The first week I joined Bright, I came across a piece by Francisco Dao about the state of product innovation in Silicon Valley, lamenting that most web and mobile startups these days lack the experience and research talent to work on breakthrough technology. Feeling a pang of pride, I forwarded the article to my new team at Bright with a quick note about how fortunate I felt to be part of one of the few data science companies in the Bay Area (and in the recruiting space) working on game-changing technology.
The Bright Score was one of the biggest draws for me, apart from the talented team, to join Bright a month ago. But I will admit that the tech was also intimidating. I saw a piece of technology that combined natural language, machine learning and data science to comb through millions of resumes and match them across 50+ factors to millions of job descriptions. I marveled at the ability of our data science team to accurately forecast job creation numbers days before the official ones were announced on Wall Street, and to create sophisticated maps of skill clusters and job heat maps. And in the back of my mind, I visualized the challenge for any product manager to take that fabulous piece of technology, that glitzy “12-cylinder engine”, and build the “car”– or in my case, the user experience– around it, so it would be easy to use, ride smoothly and still showcase the full power of the “engine”.
Apart from driving stick-shift in San Francisco, my experience with cars is limited to catching tid-bits of Top Gear, the UK TV show for men obsessed with cars, which my husband watches on weekends. Even then, I have apparently watched enough episodes of the show to realize that the engine is only one input to the whole riding experience. There are other important factors–such as how the car grips the road and handles curves, how smooth the transmission gears shift, how fast the car goes from 0 to 60, how user-friendly the interior and controls are, and last but not least, how aesthetically appealing the automobile is.
Translation to “Product Manager speak”:
- The exterior and the experience of getting into the “vehicle”: When you land on a website, do you immediately “get” what the site is about and how it fits you? Is the User Interface (UI) visually attractive, uncluttered, and polished? Is it fun to experience? Do you know what to do on it, or do you get bored and press the back button? Extra points if you can demonstrate the “roar of the engine” with a video or a preview of what the site can do for you.What we’re working on: In Bright’s case, we’ll be testing our homepages and landing pages quite a bit. We’ll be adding videos that explain what we offer to job seekers and employers, and we’ll be testing how to show employers a preview of the job seekers they can find with Bright Recruiter. The faster we can demonstrate how much power lies in the Bright Score for job seekers and employers, the more users we’ll get and the happier they’ll be.
- Turning the car on: Top Gear hosts Jeremy and Richard often moan about too many electronics and buttons in the car. We want to make sure our website user doesn’t feel similarly overwhelmed. He or she needs to be able to immediately figure out how to “turn the car on” without reading a manual or pushing a lot of mysterious buttons. The main things need to be straightforward: ignition switch, break, reverse, forward, as well as the navigation system. It took me over 40 minutes once in a Ford Escort rental car to figure out how to get the cluttered touch screen to start displaying my route—granted this was before the iPhone days.What we’re working on: On Bright.com, we need to make sure that job seekers know where to upload their resume and search for a job quickly and easily. We need to make sure their resumes are complete and useful to the Bright Score, so they can see all the jobs they are qualified for. For recruiters, we need to make it easy to add complete job descriptions, so we know what they are looking for in a candidate. Ensuring that we get good resumes and job descriptions is key to the usefulness of our Bright Score, but we can’t frustrate our users in the process of obtaining that content.
- Getting from 0 to 60: This is really about conversion-optimization after the main Call to Action (CTA). This was the bread and butter of Product Management at Zynga— where I worked previously— and involves a lot of A/B testing of the user funnel from main CTA to converting the user to a customer. You want to get from 0 to 60 as fast as possible without stalling the car and without crashing the driver in the process— or in Bright’s case, get a user to sign up without creating barriers or causing drop-off.
- How the car handles once it’s in motion: Once a user is in, you get to showcase your main product—the engine—and the experience around it. In the case of Bright Recruiter, after sign-up, recruiters get to see prospective candidates sorted by Bright Score and start reaching out to candidates they are interested in. Recruiters can filter, sort, and triage prospects, as well as message directly from Bright Recruiter. All the features in Bright Recruiter need to have a purpose and provide value. This is where culling extraneous features is more important than layering on functionality—if your feature doesn’t meet the minimum usage criteria, it has to go. This is where pilot “test drivers” become extremely important.What we’re working on: At Bright, we’re setting up a Product Advisory Council which will have several recruiters test-drive our product after each feature iteration. If you’d like to be included in beta testing, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Building great web products requires a lot of thought and attention to detail, without losing the big picture—much like designing a great car experience. One final note—make sure you’re not building a Mini Cooper for a user who only drives SUVs and needs four-wheel drive to go skiing. Knowing your customers and their specific needs is critical—I highly recommend Steven Blank’s book, “The Four Steps to the Epiphany” for more on the subject.