The Birth of Qozo – A Journey in Product Design

After 15 years building enterprise software, we shifted focus onto making new productivity and ecommerce apps. As part of this rebirth in 2018, we invested in design and not just the headline roles or the cool spaces. We invested in the people, the skills, the process and the tools – all the elements of design that can give a business the edge.

A move to an AWS-centered architecture provided a huge increase in technical firepower. I was brought in to lead a team who would be tasked with designing world-leading digital product experiences across our new products.

Design thinking

When your company has a history of building enterprise-level products and an enterprise client base, there’s a challenge in designing new stuff, and talking about what you’re doing, without getting caught up in the enterprise way of thinking.

Before we started getting into any detailed product design for our productivity app, Qozo, we spent a good few months testing the initial proposition. Starting with sketches of key screens, we sat with existing clients, discussed their pain points and identified opportunities where Qozo could help. Once we understood the role Qozo could play we went through several iterations of design and more user testing before we landed on a clear proof of concept.

The simplest approaches are often the best

We are user-centred with a strong belief that doing small amounts of research up front will give us enough validation to move forward. We use the simplest research method we can to get the answers we need to today’s questions. One of the most useful approaches for Qozo has been pop-up guerilla research in a local shopping centre. Watching 10 people use an interactive prototype on a phone gives you a surprising amount of insight, and we’re also able to talk to people about the tasks we are asking them to complete.

When you’re working on a new product it’s impossible to get it 100% right. We (optimistically) aim for 80% of ‘right’. As Jakob Nielsen tells us, we only need five users to highlight 80% of usability problems so we can really travel light here. This approach also means we don’t need big research budgets and long timeframes, so we can run more research sessions whenever we need to.

Now, next, later

We take a similar approach for the roadmap. A mature enterprise product can have a meticulously planned 2-3 year roadmap and be driven by a few very large, influential clients. The Qozo roadmap groups activity by themes and uses a NowNext | Later timeline. Now contains what we’re currently working on for release in the next week or so. Next contains the themes we have researched and plan to do after Now goes live. Later is a higher level and holds the themes we think we’ll do, pending review and further research.

Now, Next, Later keeps us flexible right up to the point of delivery. We can quickly respond to feedback and embrace innovation, introducing new items or reordering existing ones without the need to redraw detailed plans. Using themes (or initiatives) means we stay focused on solving problems, not fixated on individual features.

There remains a traditional view that there isn’t time to do research, and that design sits squarely at the end of the development process. Our belief is that we only move this fast because we do research and because the design work happens up front. 

You can see what we’re doing with Qozo here. Make sure you keep your eyes peeled for the latest innovations!

Fred Pensom, Head of Design at Qozo