Insights into Mobile Design, Analytics and Managing a Team - with Jonathan Ozeran22:30 with Amit Bijlani
Jonathan Ozeran is currently the VP of Product and Mobile at RECSOLU, a company that creates recruiting software. At RECSOLU he heads up product development & design, API architecture and mobile technology. He is also an advisor and mentor to several Chicago-based startups as well as the Catapult Chicago startup community. You can follow him on twitter @jozeran.
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I'm here with Jonathan Ozeran. 0:02 [treehouse] [FRIENDS] He's a product designer out of Rexland. 0:03 Can you give us a brief history about yourself 0:07 and how you got started in the app design world? 0:09 I'd been a part of the application space for a while across a number of different industries, 0:12 [Jonathan Ozeran, Mobile Product Designer] 0:16 starting primarily with media, having done a few things with social platforms as they evolved-- 0:17 Facebook platform particularly. 0:22 Before that, was building applications that made the infrastructure available 0:24 in ways that provided that data for any type of application to use. 0:28 From media, that led me to a number of different industries 0:33 to try and solve problems through mobility. 0:37 construction, automotive, field service. 0:40 And now, currently trying to solve the opportunity at least for campus recruiting 0:45 and university recruiting--how you apply mobility to that. 0:50 So, you said you come from the web world, right? 0:53 I mean, you built social applications on the web side. 0:56 So, how was the transition going from web to mobile? 1:00 Was it easy? Was it hard? Are there certain things about the mobile aspects that just provide 1:03 things that are not offered on the web side? 1:11 I think coming from the web world, you want to expose content in a way 1:13 that's valuable and useful socially, of course--with the social platforms-- 1:16 but with mobility, you have to be thinking about how those users 1:20 are going to use the application, 1:22 when, with what device capabilities, and to ease into that. 1:24 So, exposing the data and making it available is one thing, 1:28 and doing it securely and reliably. 1:31 Going forward, you get to focus--as a product designer-- 1:33 on how those applications can best solve those problems for those end users. 1:35 So, what are some of the challenges you face as an 1:38 application designer when you're solving a problem? 1:42 Like, what are the tools that you have to solve those problems? 1:45 So, I think for me, with business applications in particular, 1:49 you want to have dialogues and conversations with the end users. 1:52 You don't want to make too many assumptions. 1:55 You want to be able to rapidly iterate your product, 1:57 have a version that's shipped and out there in the hands of users. 2:00 And, probably one of the most rewarding things for me in enterprise mobility 2:03 is being able to issue that application out to someone-- 2:06 or just deploy it--so you can actively get that feedback. 2:09 With consumer facing apps, you can do it, but you have to wait. 2:13 You might not get the feedback from the users you were expecting. 2:16 It's a whole different challenge. 2:18 So, do you still do a beta release with an enterprise application 2:21 like you would do with a consumer? 2:25 Sure. 2:27 It's harder to do with a consumer app on the mobile side, 2:28 at least on the Apple ecosystem. 2:31 Sure. In my experience, I've seen pilot groups work really well, 2:33 where you have some champions or even cheerleaders 2:37 who are very excited about the initiative and want to support it out of the gate, 2:39 and then they want to get stories and testimonials and examples to go move forward 2:42 and make it a larger deployment. 2:46 So, do you find on the enterprise side, are there more political barriers to get an app out? 2:48 Because you can't just--I mean, on the consumer side, I have an idea. 2:54 I put it out there, and I see if it's successful or not. 2:58 I mean, it's of course, there's a long road for me to go from point A to point B, 3:01 but on the enterprise side, it seems like point A--you have the idea, 3:07 but you have to gain consensus or the political clout to put that idea to fruition 3:11 in the hands of your consumers, which are your enterprise users. 3:18 So, I've had the luxury of having those champions--whether they're CIOs, 3:23 CMOs, heads of business, heads of technology, and even IT-- 3:27 really create that path that the organization might be able to benefit from, 3:30 and really I suppose get around some of those typical obstacles. 3:36 I think the challenge is really getting all of the users that are going to use the application 3:42 out in the field to enjoy it, to think, "This is the only way forward." 3:45 "I never want to go back and fall into my old routine and my old habit." 3:50 So, that's I think, most of the challenge with product design in the enterprise. 3:54 You're certainly going to run up against obstacles where organizations may-- 3:58 this may be the first foray into enterprise mobility. 4:01 They don't know how to do device management and provisioning quite well, 4:03 or this is their first application for it. 4:06 But those are things you can ease into and solve 4:11 as long as communication is strong between groups. 4:13 Now, have you found that enterprises are--I would not say reluctant--but 4:16 is it that there are certain things the mobile side can do that the web cannot 4:21 for an enterprise? Because I mean, there's always that question, right? 4:26 Like, why should I go mobile--or native for developers-- 4:31 Why don't I just create a web app and put a wrapper around it and 4:36 you know--make it native? 4:40 Many of the applications that I've been a part of focus on convenience. 4:42 Focus on solving a problem in a way that the user doesn't have to even worry about thinking, 4:46 "How do I use this application?" 4:52 I pick it up and innately know it's going to help me. 4:53 It's going to be something I can respond to quickly and don't have to worry about. 4:57 I don't get lost in a sea of icons and buttons and text strings, etc. 5:00 It's now just second nature, 5:05 much like a lot of the applications that we've come to understand on a consumer side. 5:07 Can you give us an example? 5:11 On the enterprise side, I think one in particular being able to have applications that 5:14 allow you to collect information about energy audits, as an example. 5:18 You're going to go out to a field setting and maybe you do this 3 or 4 times a day, 5:24 and you're traveling to do it. 5:27 You might use a clipboard or you might use a piece of paper to collect that information, 5:28 and that information for one, can be lost if you lose the piece of paper. 5:32 Two, if it rains you lose the information that you spent hours 5:35 and potentially a lot of money collecting, 5:38 and you can't share it immediately. 5:40 It has to be faxed or scanned or copied or e-mailed, 5:41 and typically you see coordinators involved in that process 5:44 to make sure the information funnels into whatever back-end systems appropriately. 5:47 With an iPad, with an data plan, or with a reliable WiFi connection, 5:50 you can create an input that make this seamless. 5:54 That you use elements of UI design and human interface guidelines that Apple has created, 5:57 for example, that make this application as easy as picking up the settings app, for example, 6:04 the device that's built in. 6:08 Right. So, you mention energy audits. That seems like a very dry application 6:11 because you're just collecting data. 6:16 So, how important is design--when I say design, 6:17 I really mean like making it beautiful or pretty. 6:21 Is that important in an enterprise app or is that time that--you know-- 6:25 enterprises say like, "We don't really care to spend all that time in making it pretty." 6:30 Absolutely. So, that's the fun part of being a product designer in the enterprise. 6:34 You get to surprise and delight. 6:38 You get to decide what is that threshold of functionality, focus--you know, 6:40 laser focus for that particular version of the application-- 6:45 and what are those special features or special visual nuances that will really-- 6:48 down the line when someone's using the application for that 6th hour in a row, 6:52 that will make it easier on them. 6:56 It will just be something that they go, "That was really special." 6:58 "It was nice to see in an application." 7:01 That will payoff in the long run, because they won't use the application once and put it away. 7:04 They're going to come back to it. 7:09 And repeat use is really important and a very hard problem in the enterprise to solve. 7:09 Well--I mean, they have to repeatedly use the app 7:14 because that is something that's part of their job now. 7:18 Ideally, but we've also seen situations where an application is out there, 7:22 the enterprise has solved the deployment issue, 7:25 a number of devices out in the field, and you have end users who, for whatever reason, 7:27 are more comfortable using the old approach-- 7:32 the paper, the clipboard-- 7:33 and then the take a device that was purchased--a very expensive device-- 7:35 and send it home for the kids to play with. 7:39 And so you're always against that challenge of top of mind, rapid iteration, 7:41 improving the functionality, improving the usability. 7:45 You've never really going to nail it on the first version. 7:48 So, it is important to have good user experience and good design, even on the enterprise side? 7:50 Absolutely. I think you have to be thinking about those primary use cases 7:56 that your application end users are going to need. 8:01 You, of course, have to solve some of the problems of getting the data 8:03 in the formats that you need and exposing it securely and reliably, 8:05 but ultimately it's that interface that someone's going to use 8:09 when they walk away from their desk, when they're out in the field. 8:13 In our case, we have end users who are standing for hours and hours and hours 8:16 collecting information in a much more reliable way where they can share it 8:21 and it can be available in real time and provide some analytics 8:24 that have never been available before. 8:27 So, what are some of the key takeaways between the consumer 8:29 and the enterprise app side of things? 8:33 I mean, of course, there are the pros and cons on each side. 8:36 I think with consumer, you get to decide or even paint the picture of the personas 8:41 that you think are going to use the application. 8:45 When you put something in the app store or Android Market and now Play, 8:48 you don't really know necessarily who's going to download your app and be that end user. 8:52 With the enterprise, you get to do more upfront research, conversation, 8:56 and understand the psychology of the problem and understand the psychology of the end user. 9:01 Where are they going to grow frustrated? Will it be easy the first time the pick up the app? 9:05 And will it be as easy the 7th time they pick up the app and start using it? 9:09 So, those are some of the things that you have to balance between consumer and enterprise. 9:12 Distribution and management--of course with the consumer side, you have the app store 9:17 and you have some review processes. 9:22 In enterprise, if you own all the devices and manage them, 9:24 you can distribute whatever you want immediately and it's just generally available. 9:27 So, you have some perks in terms of iterating your product. 9:31 You discover a bug or a crash, you can solve it nearly instantaneously 9:33 and roll out a new version. 9:37 And there's none of that Apple app store filter, right? 9:38 Certain ways to distribute applications: custom B to B apps, for example. 9:42 There are some routes that expose that and make that available as an option. 9:48 In my experience, I've seen the enterprise distribution model more often. 9:53 What advice would you give to someone that's kind of starting out with app development? 9:58 Should they be like looking at focusing either side or just start building apps? 10:02 It's important to look back and see how things have progressed and iterated over time. 10:08 I think there are some development, even design considerations, 10:12 you would have made in 2008-2009 that are vastly different here in 2012, 10:15 and a year from now will probably be even more unique in nature. 10:19 So, from a design and development perspective, keep the evolution of a platform in mind 10:25 to see how you can make the best decisions versus having to run into some obstacles 10:30 previously solved and encountered. 10:34 Can you give us an example of that? 10:37 Sure. So, there are some new things that are-- 10:38 and this is timely with IOS6 that has become available-- 10:41 in terms of how to flow rows and columns, for example-- 10:44 For the auto layouts? 10:48 layouts, exactly, and some of the frameworks that are now available. 10:50 You'd have to find a better way to do that on your own. 10:53 You may have asked some of your peers and community members, 10:56 you know "What's the route that you suggest to take?" 10:59 Now, things have evolved where that challenge has been hit so many times 11:02 it's now part of the platform. 11:07 So, I think there are a lot of examples of this-- 11:08 whether it's accessibility to the camera, making the flash available-- 11:11 little nuances that will frustrate a developer an endless amount 11:14 that are now ironed out with some of that time. 11:18 Well, it makes it easier also. I mean, because like with Objective-C, 11:21 you had to manually manage all that memory and now you don't. 11:25 So, it's become easier and easier to become an IOS developer. 11:29 Sure, and with ARC--to your point--with memory management 11:32 and now some of the new features of XCode 4.5 that allow you to do the auto synthesize 11:34 of all the instance--it's great. 11:40 It also takes some of the understanding away and makes it automatic. 11:44 So, if you're getting into it for the first time, you kind of want to go back and go-- 11:48 all right, I can see why they've done this, and I can see why it took so long 11:51 to make that happen magically. 11:54 It's also easy to just skip that, too sometimes, as a new developer. 11:56 True. I also think for folks that are just getting into this space 11:59 it's really important to to understand why they're doing this. 12:04 I think there's a lot of excitement around programming in general, which is great, 12:08 around the world. 12:11 People want to understand the startup culture--think it might be something for them, 12:14 but it's also a two-edged sword. 12:17 I think you need to keep in mind why you're doing this. 12:19 Is it exciting? Why are you passionate about it? Why is it fun? 12:21 Because otherwise, you're not going to create the best solution, 12:25 and you're just going to become one of a sea of developers out there. 12:27 You really want to change the game, specifically in the enterprise. 12:30 You want to create the best solution for a problem. 12:33 On the consumer side, you want to create the best application for that particular 12:35 use case that you're really passionate about. 12:39 So, that's interesting because that plays right into my next question 12:42 which is--because you've built a lot of teams of developers and designers. 12:45 So what are some of the things that you look for in a good developer? 12:48 And a good designer, of course? 12:53 Of course. I really like designers who want to be developers 12:55 and developers who want to be designers. 12:59 I think that's been a really unique scenario that I've seen play out a couple times. 13:01 You always want to understand what you don't know and vice versa. 13:06 And kind of being in the middle of that where I've actively developed in the past, 13:09 and now I focus on the product design more often, 13:14 it's a unique set of traits, and it's even a unique opportunity to share stories, 13:16 to share experiences with one another, 13:22 and in a community setting, you really want to have all of those different pieces available 13:24 to you to learn the most and to have the most opportunity. 13:28 So, when you're looking to hire a good developer, 13:32 what is that one thing that kind of stands out? 13:34 Are you just reading their resume--I mean, you know, it's like when you're talking 13:37 it's intuition, of course, when you're interviewing that developer. 13:41 But there's something that someone always looks for 13:45 and everyone has their own little quirks that they look for. 13:49 So, I would say as a startup--and I can't speak to the other sides of it-- 13:51 and certainly we're helping our customers--Fortune 1000 and others-- 13:55 to recruit and retain the best talent in the world. 13:59 I think from a startup perspective you need to have people that 14:02 are almost like family or even family. 14:06 You want people who are passionate and excited about what they do, 14:08 and could not be doing anything else. 14:11 It's their dream. 14:13 I've had folks express to me, "I am living my dream." 14:15 And that's I think what the hardest thing to find is. 14:18 So, you can't really measure the passion, though, 14:20 when you're interviewing someone. 14:23 I think during the interview process itself you have to be meticulous. 14:25 You have to involve not just yourself but a number of your other teammates. 14:29 Because if you bring in the wrong element, it can ruin the organization. 14:33 It can ruin the product. 14:36 It can set you off course for quite some time. 14:37 Technically, there are many, many different ways to assess your capabilities, 14:41 your expertise. 14:45 I don't want to speak necessarily to those. 14:47 There are a number of opportunities out there--code evaluations and tests 14:49 and bring someone into a room in wipe board challenges. 14:54 Do you do any of those? 14:56 Certainly, we've done a number of different things over time, 14:57 but for me--I'm most particular about the passion and energy level 15:00 and excitement about why you are looking to make these contributions in the group 15:05 or the organization I'm with. 15:10 But, sometimes you're starting out as a developer, 15:13 and I mean, you've never developed an iPhone app and you've just started learning it 15:15 and you want to get the opportunity to get into a good place where you can shine. 15:21 I've seen very successful internships where folks come in with a miscellaneous set of 15:25 experiences--whether it's Python, maybe dabbled in Ruby, 15:31 messed around in XCode occasionally, 15:34 but doesn't really understand who interface builder works, 15:36 storyboards are sort of intimidating. 15:38 But, those are things you can ramp up pretty quickly when you have the fundamentals. 15:40 When you have the basics, and when you have that passion behind you. 15:43 What about designers? 15:46 With designers, I've had wonderful success working with folks who've started 15:48 in the print world. 15:53 I think print world takes into account different lighting, 15:55 different scenarios where this is going to be consumed, 16:01 different fonts and typography, 16:03 understanding layout, and--as auto layout, for example-- 16:06 changed the way you interact with an application on device to device, 16:10 that becomes even more important. 16:14 So, on the design side, print is a really good place to start. 16:16 That's very interesting that you say print, because print is so static, 16:20 and--you know--the mobile world is so visceral. 16:24 It's like you have to touch, feel--there's animation. 16:28 It's like totally different medium, too. 16:31 I think what's interesting to me--print is limited screen real estate to me. 16:35 It may be a piece of paper--however the interface exposes itself. 16:39 You have content that you need to deliver in a certain way and message a certain way, 16:43 much like with a web app, mobile app, social app. 16:46 You want to convey something. 16:49 It may be dynamic information. It might be static. 16:50 You still have to create that experience. 16:52 You want the user to be completely immersed in that experience, 16:55 and I think that's where some of that print experience comes through. 16:58 So, you see that designer go from print to mobile--their transition's pretty fluent, 17:01 or they serve challenges? 17:06 Sure. In my experience, it's been very helpful to have that coming in. 17:08 The other interesting thing that I've observed-- 17:14 you want to know exactly what element of design you want to focus on. 17:16 It's important not to bundle everyone into one bucket, right? 17:20 So, UI, UX, motion design-- 17:24 you probably don't want one person to do all three. 17:26 You really want to focus on the usability, 17:29 how you progress from screen to screen, 17:32 and from path to path, 17:34 folks are going to be focused on putting on a wall, for example, 17:35 all the different paths a user can take so they don't get lost, 17:39 they don't get frustrated, 17:41 and then you're going to want to apply artistry. 17:43 You're going to want to apply a layer of polish and magic, 17:45 and that's where the UI comes in. 17:47 And once you've had those pieces put together, 17:49 and with the blessing of your development team unless you're kind of a hybrid design developer, 17:52 you're going to want to pull in a motion designer to really take the story end to end, 17:57 put the storyboards together to say, "Here's how it's solving a problem." 18:01 "Here's how this application can now do 18:05 something that has not been able to be done before," 18:08 and allow you to create a foundation to work from--that version 1 on. 18:11 Lastly, I want to touch a bit on analytics, because I know you've done a bit of those too. 18:16 What are some of the key metrics that you look for 18:21 when you're building an app and putting it out there, 18:23 and some of the things that app developers should 18:26 consider when they put out a consumer app 18:29 or even an enterprise app, for that matter? 18:32 I've also been able to see the evolution of social and mobile app analytics. 18:34 So, it's been interesting to see how a Google analytics, an Omniture now part of Adobe, 18:39 and Flurry, amongst other solutions out there, 18:44 are made available to solve this analytics problem. 18:48 To expose information available that you can create the next best product feature. 18:52 You can maybe remove a feature if it's not being used and no longer is relevant. 18:56 I think for enterprise applications, the more you can take in, 19:00 the more you can understand, the more you can track 19:05 from a server perspective, the more value you will get. 19:06 So, when we're trying to determine those KPIs--those key performance indicators-- 19:09 we're doing it from a system perspective. 19:13 This one mobile application is just one consumer of an API. 19:16 It's a third party client, and we want to understand it uniquely, 19:19 but it's just one third party. 19:22 I may have other applications I'm creating for different devices and different users. 19:24 So, it's really important to design an infrastructure, 19:28 design an architecture that's flexible. 19:32 You can do even tracking. 19:34 You could do screen tracking, page tracking--whatever it might be-- 19:35 and there's a wealth of solutions out there or you can build your own. 19:38 So, I know you mentioned Google Analytics and Flurry-- 19:41 do you have anything one over the other or equally good? 19:45 I think it really depends. 19:50 From a mobile analytics perspective, you don't want anything to really bog down the application. 19:51 So, you'll want things to be intelligently dispatching the data collection. 19:56 You're going to want to use the best maybe third party frameworks or plugins that 20:00 may be out there to be able to collect this information. 20:07 In our case, we do some of this a little bit more custom, 20:10 so as to make the interface never lock, never impose a restriction from a UI perspective 20:12 where a user can't go from one screen to another. 20:19 So, it just depends I guess on the user and the application. 20:22 So, like going back to some of the key performance indicators, 20:26 do you recommend like tracking opens, installs, you mentioned events, 20:29 like what kind of events? 20:35 One particular application--I'll give you as a kind of reference point-- 20:37 was an application that was designed to find the stars on the 20:42 Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles. 20:46 And I thought it would be remarkable--whether it was using an application 20:48 with a search interface for iPhone, 20:51 or even--this was an augmented reality optimized app, 20:53 so I could hold it up in Los Angeles and see where the stars were, 20:56 and it would allow me to--it would walk me there. 20:59 I wanted to know who was doing that. 21:02 It was a very experimental feature, brand new to the device. 21:04 It was trendy. 21:06 I didn't think a lot of people were going to start using it. 21:08 This is in the case of the Los Angeles Times, 21:12 we were going to apply some marketing efforts to it and street teams, 21:14 and I wanted to see how the application use would evolve--would change-- 21:17 depending on how those marketing tactics were applied. 21:21 And so this application was essentially end to end supported by analytics. 21:24 I could see screen by screen how users were going from one to the next. 21:29 If they were going from Bill Cosby to the next star--whatever it might be-- 21:33 I could follow along with their unique app experiences, 21:36 and while I didn't know the particular person, 21:39 each of those experiences told a different story. 21:41 And so I could see how people found their way through search, 21:44 found their way through the augmented reality scenarios, 21:46 where the GPS wasn't enabled, the device didn't have a GPS-- 21:49 all of those things become data points 21:52 for you to create the next best iteration or best product. 21:54 So, did that help you actually evolve the product over time? 21:57 To add features or to move features? 22:01 Definitely, and we also had the advantage of those street teams 22:03 getting conversations back to the development team, back to the design team, 22:07 to share those stories. 22:11 Oh, so you had people on the ground talking to these-- 22:12 [Jonathan Ozeran, Mobile Product Designer] That was helpful as well. 22:14 In an enterprise, it is infinitely helpful as well. 22:15 Thanks, Jonathan, for doing this. 22:18 This was very insightful for us. 22:20 It was my pleasure. 22:21 ?music? [treehouse] [FRIENDS] 22:23
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