What is your product like?

One way to look at design: anything which produces a meaningful influence on human behavior.

I am always keen to know about small things which change people’s behavior. So recently, I came across this story from AirBnB:

As part of the onboarding process at Airbnb, the company encourages new employees to ship new features on their first day at the company. It earns them their sea legs and shows that great ideas can come from anywhere. This approach yields results in unexpected ways. For example, one Airbnb designer was assigned what seemed like the small task of reevaluating the “star” function. In the original Airbnb product, users could ‘star’ properties to add them to a wish list — a basic feature. Gebbia recounts the story:

“Our new designer comes back and says I have it. I go what do you mean you have it? You only spent the day on it. He goes, well, I think the stars are the kinds of things you see in utility-driven experiences. He explained our service is so aspirational. Why don’t we tap into that? He goes I’m going to change that to a heart. I go, wow, okay. It’s interesting, and we can ship it so we did. When we ship it, we put code in it so we can track it and see how behavior changed.”

The change from stars to hearts changed what it meant to rate something on Airbnb.

And of course it showed in the numbers. According to the article, the engagement grew by 30 percent.

Many times we think of solving problems in a big-bang way, there is flood of ideas on the web and it’s easy to get carried away with the barrage. But I doubt that someone will get a really new idea by looking at google, or even brainstorming with the team.

In such cases, might help to think about ‘what does it mean?’. And as creators, ‘what is the meaning we want to offer?’, or even ‘what is it like?’

While these questions sound a bit philosophical, they are just another ways of asking ‘why’.

And this is more about courage than knowledge. You might draw blank stares from people if you ask these questions. I have.

But this is a powerful way to reach the right ideas.

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