Mar 8, 2015

Practical Personal Happiness and Success Tips

I hope you had a great weekend!  I published a book on how to be happy and successful in your daily life.  The book isn't about tech or product management, but I wanted to share the news with you!  It is available on Amazon.

How To Be Happy: 12 Powerful Steps to Boost Your Confidence, and Live a Happier Life Now

I wrote this book for you to share tips I have applied to move forward when life seemed at a standstill. 

I will show you how to be happy with 12 powerful, yet simple actions you can take. 


book image - how to be happy
How To Be Happy by David Kim

It will be available for a FREE kindle download for the next few days, and I would love it if you downloaded free of charge and read over it.  Also, for your sign-up on BetterAndHigher.com, you'll receive a FREE audio download to Tip #8. "You Say Yes, I Say And."

And, if you like it, then would you please consider leaving me a good review (i.e. five star review) about the book?  Thank you ever so much!

Mar 5, 2015

3 Book Recommendations to Help You Earn Respect from Software Engineers

Technical Background Needed?


Companies like Google are notorious for preferring technical product managers.  (How dare they forgo your talents just because you don't have a C/S degree!)

Yet, if you look under the surface, you'll find many exceptions.  For example, take a look at Google product manager Kamila Staryga, who used to run the (now defunct) Google Helpouts.  She does not have a computer engineering background.  Her prior career background was with companies like GlaxoSmithKline and Procter & Gamble.  

Lest you think this is an exception, take a look at Serena Keith.  Serena is heads product at Lovely, a mobile apartment hunting app (acquired by RentPath).  Serena graduated college in 2008 as a social studies major.  Then, she worked a handful of jobs in non-technical roles.

So, What's Going On?


You could assume that Serena or Kamila simply relied on their industry expertise and strategic prowess.  Perhaps you're right.  Or, you could give them the benefit of the doubt.  Perhaps they really studied up on technical matters.  People like Serena worked really hard to overcome their technical deficit to earn the trust of the mobile and web engineers on their team.

I have seen this humanist-turned-technologist narrative play out first-hand with people like Shanely.  Shanley used to work at Heroku, an uber-engineer kind of place.  The engineers there told me first-hand that when they worked with Shanley, they had no idea she was not from a technical background.

Meaning, basically, you get there by taking time to learn.  Big surprise!

Take Action and Read Up!


So, this is the part you've been waiting for.  Book recommendations that closes the technical knowledge gap.  That's right, you got to earn that respect from your engineering team. There's no free lunch, my friends.

I found a few books on Leanpub that should be worth checking out.  Best of all, they have a nice satisfaction guaranty.  So, hop to it and beef up your technical library!

        

Growing Agile: A Coach's Guide - This book is a collection of our workshops that will help you run similar workshops to create agile Release Plans. 

Inceptions, Starting a Software ProjectA professional software craftsman has many tools under his belt. Many are technical in nature, but many others are considered soft skills. This book focuses on one such soft skill; The Inception Workshop.

Talking with Tech LeadsA book for Tech Leads, from Tech Leads. Discover how more than 35 Tech Leads find the delicate balance between the technical and non-technical worlds. 


Feb 9, 2015

Lending Club Borrower Accelerated Payment Teardown

Lending Club


The Lending Club is a peer-to-peer lending juggernaut. It is "the world’s largest online marketplace connecting borrowers and investors." The company recently went public (December 2014).

Earlier, I wrote about a key competitor: Prosper.com, and its 1-click borrow flow.

Scenario

Let's say you're a borrower with a $4,000, 36-month term loan on Lending Club. Your monthly payment is $130.47 (Figure 1).

Figure 1


Problem Summary


What happens if you want to pay off your loan faster, or wonder what happens if you change the monthly loan payment amount? How would you approach this problem as a product manager?

Possible Solutions


First of all, as a product manager, your job is not to do the user-interface (UI) design work.  You have design experts who would be insulted if you thought you could do their work for them.

Rather, your role as a product manager is to explain what the goal of the feature is: explain the benefit to user and to the business, and help the team understand why it's important.

That said, I don't have a designer, so by way of communicating, I'm going to share a few screenshot mockups to illustrate a few possible solutions to the problem.

When possible, you want to think in terms of common design patterns.  Be creative, but not too creative.  A common UI-pattern for changing prices is a slider (think Kayak).

Slidebar


In figure 2, I borrow Kayak's price slider to let the user perform a "What If" analysis on the summary page.

The bordered box and the fonts clarify to the user that the loan term has not changed.  This is simply a what-if calculator for informational purposes.

An alternative to leaving the UI as is, would be to make this kind of calculator a pop up, or placed on the side navigation bar (below the referral incentive, for example).


Figure 2


Payment Spinner


Perhaps another way to solve the problem and keep the UI clean would be to add a spinner to the Next Payment line.  In figure 3, you can see the up and down spinner, and next payment dollars in brown font.

It goes without saying that the amortization calculator in the backend would adjust the due date accordingly.


Figure 3


FAQ Approach


Now, I am not a Lending Club product manager, and therefore do not have a broader view of the problem and its impact.  Let's suppose I have access to customer support calls, and this happens to be a frequently asked question, and something that is not yet automated.

The best first approach to this problem might simply be to provide the user more information (it'd be worth parsing some of those customer service calls) and provide a self-serve page explaining the impact.

All you really would need is a hyperlink that answers "Can I pay more?"

In figure 4, I visualize what this could look like.  I added a red dot with question mark as a way to create a common UI pattern within LendingClub site itself.  Whenever we find a common question, we can insert it within the default screen.  It acts as a supplement to the "Common Questions" already found in the side navigation bar.


Figure 4


Stepping Back and Advocating for the User


It is the product manager's job to advocate for the user, and understand the business goals.  If the user wants to increase the monthly amount (in the slider example), it could be a signal of financial strength.  However, if the user wants to decrease the monthly payment, it could be a signal of some problem.  For the business, this presents an opportunity to deliver user delight, and at the same time mitigate business risk (for example, by providing pertinent information or options that mitigate default risk).

On the whole, I think there are other small improvements that can be made to the summary borrower screen.

For example, as a borrower, I really want to know what the overall amount of money I am paying is going to be, interest and all.  Rather than purely text-based rendering of that information, a progress-bar type of visualization could be much more effective (and would be relatively easy to implement).

And as a borrower, I might be confused to see the lenders of my loan.  Thus far, nothing in this space has shown me I have any incentive or useful interaction with the lenders.  It's a distraction, unless it were clearer to me what I am to do with that information (figure 5).

Figure 5


Testing, Revenues, Summary, etc


Let's suppose that the user actually wants to pay off the loan faster.  The first task is to work with the designers to design some possible solutions (as we did above).  Next,  we would want to consult engineering (or communicate to them) to ensure that the implementation is feasible within time or other resource constraints.  

I can say that all of the changes suggested above are mostly cosmetic, and would not take long to implement.  The thing is, you don't actually know a priori whether it is going to help or harm your business.   

Testing

You already know that I'm going to tell you you need to test.  Since the changes are relatively easy, I would opt for having multiple versions of possible solutions and running A, B, C tests in different markets and segments to see which ones perform the best.

Revenues

Moreover, for those borrowers accelerating payment, you want to convert that intent to a new call to action.  For example, "would you be interested in becoming an investor?"  Why not, you have money spare.

Here, Lending Club has a potential weakness.  Unlike on Prosper.com, on Lending Club, you need to create separate accounts to lend and to borrow.  Why?  Why can't I be both a lender and a borrower from the web product perspective (never mind the regulations for a second)?  The answer is, no reason at all!

As it is, Lending Club will need two separate email addresses from you for you to be both a borrower and an investor.

Figure 6

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If you enjoyed this product teardown, be sure to check out:

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Prosper 1 Click Quote, Not Really 1 Click

Prosper P2P Lender


According to its website, "Prosper is is America's first peer-to-peer lending marketplace, with more than 2 million members and over $2BB in funded loans."

I've been a Prosper member for years, an early adopter since the first days before other competitors popped up.  I've also been a fan of Kiva.org (a similar, yet different kind of service where the loans are made interest-free to developing world individuals), where I have made over 100 loans.

1 Click Quote


I've only used Prosper as an investor, loaning out small micro-loans to various users - most of them consolidating debt, or paying off an auto loan, or borrowing money for home improvement.  I decided to see what it would look like to become a borrower.

I loved the simplicity of the trigger from the investor summary page, prompting me to consider borrowing a loan.


Figure 1

You are teased with a low APR, and big call to action "Get Rate" button.

Now, I'm already logged in as a user ... meaning my basic info is available.  Too bad, then, when I click on Get Rate, I'm routed to this page.


Figure 2

Prompting me to provide the purpose of loan and some other basic info.  It still like the clean UI, but my problem with this is, why make me repeat the same information?  (Figure 1 and Figure 2 essentially duplicate information).  Why make me do this?  

Further disappointment then, when I am routed to the next page, where I am told "Get a Custom Rate in 1 Click."  This is my 3rd click, so I feel this is bit mismatched from meeting expectations point of view.


Figure 3

Understandably.  Many of this has to do with the regulated nature of lending and borrowing industries.  Often, the business constraints are such, that the end goal is not the most streamlined user experience (UX).  Sometimes, it makes product sense to create some friction for the user.  That said, I think there's clearly a room for improvement in conversion and user experience here.


Anybody home?


As another example of UX issues I found with Prosper.  When I go to my investor profile page, I see something like this.  This is me (figure 4).


Figure 4
 What happens when I click on the "View" hyperlink?  I get a broken link.  Page Not found (Figure 5).  Which is not bad.  The page reroutes to the summary page shortly.
Figure 5
However, look at a different Page Not Found message by another product - StackExchange.  There, you see clearly more humor.  It is a way of empathizing with the user.

"You didn't find what you were looking for?"

"We are sorry, let's see if we can at least make you smile while we help you."  That seems to be StackExchange approach (Figure 6).


Figure 6

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If you enjoyed this product teardown, you may also enjoy:
And a product teardown is intended to help you become a more effective product manager by improving your acumen.  There's a whole lot more to this profession.  Check out this book:

Take Charge Product Management: Take Charge of Your Product Management Development

Keep on building!  Good luck!