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Product Manager and UX Designer specialized in building mobile products using location data. 


My 2015 Reading List

Cathrine Gunasekara

 Figuring out what books to read in 2015. 

Figuring out what books to read in 2015. 

The last few years I've been working my way through books about product management, user experience design, interaction design, product design, product marketing and business strategy. 
It started with a self development project born on New Years Eve 2011 (don't they all?) where I set up a reading list of the books I wanted to read in 2012 to start the journey towards my dream of becoming an Interaction Designer. I was a product marketing manager at the time, but found myself more and more interested in how the product was designed and the decisions made getting there, rather than marketing the finished product. (I thought then that interaction designer was the coolest thing to be, but later I've found that Product Manager is the perfect role for me because it lets me be involved in all phases of the product development and I can use my wide skillset.)

Since 2012 my reading list has just kept growing, you're obviously never done learning!


2015 Reading List – My New Year's Resolution

This afternoon, my husband who's a product designer,  laid out piles of books he had just ordered from Amazon on our dining table to figure out which books to go into his own reading list for 2015. I found some good ones there that I would like to add to my own list, so decided to take a moment to update and prioritize my reading list and this is what it looks like for 2015 - one book to read per month. Sounds like a New Year's resolution.... Who's with me?

  1. Microinteractions, Dan Saffer
  2. Jony Ive, Leander Kahney
  3. User Story Mapping, Jeff Patton
  4. User Stories Applied, Mike Cohn 
  5. Designing For The Digital Age, Kim Goodwin
  6. Crossing The Chasm, Geoffrey A. Moore
  7. The History And Future Of Mind-Expanding Technology
  8. Brand Bible, Debbie Millman
  9. Designing Interfaces, Jennifer Tidwell
  10. Designing Web Navigation, James Kalbach
  11. Effective UI, Jonathan Anderson, John McRee, Robb Wilson and the EffectiveUI Team
  12. Package Design Workbook, Steven DuPuis

Knowing myself, I'll probably skip some and add some, but at least I have a plan:)

Go the distance

Cathrine Gunasekara

When you first attack a problem, it seems really simple because you don’t understand it. Then, when you start to really understand it, you come up with these very complicated solutions because it’s really hairy. Most people stop there. But a few people keep burning the midnight oil, and finally understand the underlying principles of the problem and come up with an elegantly simple solution for it. But very few people go the distance to get there.
— Steve Jobs, 1984

Expedia iOS app sidemenu – Small tweaks to increase retention for travel booking apps

Cathrine Gunasekara

Most people don’t have the need for travel booking apps more than a few times per year. For that reason, retention is a metric travel companies are typically struggling with.

Retention is an important metric. And to retain a user, first step is to be the brand that I associate with travel and my go-to app for checking prices, getting inspired to go places, finding good deals etc. But if your app is not on my phone when I think about travel because I deleted it after last trip, that could be a lost opportunity. 

I took a look at different travel booking apps in the app store and it struck me how few of them were trying to increase my loyalty or be an app that I would open in between trips. But with just a few tweaks, the travel booking apps could easily be something I would open when I get triggered to think about travel and when I'm day dreaming about my next trip. 

Here's an example of some simple tweaks that could maybe increase the retention for Expedia's iOS app. I followed some of the lessons learned from reading Hooked by Nir Eyal.

(Best experience in full screen)


Cathrine Gunasekara

I just read an article that really resonated with me, "How Emotion Drives Customer Action in Startup Marketing" by Kobie Fuller posted on the Accel Partners blog.

 As an UX designer with background in marketing I clearly see the connection between the two disciplines, in both fields you really need to empathize with the user and understand their needs and goals. Then it's your job to find the right emotion trigger to drive the behavior you want. In my previous position I was the product designer, the UX designer AND the marketing person, all at the same time. I wouldn't recommend taking on all these roles at once, but the benefit was that I really got to understand the user and since I already had thought through the strategy for how I would market the product the product, I could pro-actively design marketing-centric features that would resonate with this user.

Below is an excerpt from the article:

Great marketing starts with deep consumer insights. Insights are built on emotions and those insights are then used to craft campaigns that elicit an emotional reaction. If you’re good, those emotional reactions are ones that generate the behavior you wanted in your customer like a purchase, click or share.
— Kira Wampler, CMO at Trulia

Psychologist Robert Plutchik discovered eight basic, primary emotions that guide all behaviors: joy, trust, fear, surprise, sadness, anticipation, anger and disgust. These emotions are product-agnostic, and over time, establish brand-to-consumer relationships that transcend traditional boundaries of engagement.

The question is, which emotions should marketers target, and how do they solicit these emotions? Elbert outlines the following correlations in emotion with user behavior:

  • Intrigue and mystery – creates a curiosity that drives initial exploration and clicks; important for advertising and emails
  • Desire and aspiration – stokes consideration; helpful for site imagery, product pages and lookbooks
  • Urgency and fear – provokes a feeling of missing out, which triggers a purchase
  • Surprise and laughter – drives sharing, as seen through April Fool’s Day marketing stunts
Emotions change the decisions we make by making us more impulsive,” said Kristen Berman, co-founder of Irrational Labs. “Given a person’s impulsive nature, brands can amplify efficiency by not only looking at the metrics and drop-off, but also in thinking about the human emotions at play during each corner of the decision-making process.
— Kristen Berman, co-founder of Irrational Labs

Make Your Ideas Stick

Cathrine Gunasekara

Small world. This is the second time I've been at Google SF to watch a presentation and seen a photo of my Norwegian friend Agnete in one of their slides! She has nothing to do with Google, it's all just really random.  

I went to an IXDA event at Google SF today to hear John Douglass talk about How To Make Your Ideas Stick. John is leading the design research team responsible for Google’s social products.

It can sometimes be hard to .sell your idea or design recommendation to the stakeholder or client, and John talked about 3 simple communication methods to get people stuck on your ideas.

1. Make It Concrete

Concrete ideas engage the senses. Avoid UX speak and use metaphors and physical objects to make your idea more concrete. Facts are stickier when they are in human scale, so for instance, instead of saying "X gallons of water" you can say "X disposable plastic bottles" which is a scale people can easily grasp. 

 A counter automatically records how many times the water bottle portion of the station has been used. NPS photo.

A counter automatically records how many times the water bottle portion of the station has been used. NPS photo.


2. Tell A Story

Facts tell, stories sell. Stories actually changes your audience's physical state. Research has shown that our body simulates what we hear when we're engaged in a story so it can be a very powerful and sticky marketing tool. Make sure every story includes an activity, the motivation and description of the character. 
To default any criticism to your idea you can use stats. You'll find the stats in search logs, customer service logs or you can make a house call to get qualitative data.

3. Know Your First Audience

Not only do you need to conduct research on your users, but it's importance that you also understand your first audience, the people you need a buy-in from to get to your users. So conduct research on them as well and find their needs and goals. 

- How do they get promoted?
- What keep them up at night?
- What reduces their workload?

When you know, then when time comes to present your idea, start with a problem they care about and then reveal the solution. 


Find your most passionate customer

Cathrine Gunasekara

Sean Ellis mentor session at Tradecraft.

Today we had Sean Ellis visiting Tradecraft to talk about growth, his new role as a CEO at Qualaroo and his advice for what to look for in a company.

Here are 8 takeaways from what Sean was talking about:

1. Find the most passionate customer and learn as much as you can about them and why they love your product. Then find more of these people and do more of what they love.

2. The job of finding product market fit belongs to the founders and the head of product. Don't focus any efforts on growth until you've tested that more than 40% of your customers would be very disappointed if they could not longer use your product.  

3. Always act with some kind of urgency. At Qualaroo Sean tells his employees to act as if it's only $500K left in the bank. (Anything less would lead to bad decision making)

4. Steal, steal, steal! Read on other company blogs what they have already tested and found working best, and then A/B test that on your own product. (Keep in mind that your audiences and target groups are different, so although it works for one company doesn't mean it works for you, but it's definitely worth testing.)

5. Customer service is a major growth channel to create word of mouth and works best when it's authentic. Zappos and Dropbox are good examples of this.

6. It's important to instrument the business to have a process for running experiments and tests. You'll have to do whatever works for you, and to find that out you'll need to run experiments and tests constantly. 

7. Have product driven growth. 

8. Onboarding is important. Find out what turns people into habitual users.