Writing for Intercom, a selection

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Making things people want

July 11th 2018, in Product & Design

The problems people encounter in their lives rarely change from generation to generation. The products they hire to solve these problems change all the time.

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How to make product improvements

June 8th 2018, in Product & Design

Kaizen is the philosophy of continuous improvement. Web businesses searching for product market fit think they can follow this philosophy just by shipping code.

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Ingredients to build a product first company

November 29th 2017, in Product & Design

Sales first, marketing first, technology first. There’s lots of ways to build a company. Today we’re in an era of product first companies, and because of this lots has changed.

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Harvesting the low hanging fruit of user onboarding

August 10th 2017, in Product & Design

Startups are knee deep in customer acquisition metrics. Click through rates, cost per click, cost per lead, conversion rate, cost per acquisition, and more.

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A simple improvement to product announcements

March 24th 2017, in Product & Design

Sending product announcements without considering your audience is like writing a love letter and then addressing it “to whom it may concern”.

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What voice UI is good for (and what it isn’t)

March 22nd 2017, in Product & Design

Voice is either a genius technology whose time has finally come, or the most overhyped waste of time we’ve seen since bots, blockchain, or winding back the clock, gamification.

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Your product is already obsolete

November 21st 2016, in Product & Design

The relentless march of technological improvement means that by their very nature technology businesses fail.

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Why your product is already obsolete

October 26th 2016, in Growth and Product & Design

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Not all good products make good businesses

August 15th 2016, in Product & Design

We like to believe that if you solve a real problem with a good product, a successful software business is magically created. That’s never guaranteed.

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The first rule of prioritization: No snacking

June 6th 2016, in Product & Design

The best lessons in business come in plain English and speak uncomfortable truths. One such example is something we learned from Hunter Walk.

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New book: Intercom on Jobs-to-be-Done

May 4th 2016, in Product & Design

Today we launched our fourth book, Intercom on Jobs-to-be-Done.

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Lessons learned in growing a product

April 13rd 2016, in Product & Design

From the moment your beta app lands on Product Hunt you’ll ask yourself what way it should grow.

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The when and where of product feedback

March 22nd 2016, in Product & Design

Most product feedback is categorized by what was said, and occasionally who said it.

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Two product principles often forgotten

October 9th 2015, in Product & Design

In the 7th century, Archilochus wrote ”The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” A simple quote with a deceptively deep meaning.

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The only competitor that matters

August 11th 2015, in Product & Design

A clichéd piece of advice is to ignore your competitors. It’s universally agreed on, yet ask any founder how their competitors are doing and you’ll see it’s almost universally ignored. They’ll fly through a list of players providing commentary quicker than a sports announcer.

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How to sunset a feature

April 23rd 2015, in Product & Design

If you’re not making mistakes then you’re not making anything. Some features will be a win from day one, some need a few tweaks, some need a few weeks, but some just Don’t Work Out As Planned.

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Our new book: Intercom on Product Management

February 12th 2015, in Product & Design

We’ve published a lot of articles on product management over the past two years. Rather than leave them in our archives, we’ve updated them, expanded upon them, and consolidated them into our first book. We think you’ll like it.

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Meaningful growth vs metric manipulation

January 7th 2015, in Product & Design

What gets measured gets done, no matter the cost. But there is a genuine danger in reducing product onboarding and design to an exercise in metric manipulation.

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Designing our new blog

December 1st 2014, in Product & Design

Earlier this year we began investing in our blog, by hiring a full time editor and deliberately increasing our publishing frequency. Today marks another step with the launch of a brand new design for Inside Intercom.

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5 mistakes we all make with product feedback

November 11th 2014, in Product & Design

It rarely makes sense to take product feedback from all users and it never makes sense to get it all at once.

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This is not a map

October 16th 2014, in Product & Design

Customers will always surprise you with the creative ways they use your product. It’s not deliberate on their behalf though. They’re just adapting your product to their needs.

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The thickness of napkins

October 7th 2014, in Product & Design

What does a napkin tell you about a restaurant? Quite a lot, surprisingly.

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Before you plan your product roadmap

October 2nd 2014, in Product & Design

Are all your users using all the features in your product? Of course they’re not. Let’s talk about that.

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Rarely say yes to feature requests

August 27th 2014, in Product & Design

Here’s a simple set of Yes/No questions that you can quickly answer before you add another item to your product roadmap.

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Start with a cupcake

July 24th 2014, in Product & Design

The quicker you can get feedback on what you’re thinking the better your idea will be. Usage is oxygen for ideas.

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On magical software…

July 2nd 2014, in Product & Design

Software is most impressive when it gives you things for free. When just a simple few taps or clicks delivers instant value you’re in awe. It’s magical. And then you come to expect it.

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Where does your product suck? Where does it matter?

May 14th 2014, in Product & Design

A product roadmap is built out of hard decisions. The bugs you must fix will fight with the features you must finish, the features your customers want will compete with the ones they need.

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Four Things I Wish Every Chart Did

March 31st 2014, in Product & Design

Analytics tools are great for collecting data that’s easy to measure, and visualising it in beautiful charts. Sadly, this usually leaves you with more questions than answers.

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Some things can’t be wireframed

February 26th 2014, in Product & Design

Research and analysis help show you the workflows, usability principles ensure it’s clear and intuitive, but how do you get to delightful? You’re on your own there.

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Why New Features Usually Flop

January 13rd 2014, in Product & Design

Launching a successful feature demands the same skills as launching a successful product. The difference is that you also have to navigate around all of your legacy decisions, and appease current customers too. It’s tricky.

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How to Educate & Persuade Customers

October 23rd 2013, in Product & Design and Support

The most effective messages we see in Intercom either educate or persuade customers. Let’s talk about why they work.

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Why Microsoft needs a new focus

September 3rd 2013, in Product & Design

For Microsoft to survive the gravitational pull of enterprise irrelevance, a lot of things need to change. Starting with focus.

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Make Every Word Matter

August 27th 2013, in Product & Design

The same companies who produce lengthy, hard-to-read press releases create bloated, hard-to-understand products. It’s no coincidence; it’s all connected.

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An Interview with Andy Budd

August 2nd 2013, in Product & Design

We talked to Andy Budd about the role of design in startups, the difference between designers and stylists, and the danger of chasing MVPs. Andy gave a fascinating interview packed with insight and experience.

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Analyzing Abandonment in Your Product

July 25th 2013, in Product & Design and Support

Conversion rates and usage patterns will cause you many a sleepless night. Your team deploys a new feature or flow, posts the announcement, then sits back and waits for glory. Instead, you get nothing.

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What Does Feature Creep Look Like?

July 11th 2013, in Product & Design

When you think about feature creep and bloated products what comes to mind? Endless tabs, toolbars, settings, and preferences, right?

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Product strategy means saying no

July 3rd 2013, in Product & Design

If you’re building a product, you have to be great at saying no. Not “maybe” or “later”. The only word is no.

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There are no small changes

June 24th 2013, in Product & Design

“We want to limit the length of a review in the product to 140 characters, because we may want to use SMS at some stage. That’s a small change, right?”

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Why being first doesn’t matter

May 31st 2013, in Product & Design

Any startup founder knows the pressure of launching first. The belief is that if your competitor beats you to market, untold riches await them… while your company is now a dead duck.

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Effective messaging: say the right thing at the right time

March 1st 2013, in Product & Design and Support

Communicating with a large user base is damn hard. Every product owner knows this.

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If it’s important, don’t hack it

February 11th 2013, in Product & Design

Growth hacking is a dirty world. Scraping websites and spamming activity feeds grows a business in the same way anorexia solves weight problems, swapping sustainable solutions with short term kludges.

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Are you being Clear, or Clever?

January 15th 2013, in Product & Design

Situation: You’ve built a great feature that solves a real problem that you know your users have. They’re not using it though. Usually, it’s because they haven’t seen it, or they saw it and didn’t know what it did.

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The Future of Email Products

December 20th 2012, in Product & Design

The last significant innovation in email came 8 years ago with Gmail which introduced conversation threading, gigabyte storage, speed, powerful search, and lots more. Not much arrived since, but it looks like 2013 has a lot in store.

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Deliberate Improvements

December 18th 2012, in Product & Design

It’s risky to try to improve any part of a product without understanding the job that it does for customers, and what their success criteria are.

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Bad channels and the wrong customers

December 17th 2012, in Product & Design

Problem: You’ve launched your product, it’s getting plenty of coverage. People are signing up, but no one is actually using it.

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Designing sequences not stills

December 7th 2012, in Product & Design

Designing software based on a checklist of screens can blind designers to the overall customer experience.

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Asking questions beats giving advice

November 7th 2012, in Product & Design

Advising any business is hard. I’m hesitant to do it. It’s all too easy to give bad advice, which steers companies in the wrong direction, all based on my whimsical throwaway idea shared over coffee.

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Designing for Viral Distribution

October 25th 2012, in Product & Design

At some point every product owner ponders how to make it go viral, as a thought experiment if nothing more.

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TALK: From Data to Insight

September 13rd 2012, in Product & Design

Most analytics tools and applications focus on two things: tracking data that is easy to measure, and showing visualisations that look sexy. This means you end up with sexy screenshots, but no lasting value. You are presented with lots of data, but very little actionable insight.

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Prioritising Features: Who’ll Use It & How Often?

July 30th 2012, in Product & Design

The Swiss Army knife is a remarkable product. By combining many products of low utility, it becomes a product of some utility. This is one of the rare occasions where a core product gets better by adding mediocre features.

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3 rules for customer feedback

July 16th 2012, in Product & Design

Gathering useful timely feedback from customers can be a long process. Intercom makes it faster and easier than ever before but just because it’s now easy to ask it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to waste your customers’ time. Answering a question well is always tougher than asking it.

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Have You Tried Talking To Your Customers?

June 25th 2012, in Product & Design and Support

I remember daydreaming in the boardroom of a renowned university in Ireland while pretending to listen to a group of stakeholders argue over a label on a web form.

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Where to draw the line as a product manager

May 25th 2012, in Product & Design

The most important thing a product manager does is decide where their product stops and someone else’s product takes over.

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Wireframing for Web Apps

May 15th 2012, in Product & Design

The goal of preparing wireframes is to solve design challenges regarding layout, and priority. This is usually done in wireframes through experimenting with layouts and the application of contrast, similarity and some other principles.

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Running Closed Betas: Which Users, and How Long?

March 30th 2012, in Product & Design

A closed beta is an excellent feedback loop. It lets you see what works well in your application, and it helps you understand the jobs your customers are trying to do. However—like any system—if you put garbage in, you get garbage out. Your beta users and their feedback are massively influential, so picking users at random isn’t wise, as it can lead to a one-size-fits-none product.

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What’s in a Name?

March 26th 2012, in Product & Design

Naming a product is difficult. Branding legend Marty Neumeier says that good product names have seven characteristics.

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Know Your Customers and How They Decide

March 12th 2012, in Product & Design and Support

Everything you design—from slide decks to email newsletters, from marketing sites to company t-shirts—has a goal, and that goal is to get someone to decide to do something that benefits you or your company.

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Criticism and two way streets

March 6th 2012, in Product & Design

A post by Jason Fried titled “Give it 5 minutes” reminded me of a great technique I learned about from Bill Buxton.

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What you should know about private betas

February 29th 2012, in Product & Design

Private betas are great for controlling access to a product as you tweak it.

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Interview: Bob Moesta (Part 2 of 2)

February 15th 2012, in Product & Design

The second part of our interview with Bob Moesta discusses topics specific to start-ups. We look at how a start-up can apply these Jobs To Be Done thinking, why hypothetical feedback is useless, and why beta testing must also test for value. Part one of the interview was posted previously.

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Copy the Fit, not the Features

January 16th 2012, in Product & Design

The world of start-ups is obsessed with outliers. Companies who have achieved remarkable success through a combination of their activities.

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Sustainable advantages for startups

January 12th 2012, in Product & Design

In Gimmicks and Patterns I wrote that new features either become table stakes, or are dismissed as being gimmicky. As some readers noted, this is a simplification of what happens. The Kano model shows exactly how the slide happens, and explains why any one particular feature or trait will never be a sustainable advantage.

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5 ways to improve the app store for customers

December 19th 2011, in Product & Design

As the music companies found out, distribution is about ease of use. Actions that make products harder to buy and consume ultimately hurt sales. Actions that make it easier to buy products than to steal them improve sales.

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Focus on the job, not the customer

December 14th 2011, in Product & Design

Personas are a tool for sharing a common vision of a target user with everyone on a project. When everyone knows the sort of end users being targeted it helps cut out some unnecessary debates.

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Gimmicks and patterns in interface design

December 8th 2011, in Product & Design

Launching an app with distinctive interface features can work out incredibly well. Path did this last week and has reaped the rewards of great design.

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The problem with data driven decisions

November 25th 2011, in Product & Design

The mathematician searches around the lamppost on his hands and knees. “What are you looking for?” a bystander asks.

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Features & Physics Envy

November 2nd 2011, in Product & Design

I use the above graph to pick what features to add or improve based on how many customers use them, and how often. This leads to curious but clever decisions.

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To Sustain or Disrupt?

November 1st 2011, in Product & Design

“In a talk titled Reinventing IT, Prof Clay Christenson, author of The Innovators Dilemma, asks a simple question: Why do so many big businesses fail?”

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The Death and Rebirth of Customer Experience

October 20th 2011, in Product & Design and Support

Karl arrives late into work. There’s no starting time or closing time, his store is always open.

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Beware of icebergs

October 13rd 2011, in Product & Design

When a customer asks for a new feature, it’s quite often something that makes perfect sense.

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Data Visualisation in Web Apps

October 11th 2011, in Product & Design

A dashboard is a single screen showing the status of an application. At a glance you should see what’s going well and what areas are struggling. Customer retention is down. Sales are up. Complaints are at an all time high.

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