journey maps with, so I organised another round of workshops to do that. Once I collected and analysed all the feedback, it was a matter of updating the journey maps and wireframes and sharing the final output with the teams.

Collecting feedback on draft journey maps

The process | vision video

The journey maps and wireframes were great at communicating detail of what we wanted to achive, but they required some time and effort to consume. To make it easier to share the vision with broader SEEK teams, we decided to experiment with creating a video that communicates what it's going to be like to use SEEK in two to three years time.

Step 1. mapping out the narrative

First, we mapped out a story we wanted to create the video for.

Mapping out the video storyline

Step 2. draw storyboard images

I'm lucky to work with a designer who is amazing at creating illustrations – he created an illustration for each scene, which we then touched up in Photoshop.

My colleague Scott working on storyboard images
Some of the scenes

Step 3. produce video

I imported the storyboard images into Adobe Premier Pro, added captions, animation, voicover and music and produced the final video.

You can see a short part of the video below to get a sense of what I produced. I am not able to share the entire video publicly due to the commercially sensitive nature of the content.

The process | validation research

The final step in articulating the product vision was to validate the concepts we came up with, with real users. To do so, I conducted several contextual user interviews. As a result, we identified parts of the product vision where we needed to do more research into actual user needs, before building those products.

The outcome

The key achievement was getting the broader team to think about and get actively involved in the process of shaping what the future of SEEK products looks like. That was a resounding success!

Secondly, this was the first time we could all see the complexity of our product ecosystem in one place, and understand how the different product fit together and how they depend upon each other.

Vision without execution is halucination

In reality, the competitive landscape, the technology and priorities all change. I don't expect us to implement all of the aspects of the product vision we came up with, but I do believe we will execute parts of it (we have already started!). More importantly, we've put mechanisms in place to ensure that the vision artefacts keep getting updated as our circumstances change.