Shopify’s David Standen: Experimenting Your Way to a Better Product

David shares with us his framework for experimentation and how to build trust with your product team. We also talk about the crossover of skills between entrepreneurs and designers.

Photo of David Standen
Photo of David Standen

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Senior UX Manager @ Shopify

David Standen

Connect with David

LinkedIn, Website

Selected links from the episode

Article on experiment maps

Full transcript

This transcript is provided by an automated transcription service and might not be entirely accurate.

Christian: Welcome to Design Meets Business, a show where design leaders talk about practical ways to quantify design, about making our work more transparent, and about how designers can make a bigger impact in their organization. I’m your host, Christian Vasile, and before we begin, I’d like to thank you for tuning in today.

On the show today we’ve got David Standen, Senior UX Manager at Shopify. You’ll hear an awesome conversation about experimentation, building trust with your team, and how David’s background as an entrepreneur helped him become a better designer. I hope you enjoyed the conversation. 

David welcome to design which business I’m so excited to have you on today, because one of the aspects about your career that I’ve noticed is that, uh, you know, not only it spans almost two decades, but you have a lot of experience there.

That’s intertwined with ventures that you’ve started on your own and then design at the highest level. So there’s, there’s some entrepreneurship, there’s some design. And, and when he came to talk about that intersection of design and business, I thought you are the right person to bring on. So thanks for, thanks for coming on.

Appreciate it. Uh, before you spread your knowledge on us, maybe you want to give us a bit, a bit of a quick rundown of, uh, of what brought you to well now to Shopify, but also, you know, where you’ve been beforehand and then we can go on from there. 

David: That sounds great. Sounds great. Thanks so much for inviting me onto the, uh, onto the show.

Um, it’s definitely, I think a. Uh, cord that’s kind of struck with me and I think you’re on a really, really interesting theme, so yeah, very much happy to contribute and be a part of something. So it’s, uh, yeah, let’s see. Let’s see where things go. Um, yeah, a bit, a bit of a quick rundown from me. So I I’m, I, uh, kind of a UX leader at Shopify, um, been there for just under a year.

Possibly, and I focused on the money sector, um, but kind of just a bit of a backstory. Um, I’ve had quite a very career. Um, I’ve consulted, uh, freelanced had quite a mix of a variety of work. I think that’s kind of really helped me find my feet and, you know, give me a sense of who I am and what really makes me tick.

Um, I’ve ventured into starting my own business, which was a dating app. Uh, so I got very close to commercials, um, and very much around, you know, the function of a business also started, um, you know, pop being part of a founding team, uh, which was, uh, borough in the mortgages sector. Um, and so, you know, naturally I’ve found myself leading more towards business and, and actually I think where, where I’ve found my fees, FinTech, um, and I think, you know, one of the last companies in the credit card industry was, was, you know, I think one of the.

Key moments through that that’s really helped me connect business and design together. Cause I think that commercial aspect of things really helps pull, pull the best out of design, um, and make things, you know, as impactful as possible. Yeah. You 

Christian: talk about impact in one of the sentences or the way you introduce yourself on your own website to see it.

See, I did my research. So you you’re you’re and I’m going to quote you, you’re saying, you know, I’m passionate about, about, so I’m passionate about measuring the impact of design using design metrics, learning from feedback, task completion, rate, conversion, rate time and cost efficiencies to demonstrate business, uh, return on investment.

And to me, whenever I look at portfolios today, it’s all about here’s the latest design that I worked on. Here’s the latest app we’ve been app of the year, whatever, but very rarely you get to see. An introduction like this, which focuses on the business ROI on KPIs, but even less so from designers. Right?

You can, you can find that from product managers, um, you know, people, people in, in, in similar roles, but very rarely from designers. So let’s unpack that a little bit. Uh, how have you found that mentality and an interest in, in business KPIs? How have you found that help you as a designer and bring it to where you are right now?

David: I think, I mean, probably it’s been a natural course of my own January. I think it’s a. In terms of like the measurement of return on investment. I think one of the key things for me is, is how, how do you demonstrate the success of your work? But I think if you kind of go even a little bit deeper, how does a designer feel rewarded through the work that they do?

Some, some designers love the aesthetic side of things or the designers, you know, especially in product, wants to be able to see the impact the work has. And I think what’s really important is having a, almost like a bit of a sense of structure to be able to help people come on that journey with you. And I think, you know, that that’s what I have found in, in, in the past is.

If, if design works in isolation, um, you end up having, um, almost like moments of trying to try and catch people up on the decisions that you’ve made, um, throughout, throughout journeys. And I think what’s really important is that people, if people come together and they, they come on the same journey as a designer to make the decisions and understand the decisions and have them made, um, that generally helps design succeed much better.

And it it’s then much easier to demonstrate the return on investment or the impact that the design has, because they’re all part of that same, that same journey. I think that’s kind of what I’ve learned is trying to kind of communicate, um, with, with business leaders, strategists, right. And talk the same language.

And I think that’s kind of a bit of a skill I’ve probably picked up all the time. You know, it doesn’t always, it doesn’t happen overnight and, you know, actually the general. You know, people, people were quite skeptical of design. I think it’s quite a risky thing. You know, if you’re going to run an experiment, um, how isn’t this going to be a bit of a risky thing for the commercial side of things.

But I think that, you know, kind of connecting it back to the journey, if there’s a way to kind of take people on a bit of a path, uh, get on the same page, be honest about the things you’re trying to achieve. Um, generally helps build trust with all of these different teams and kind of tries to center things a bit more around the objective things of what you’re trying to do.

Um, yeah, hopefully that kind of packs a little bit of it, but there’s probably a little bit more, 

Christian: yeah, it unpacks quite a bit. It unpacks enough so that we can continue the conversation. So that’s good. Something you mentioned there, which I am a, I talk about it all the time and it might sound strange to some people that, you know, a designer talks about trust.

What does trust have to do with anything at all? But you’ve mentioned that. The important component of even if you being able to do your work properly, because if you don’t have trust in the team or the team doesn’t have trust in you, they’re just probably not going to be so open to trying out some of these experiments, or they might not believe in your idea.

So I joined a company today, how do I build that trust? Because trust takes time and it’s not hard. It’s not easy to do. 

David: Yeah. Yeah. And, and it’s, it’s, it’s not something that literally happens straight away. You know, it’s not, you join him one day and you know, you, you, you almost need to build that trust in time and demonstrate that, uh, little by little, um, and, and it’s, it’s almost like trying to find the right, the right places to be able to demonstrate the kind of impact to then demonstrate the trust, um, and, and finding the right places to, to kind of measure your work and make it visible to the rest of the rest of the business.

Right. So I think it’s very much is designed. Yeah, it can sometimes be quite, can be quite closed if you, if you’re working quite passionately into, you know, into, into one piece of work. But I think it’s really important to be really, really open, have open conversations and to have, and be really transparent about what, what you’re trying to effect in your work.

Right. So I think if, if things don’t necessarily pan out, right, it’s not an embarrassment, it’s not, it’s a learning opportunity. Um, you know, talking about failure is probably one of the most important things, because if you’re measuring design and you’re trying to, for example, improve the conversion funnel, you’re looking for a failure.

So let’s talk about those failures. It’s one of those things that you need to talk about to be able to know how to make a difference or make a change, to make an improvement. So. That, that kind of trust. It does come in time, but you’re slowly starting to build momentum as well across teams. And so by helping people understand the decisions, helping people, you know, actually come on the same journey, have those kind of joined up conversations helps things, you know, helps move things forward.

Really. And I think again, when I guess working with different teams, let’s say maybe you have strategy teams in your organization. Um, it’s very important to think more kind of pragmatically about design them than the, almost like the surface level of a redesign you have to really go into what are the objectives that you’re trying to achieve?

You know, what, maybe even talk about the assumptions that the team may have already had, um, and try to form a bit of a, a kind of a consensus in terms of how you want to move forward, um, and, and tackle the problem. Right. And, and, and have, uh, I call them experiments about, but some businesses don’t even like experiments because it sounds really risky.

Um, so you don’t, don’t even call it an experiment, try, try and move into kind of a, move the conversation into almost like, Hey, we’re trying to improve things, but we’re trying to find opportunities to learn, um, and trying to find ways in terms of how we can show. The commercial growth of an improvement, or even the operational savings, you know, we’re trying to, you know, there’s two sides of design and it’s very rare that you get to dig into those, those metrics and, and see how you can affect all the different parts of the organization.

Um, yeah, so it’s, it’s very much around a clear trying to tell a clear story, um, that helps people come along, come along that same journey. Really. 

Christian: I find that it’s slightly easier to do that when you join an organization, that’s maybe a bit more, maybe a bit larger, or they already have KPIs in place and they already know what they want from design and they hire designers for a specific problem to solve or set of problems.

So that’s all good. And well, I think where a lot of designers are struggling is when they join, maybe they’re the first hire a company, or maybe they join a company that hasn’t nearly fully bought into design. Therefore, there are no metrics coming from a both sorts of. As to what you need to improve. So then the challenge becomes, I have this product that I need to improve.

All it’s been told to me is that I need to make it better, but from you need to make it better to here’s the actual impact that I can have on this business. By changing the product in specific ways is a very long, long way. And I feel that if you’re a bit less experienced, you might not necessarily know, well, how do I get the, how do I get to those metrics?

Like, all I know is that I need to improve this product metrics. What are those, what metrics, what are we talking about? And I think that’s where it becomes really important for a designer to have a conversation or several conversations with. With people around the business, not necessarily only within your little product team, but it could be people from marketing could be just truly anyone, everyone in the company works to have, you know, to, to, to improve a specific, a specific area of that company.

And, and the more you talk to people around, the more you can start joining up all these quote unquote problems that everyone has and see how we can solve them through design. So something that I’ve, I’ve something I do every single time. Uh, whenever I joined a new companies, I go and speak to people around the business, not so much about design, but just about what’s important to them.

What are the metrics you need to hit as a product manager? What’s important to you as a developer, and then figure out you as a designer, not only through your design work, but also. Who you are and how you work on a daily basis, how can you help them achieve their goals? And I find that that builds a lot of trust as well, which obviously becomes very helpful later on when you, you know, when you need a developer to do a bit of work on the weekend for you or to, you know, all that stuff, right?

David: Yeah. It’s all about getting on the same page, you know? Um, and, and totally just, you know, really enough the back of where, where you, where I think what, you know, what, what is important is understanding all of those core metrics. So like, if you’re all going to talk to a marketing team, yeah. One of the metrics for them will be, what is the acquisition?

What does, you know, what’s that, that’s our core metric. How many people coming through, right. Yeah. More product teams may look at adoption. So how many people are using, um, the new features that was on, how are we able to activate those customers coming in, uh, from our marketing team. Um, and then going further as like, you know, how are those users sticking around?

So what, what’s the, what’s the retention rate of those years that are users that are coming in? Are they, are they using, they’re using the product again? Are they spending more money? Um, and then that bleeds to referral, are they, are they using it so much to the point that they’re excited enough to share it with somebody else?

And that becomes, you know, the organic referral that know every, every company wants to kind of achieve and that may lead to some form of incentive. But then I think connecting design to all of the core metrics, you know, design fits into all of these different spaces. I think it’s the, it’s kind of it’s the outside.

Kind of, or, or even just the, the PR the peripheral metrics that kind of sit into all of these, almost the in-betweens of all of these different aspects. Um, so for example, I don’t know if a signal will be around, around adoption. Um, you may have a kind of a feedback loop that comes all the way back from a call center, and you’ve got lots of complaints and frustrations and how you’re capturing all of those different signals to help you understand.

There’s a point in that, that, that part of the, you know, the, the metric that you can affect and you can go and you can dig into it, you can find out what was happening. So you may have lots of different signals around UX. It could be behavioral frustrations that you can actually use to help from. The thing that you’re trying to achieve, right?

You’ve got task completion rates that you may want to go really, you know, it’s all around. How efficient is it that, you know, how, how easy is it that you’re trying the experience that you’re trying to create it also looking at the failure rates, what are those key failure points within an acquisition funnel to then help you dig in further to, to say, oh, this, this, maybe some, maybe we’re saying the wrong thing.

It’s not leading them to the next step or whatever it might be. There’s lots of, kind of key signals that help you as a designer fill in the gaps. I think that’s kind of quite quite an interesting thing to dig into because actually businesses do very much set on that. Good, the core metrics. And I think it’s finding that way, the mechanical being able to kind of connect design into those conversations that becomes really, really important.

So. Overall the feedback loop for design feedback feels design. It also helps fuel design will fuel the business. Um, so that the wider feedback back loops are really, really important, but also kind of the really micro feedback loops are super important because they really they’re. They’re really help other teams understand that the nuances that design goes after to then say, actually a small change here is a big, big uplift here.

And it’s very hard to, you know, it’s hard, it’s hard to be in those conversations. And I think like we were talking before, it takes a lot of time to build the trust, to be able to get into those, you know, smaller conversations and digging into metrics and looking at dashboards, you know, to be in those conversations together.

Um, it’s, you know, it just takes time. You you’ve gotta be slow, you gotta be patient and, and yeah. Depending on how long you’ve been in the industry. Um, you know, patience is key, um, and it will unlock doors 

Christian: for sure. I think it’s it’s you said something interesting though, you know, it takes time to become part of those discussions.

And that certainly is my experience. Whenever you join a company that hasn’t necessarily bought into the power of design just yet, that takes time because as we said earlier, build that trust. Yeah. But it also takes time. The moment you are in those conversations. To get up to speed with what a lot of those conversations mean and what what’s a KPI and what is a time completion rate and what are, what’s an EMPS court?

Why are all these things that when you are a bit earlier in your career, you haven’t necessarily heard about that much school. Doesn’t really teach that. Yeah. We’re starting as an industry to talk about it, but we haven’t, we’re not really there yet. So the moment you are in those conversations, how do you get from not understanding anything?

So starting to be able to juggle all these metrics and know, you know, if I do this in the product, it will affect that metric. If I do this, it will affect that metric. How do you get there? 

David: Uh, it’s all about asking the right questions or are you just asking silly questions to start with? Right. You know, don’t, don’t be afraid to be, to say the wrong thing, you know, and, and, you know, it’s, it’s fine, you know, businesses, you know, they operate with a certain cadence and sometimes you have, when you’re New York, you’re trying to get up to speed, but I think you’ve got a good excuse there.

You know, you’re getting up to speed or, you know, you’ve never heard of this abbreviation before. Cause I mean, I don’t know how many companies that I’ve been in and I’ve got so many crazy abbreviations, um, you know, just ask what, what does that abbreviation mean? You know, what’s the acronym, what is it?

What is it all about? Um, and how, you know, how do you measure that is also a really great question. So ask, uh, you know, a strategy team that’s, that’s very, very focused on measuring impact, right. And, uh, measuring what you know, so the commercial growth of a business. It’s good because that question actually helps other people open up.

Right. And that, and actually be more inclined to talk about themselves in the job, the job that they’re passionate about. Um, you know, you just, it’s just, you know, finding great ways to communicate and helping people open up to tell their own story is probably a really good way to just start a conversation anyway.

And that will also signal, you know, that you’re trying to get to know them and you’re getting some understand the business, how they work, how you even got opportunities in terms of how you can help them, um, in the role, um, Yeah, I mean, and the same with products, you know, it’s, um, product can sometimes be quite, can be quite blinkered.

Um, but actually, you know, digging, digging in deeper to say, actually, you know, the key question that we’re asking him, maybe the wrong thing we’re focusing on. And I think we may have an opportunity to, to look at it from a different angle. And, you know, we were talking initially about experiments, other opportunities to run experiments and, and try and hit the same objective, but from a slightly different angle, I think we’re all, we’re all, all important conversations.

I think that’s, that’s the kind of conversation you need to try and find, find your way in to be able to, you know, even say, Hey, you have an idea. So do I, um, I think we’re trying to hit the same objective here, but also even the idea, um, can always can always, you know, I think people feel quite precious, especially when everybody’s.

And in the sense of like, everyone’s trying to make an impact, everyone’s trying to make an impression, but actually as a team, it’s not, you know, it’s not, it’s not yourself, but it should be the team that comes together and aligns. Um, and that, that’s how, you know, the team you’re probably going to make a bigger impact overall.

Um, yeah, for sure. Yeah. It takes, you know, going back to the time thing, things take time and I think he’s gotta be accepted. 

Christian: They do say design is a team sport. Isn’t 

David: it’s it definitely is. You know, it really is. I 

Christian: want to talk about the experimenting for a second, but before that, I just want to touch briefly upon the previous point and say that my experience, whenever you go to talk to people who have a really good grasp on data, so that could be a product analyst that could be an analytics team, depending how your company or your organization is structured.

But, and this could just be a personal experience, personal opinion, but I find that very rarely people want. Talk to them about their work as they find numbers and all of that boring. And I find that whenever you go and talk to them, they are so open to sharing everything they know, and they can truly become one of your allies, um, in a way, if you, if you want to think of it like that, because suddenly someone shows interest in numbers and data, which is their day to day, right?

So again, all about building trust, all about opening up conversations that we’re not having enough of. I’d like to argue. And then, and then as soon as you start doing that, you’ll find that people will be much more open towards working with you and also much more open to follow some of your hunches, some of your gut 

David: decisions, you know?

Yeah. Be more open to. Try something from a slightly different perspective, which you’ve got to remember. They may have been sat on certain assumptions for years and they’re very, you know, they could be really keen to move something forward because their initial assumption may not have been aligned with an overall company objective.

So, you know, there are probably opportunities where you can support existing assumptions, but actually by doing that, we’ll create the space for something, you know, if you, for you to be able to try something new out in the future. So it’s, you know, you gotta be patient, you gotta gotta be gotta be careful at the same time, but you know, be supportive, right.

There’s it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s a two way conversation at the end of the day, when you have them at different times. 

Christian: Yeah. And I think this brings it back full circle to my initial question, which was how do you get the numbers to work with? And I think if you do build those relationships and connections, those numbers, people will bring the numbers to you, especially around analytics and data engineers and all of that.

Everyone who has anything to do with numbers, if as soon as you open up conversations, they will bring numbers to you and say, Hey, this, this version that we just launched two weeks ago, it’s just improved metric a by 2%. That’s awesome. And then, then you start building on that. Yeah. I want to talk about experimenting because you mentioned experimenting a few times.

You also wrote a really cool article about experiment. Uh, which, which I did like it, and I’m not sure whether that’s going to make sense on, on the, on the audio, because there, there is a, there are a couple of images in the article, which we’ll link in the show notes for everyone else, but he made a lot of sense to me when I could see it.

But yeah, try to explain it if you can, because I thought I started, Hey, here’s, here’s a really interesting approach to experiment it. We all know experimented. We all understand what it is, but I, I thought that the way you thought about it was a bit more structured. And, um, maybe, maybe we can try to talk about it now.

See if anyone else could find it beneficial. 

David: Yeah. Yeah. For sure. Sorry. I, yeah. The, that the colder lean experiment map, I’ve kind of simplified it to the point where. You know, maybe if, if people, companies don’t like the idea of an experiment, then you call it something different, right. It’s just it’s map, mapping, mapping the work that you do.

Um, and it’s something I, I kind of fell in love with it fell in love with when I was at borough, um, which was a startup, you know, you’re trying to build a zero to one product. Um, very, very different in terms of how you’re trying to kind of get things done, but it’s very focused on output, but also you want to see if the products are working, right.

That’s the key thing. So if you ship, you want to see if it’s working. So you’ve, you know, you, you should be forcing the measure of whether something that you’ve shipped is, is actually working. That’s all around kind of finding product market fit, but you can actually apply the same thinking and kind of measuring with, um, let’s say optimization.

So it’s it, the approach is very much trying to, you know, should have a key question. Um, Overall that you’re trying to affect, so, or try and create the answer to, uh, but also building out, you know, maybe some assumptions that can help kind of, you know, fix the question or answer the question. So a good example of a question, uh, might be, you know, it was quite high level, you know, what can we do to increase, uh, The conversion rate of a, of an acquisition front of just simple example.

Right. Um, and then obviously with that, you, you, you, you know, your mind flooded with lots of assumptions that we could do that we could do this, go do this. And so, you know that that’s not just your, your thoughts, it’s everyone, else’s thoughts, as well as this, you know, bringing all these ideas to the table and trying to frame, frame all of those assumptions and put them into a hypothesis.

So, you know, if we do this, then this is going to happen. Um, and you can actually, if you, if you’re on acquisition, if you want to understand how many people are coming through, you can see how many people come through the funnel, um, and drop off, et cetera, et cetera. So it, by creating a kind of a hypothesis of all of these assumptions actually helped center the conversation.

You can then start to know how are you going to approach, uh, the problem that you’re, that you’re going after. And also help design experiments for, you know, that are maybe trying to drive an expected behavior. And, you know, you want to make sure that the acquisition funnel is going to get more people through.

Um, so in the experience, you may look at the language on the page. You may want to look at the plates placements of the forms or shortening for lots of different things. Uh, but you’re trying to drive the expected behavior, getting people to click submit for an application form. Um, and then you want to really look at once you’ve got all of these hypotheses or lots of kind of focus, focus areas, um, start to think about what, what is a kind of an achievable target, um, because I re I really believe by putting a commitment on your own work, um, is a really, really important thing to do because you’re, you’re, you’re, you’re putting, you know, you really kind of making a, make, making a stance.

This is. I believe in, or as a team we believe in, um, and that as a commitment as a metric. So let’s say we want to create a 5% uplift within this acquisition for them. Um, that 5% is worth a lot of money to the business and not 5% helps to open up the commercial conversations. And when, when other people will hear about this 5%, they’re like, wow, that’s quite, that’s worth quite a lot to the business.

And it gets people interested. It gets people interested, it pulls people through. And, and so that, that’s kind of a really, really good thing to do. Not only that you start to build, um, team momentum, people come together because of that one commitment. We’re, we’re doing this because we really believe in this right.

Naturally, we need to think about, you know, whatever, whatever it is that we are trying to do, it’s not going to cost much for the business. I, so it’s, you know, low effort. Um, because I think, you know, that’s always going to be a thing that needs to be kind of balanced, but also it should be something that that’s not necessarily, um, to maximum, um, like time-wise, it shouldn’t take too long to achieve it.

We should be also trying to be as efficient and drive, drive things through as quickly as possible, just so that we’re able to kind of react off the back of it very quickly. Then once it’s built, you know, you can start to look at the measurement of things. So you want to make sure that you’ve got event tracking in place.

Uh, you want to understand where within the forms, you know, there could be potential dropout. You want to really make sure that you’re digging into the core metrics to just understand that if you’re going to set up a goal, for example, in an, in a, in an analytics tool, you can understand how the pages are kind of converting from one page to the next or from one field to the next day.

Depends how granular you really want to go in terms of tracking. Uh, but it’s really important to, to, to have that, um, from, from the outset, because retrospective are going. You’re only going to have that point of when you put the P when you put the measuring in as a, as a, as a point of measure. So, which is really, really important.

So you could always benchmark as well before, right? Uh, before you even run the experiments. So just having some core metrics, which help you understand how the improvement can be, can be demonstrated is also really, really good. Um, and then actually, this what’s really important is, is, is having a kind of conversation together with teams, right?

They come together as a team and, and it, there’s no point in one person just looking at the dashboard and saying, okay, I’ve had a look at the dashboard. This is what it means. You know, that’s somebody else’s interpretation what’s really important is being together. Um, and, and an it interpreting it in the room, right?

One person’s interpretation could be so different. So your interpretation when you’re looking at the experience, and I think that that’s very important to see the results from, you know, one shared perspective, because not only that you’re, you’re starting to build the trust by just having the conversation.

Right? So again, an open conversation, you know, being transparent with how things went. Um, and even if it went badly as a, as an experiment, even if this, you know, the changes you made in the acquisition funnel, um, have created drop-off. Yeah. Earlier on in the funnel. Okay. Well, you know, that’s, that’s a really good signal.

Go back to it, fix it. That’s the next iteration of your, of your experiment, right? You turn one thing. And the idea is that when you, if you can get to the end of your learning and you start to agree what the next steps might be, you can then decide, okay. There was a failure in that last experiment that we ran.

We should probably try something new. Let’s try something new, move on to the next experiment and have another core focus of let’s say the language that we use might not be. Very good. Or you might be very clear to the user. They need to take the next step and that’s, what’s caused the drop-off and the early stage fix that.

And then you can start to see actually incrementally, you start getting started to make that impact over time. And that, and that’s, that’s how the journey starts, right? You’re taking people on this journey of one, for one incremental step to the next and to the next and all of those small things add up, you know?

And so let’s say if you run three experiments, consecutively, you know, small improvements that will add up to significant growth, growth impact driver, the commercial team would look at and go over time and go, wow, that’s, that’s maybe worth, could be 2 million over two years. Right. But it’s, it’s, it’s that it’s been having been a brain being able to kind of take that measure initial kind of, um, commitment that you made in the beginning to be able to start to open the conversation with the commercial teams and this, this is kind of a transparent way of being able to.

Allow the people to follow along, um, at the same time dip in and, and have, you know, almost like open meters that people can kind of come into. Um, but you know, it generally just trying to keep, keep the conversation going right and, and, and attract people to the work that you’re doing. Um, so hopefully, um, you know, slowly by slowly, you can start to build the momentum, um, in your teams and, and, and help people follow along.

Christian: I find one of the what’s interesting about this is that it’s kind of a loop. So you finished one experiment and in that experiment, you’ve learned something that you can then use as a hypothesis in the next experiment. And then you finished that experiment and you use the next one. So in this way, Maybe you’ll always have some sort of an experimental run because there will always be failures in smaller experiments.

You’ll I mean, very rarely what you managed to we’re going to get it right. Or we’ll get it right. Exactly. Yeah. And 

David: absolute wizard. 

Christian: Right. And, and you’re, you’re hiring at the moment notes here. So if you are just

yeah. Obviously you’re you’ll, there will be failures and then you, this, this framework allows you to build upon the previous experiment. I also think it’s important as part of that conversation with the wider team. Sometimes you run experiments and the result is maybe good or maybe not so good. And then you just move on straight to the next piece of work, rather than saying.

We’ve we’ve done. We’ve spent two weeks doing this. Let’s talk let’s, let’s share in the name of transparency with everyone, what it is we’re doing here, whether it’s been successful or not, because that also helps build trust and entrance with the trust through transparency, I would say, and over time, as you’ve said, people will start thinking of design as a business function, more so than a artistic function or, Hey, look, this looks great.

Even if every once in a while you come with a negative result from an experiment in people’s minds, you will become more of a scientist because you’re doing experiments, right. You’ll will become someone more, more reliant on numbers than subjective 

David: opinions. Yeah. And it’s, it’s a great way. It’s a keep the conversation centered around, uh, the evidence, right?

If you can try and keep an object, an objective sense in, in, in the room or the people that you haven’t kind of conversations with. And, and so that honesty of talking about failures also feeds into the objective way of speaking about the work that you’re doing. So it is, there’s, there’s always a balance that needs to be struck between objective being objective and subjective.

Um, but also you need to kind of balance different different people’s perceptions of design. Um, and you know, that your, your opinion of design, maybe more kind of pragmatic versus some someone’s idealistic view of, um, sort of, you know, being really subjective and it’s all around trying to avoid all of those traps really.

Um, and there’s, hopefully there’s a framework will really help people move into that continuous improvement. So you’re, you’re, you’re having these constant feedback loops constant measures, and actually as a, as a way to help fuel progression in, in, in an organization, you know, that’s, that’s, that’s the best way to tell a story, right?

You’re, you’re building momentum. The S the experiments that you’re running are failing, but you’re having more successes than failures, um, are all good messages that, you know, as, as a business, that they will start to understand what really designed does to, to the business and, and how, how closely it actually is aligned to, to, to kind of change, right.

You know, design design is a real maker in a business. Um, and I think that’s super important to recognize. And the relationship between design and businesses is actually much closer than what people really feel or believe. Um, because you just have to look at it from if you’re starting a new business, a new business needs a lot of design to get.


Christian: of the experiences that I had in the past that I was thinking about is you were talking about transparency and connect, having a, you know, conversations with everyone in the team and design being a change maker. I remember a few years ago I was working for this company where we would have to do testing once a month.

So we would, we would get a lot of freedom and autonomy in how, in everything, but we had to do testing with real users once a month. And I remember, I don’t recall what problem it was, but there was some sort of a small problem that we tested. And one of the participants, I was in the, in the room with her, and then in the other room we’d had in the observation room, we had the team just watching through a camera and all of that.

And she got so frustrated. The participant got so frustrated for not being able to sort out this little task that we gave her, where she, her face got bred. She got angry. She got, she got visibly frustrate. To the point where she almost took it on me, took it out on me. And obviously everyone else was looking from the other room.

Anyway, D we deescalated the situation. We said, thank you, et cetera, et cetera. Again, I don’t remember what probably it was, but that problem was fixed. And in production in one week, because everyone saw this is what design, this is, what design can do. It can, if it can anger someone like this in a, in a separate testing.

And, but to that level, surely we have more customers. We fixed that issue and launched it straight away. And that’s something that I always think about whenever, whenever anyone questions or whenever everyone’s not sure about, well, what’s the value of, you know, spending so much money, bringing customers and testing with them, or that’s the value, not only the fact that you find issues and all that, but it brings the team together.

And the conversations that we had after that experience changed. From, or here’s what’s next on the roadmap to how does this impact our users? It was insane. Just how much of a change, that little experience of little Hafner experience had on the rest of the team. And then from that point on developers were advocating for design.

It was, that change happened instantly. So turning point. Yeah. Yeah. Turning point. So we’re running experiments with real users where everyone, and that’s the thing involve everyone in the team, not you only you as a designer sitting behind a screen or in an observation room with no, no, no. Involve everyone.

So everyone can see the impact of the work you’re doing. And the moment people will see how frustrating your design can get. They’ll start advocating for better design themselves. And that’s the sweet spot right there. 100%. So one of the things that I mentioned, the. Was the fact that you’ve got some experience with starting your own ventures.

You mentioned it yourself earlier, and obviously now you worked for quite a few companies at the high level. So I think it will be interesting to discuss a little bit. How have you seen your journey as an entrepreneur help you in your journey as a designer, maybe even getaway around? 

David: Yeah, it’s um, it’s an it’s, it’s an interesting one to, to reflect on, to be honest, I think, um, I think having, having to, having to start your own, um, your own business really.

You know, and it, for me, it was, it was all around trying to put all of my skills, interests together into one thing. Um, I was really seeking something to kind of go after, uh, but also really seeking. It wasn’t necessarily a sense of ownership. It was, it was a sense of, okay, where am I in my, in my life. Um, and where I’m, where am I in my career?

Because I’ve had such a very career, I, I wanted to give myself a sense of purpose and that that’s kind of why I ended up tackling, um, yeah, all of those curiosities in, in, in one reel. And it, it helped balance that the craving that I kind of had. But I also think they, so as you start to venture in and you start to try things, you try to, you know, try to kind of connect with your own, your own beliefs that, you know, you, you, you do have to be quite pragmatic in a sense, because if it’s your own money, you know, if you’ve got, if you’re, if you’re fortunate to be, it could be well-funded and you’ll still have to take quite a pragmatic view.

Um, and you have to be really responsible in terms of how you you’re spending that money, right. To be able to grow the business, or even kind of operate, uh, at a, at a level that’s, you know, cost-effective right. So, yeah, I think you’ve got to take a real pragmatic view, um, and, and always double-check with it with their own subjective views and actually go, they do like really, um, I might be in, am I taking this?

Am I looking at this from the right angle? Um, and kind of always questioning yourself, you know, I think you, you’ve got to always. Because to be quite self-critical in a way, but to the point where it isn’t kind of paralyzing, so hopefully they’ve been more pragmatic. Um, actually probably brings the best out in design to, to, to be, to be honest, I think, you know, for forcing that critical thought, you know, just to think about a change here, um, may, may create a bit of, uh, an uplift, uh, or maybe the change change over here might save time and, and, uh, maybe, you know, reduce, reduce the, the amount of spend that your, that you’re literally spending.

Um, so it kind of is that critical way of looking at things that I think is, is extremely important. Uh, less maybe from, from the design perspective, a designer going into entrepreneurship or, you know, I think you can definitely, as a designer, you know, you can, you can start something if, and you’re quite confident in everyone’s skill sets to be able to do that.

And I think that’s why, you know, we do have some sort of successful designer, uh, founders out there. Um, but I also think that when you’re being kind of quite pragmatic, you have to start thinking about, you know, the longer term path of, you know, how, how are you gonna, you know, create value for, for your end users?

You know, you really start to think about, you know, what is the, what is that lifetime value that you’re trying to, to, to kind of create? Like what, what, you know, how much, how much money are you able to, um, generate from your product over, over that lifespan? Right. So looking at, okay, you know, you D we need to make money as a business.

Um, And I think that, you know, that you, you know, you can’t just survive otherwise. Um, so you need to think about, you know, what is the revenue that you’re going to be able to generate from, from those, from those users. And, you know, that’s a balance of, okay, there, they will pay for the value that you give them.

But, you know, generally, um, over the, over the lifespan, how much revenue are going to be able to generate, but then also looking at, you know, the, that, that, that kind of lifespan, how long is the customer going to stay around and use your product and not switch to somebody else’s product? How can you make that customer stake?

So looking at that lifetime value overall is a really, really important metric because then you can start, it brings designs far closer to, um, the world of business, um, which helps you really understand that. The things you can do as a designer to be able to, um, make your product stick around, um, and give it, give it the longevity that you’ve probably always wished it had.

Um, but you know, you know, you know, I think that’s the thing, right? If you, if you’re, if you can balance out the commercial like that, if you do have, if you have the funding, um, but you understand how the business side of things, what you could re you could really be quite pointed in sense of how you approach things as the designer.

Um, Um, but that pragmatic side helps you generate the growth of role. And not only that, you know, if you can get towards the vision, uh, you know, great. Um, but sometimes you, don’t always, you, you will start with a smaller vision, which will become grander and grander and grander over time. And, you know, as, as with products, that’s with people we change.

Um, and I think, you know, our ambition has changed as well. So it’s important to explain that journey, I think, overall of entrepreneurship and how you want to grow, you know, 

Christian: see this hasn’t been planned. I promise to everyone listening, but this has played so well into the point that I wanted to make your, your answer right there.

Because to me, listening to you talk, now you didn’t really talk like a designer. You talk like someone who cared about the business because. Cause he wasted business. Right. 

David: But it’s because that was the intention, you know, to start something from scratch. Right. 

Christian: So, so I find that people who have tried in the past to start something up, whether they’ve succeeded or not, that’s less important, but it teaches you all those important aspects of being a designer.

But without realizing, because, because to me being a designer is more aligned with, or more similar to being a business person than it is to being an artists or, or anything else. So to me now, a lot of the stuff that you just said makes so much sense as a designer because we have to do that on a daily basis.

David: Yeah. An art is art is a business, you know, you can never be a successful artist. If you, if you don’t know the business aspect of it. Just a little point there. Ooh, 

Christian: that’s depends who you asking? I guess not. I mean, I agree with you, but I guess there will be some reviews for artists somewhere in, in some sort of corner of Paris that will probably disagree with you.

But yes, I see my trend. That is very true. So moving, moving on from entrepreneurship to a discussion that I, the reason I like to ask this question is because it really brings different perspectives from different people. There’s no right or wrong answer here, but I want to talk about hiring hiring designers, but more from the perspective of not so much from a perspective of, of someone who hires, but more from the perspective of someone who tries to get.

How do you, especially when you’re early on in your career, maybe don’t have a lot of projects on your portfolio. You don’t, you haven’t got that experience just yet. You haven’t been through a lot of interviews. The market is crazy right now for senior people, but for junior people, not so much, how do you break through, how do you get those, the hardest job to get as the first one?

Right. So how do you increase your chances to succeed? 

David: Yeah. So I think you find, you find a lot of portfolios. Um, they talk, they talk about a process, but, and, and, and that’s all good. That’s great. That’s a great way of achieving the things that you, you know, you set out, but I think what’s more important to me is the decision that you made in that process.

So for me, a designer that stands out is quite clear on, okay, we took this process because actually helped us make this decision off the end of it. Or let’s say we, we did this process and going back to the honesty and transparency, the thing we tried didn’t work. So we ended up pivoting and going into a different direction.

Those are all really interesting decision points. Um, and they’re really, they’re really help kind of, as, as let’s say, you’re viewing the portfolio, reading through it really helps you understand the mindset of the person, um, and how they’re able to really have a clear narrative. Uh, to, to their work. Um, it’s not, as, you know, it’s superficial, it’s more grounded and I think that’s really important, um, for anybody kind of getting into design.

I think that’s, you know, that’s very much from a junior perspective all the way up to, um, the senior senior level. But I think there’s definitely things that if you’re trying to break into the industry, you know, you could even, you could even try, you know, maybe redesigning a product, but you need to tackle it from the point of view that actually there was a problem that you identified.

Um, and you were making certain decisions to try and improve because you’re trying to fix, um, something that you noticed as just as an observation from an existing product. I think that’s a good case studies like that help you break into, um, the industry. For sure. I think that’s really, really good technique, but I think also.

I think so we’d spoke about vision, having a clear vision, um, and, but clear steps on how to get there. Um, the, the small things that you did to help you realize a vision over time. Um, and if you don’t necessarily have that experience again, going back to the, kind of the, the kind of using a case study is also a really, really good place to start in terms of how you can explain the decisions you make in design to help create an impact, um, for the product overall.

Um, but also I think the other thing that’s probably quite important and quite probably harder to recognize is, is, is like systems thinking, um, and connecting dots. I think that’s a really hard skill to identify. Um, but you, you do see that in people that really look at, um, Kind of a task focused way of, of working, um, or even jobs to be done as a framework.

If you’ve not heard of that, then that’s a really good way to try and craft your thinking into task driven work. But also I think obviously naturally the craft is super important, right? You can’t ever forget it, but I think what I, what really interests me more so than the craft is having everybody can have exceptional craft to the point where, you know, if they’re in an, in an interview, if they’ve been successful enough with their craft to get the interview.

But I think the, the most important underlying messages are, or, you know, definitely the decision-making right. It’s it’s having taking small steps. Big steps because the impact of taking a big step in a team or a big change means it’s either going to take more time. And if the product is going to look at it, they’re looking at it from a practical view of saying it’s going to cost more money.

So, because it’s going to take more energy to do it, and there are more efforts. So it’s, it’s someone that’s able to understand that making small changes will add up to a bigger, a bigger change overall. And I think that that kind of slow, um, patient approach to, to, to design that really helps me understand that the mindset where they come from and where they are in the, in their stage of their career.

Um, but I think, I think people that have shipped stuff as well, right. It’s it’s you want, you want people that have actually done the work? Um, I mean harder if you’re starting out in the industry. Um, but I think it took another way to kind of counter that is someone that’s been quite self-starter. So it was quite self-sufficient.

Um, and, and has just got something out there, even, even if it just be a portfolio website portfolio, someone that just an approach to actually shipping something, just you, you know, that something can be delivered, which is, you know, at the end of the day, one of the key things that we need to do, if we’re going to show an impact, we need to show the work that we’ve shipped.

Um, so yes, a number of quite a number of things really stand out for me. 

Christian: And so talking about standing up, when you get to an interview, how do you put your best foot forward? What, what impresses you as someone who’s hiring, someone comes in at whatever level, and then they do something that really impressed you, or that stuck with you at a, you remember years later or any stories of that kind?


David: I think Pete people that, um, people that are quite self. I think is, is super important. Um, because if you’re, if you’re self aware, just you, you know, you can have an honest conversation with somebody, um, at some point, right? It makes it makes it if someone that’s more self-aware is more, more likely to have a better fit within, within an organization or a team.

Then they know that, you know, maybe certain, certain ways you behave in not the right way to behave, because it will generate conflict and conflict. Isn’t just a good, it’s not a good thing to have. Right. Um, for everybody. And so I think generally it’s something that is really, really, self-aware, it’s just super, super, super important.

Um, but someone who’s really got a very clear opinion of what, of what they’re looking for. You know, don’t, don’t when you’re. When you’re interviewing it’s, it’s a two way street, right? Don’t if you want something in particular and it’s, you’re not going to get that from this role, because it’s just not the right shape.

It’s not the right kind of work that interests you be honest because there could be something else within the, the company that you’re working for, or there could be a role that is just a better fit for your skillset and your interests. I think that that’s, what’s really important is, is finding something that’s going to work well for, for, for both, um, is, is when the kind of the magic starts to happen in, in companies, right?

That’s because everyone’s aligned, everyone knows exactly what they want and that, and, and that’s where you’re going to get really excited about the work that you do. So I think that’s probably some things that are. Look for, is it is to start honest. There’s someone that you can say, well, I’m not quite sure that this is the right thing for me.

Um, cause that only will prompt another, another conversation. Oh yeah. Okay. Yeah. I can see your perspective. Um, maybe I can go away and have a conversation with somebody else and see if there’s a benefit somewhere else. And, and you know, one thing leads to the next and I think just taking that open-minded approach is actually quite, quite a good approach to take in general.


Christian: I also think that what ends up happening naturally when you say yes to a role that wasn’t really right for you in the first place is one of two things. Either. You’re going to be staying there for awhile and be miserable. That’s not going to help you resolve. Yeah, exactly. You’re not getting any better anytime soon or you’re gonna join and leave six months in which.

So no benefit to you to no benefit to the company. You can’t really say you wasted your time, but, but in a way you could have been in a place that was better for you. Right? So in a way, yeah, you have wasted some, some, some time by being in the wrong place. So I, I have been through that myself saying yes to the wrong roles and, and I can guarantee that it’s, it’s no path to 

David: happiness.

No, I think we’ve all, we’ve all been there. We’ve all been there. I think it, you know, you need to find, you need to make those mistakes to find out who you are, what interest you’re in. So, 

Christian: yeah. So what I think, I think this is very interesting. You’ve made that mistake. I’ve made that mistake. I think a lot of people have made that mistakes.

How do you approach, I mean, you know, it provided you would look for a new job or whatever. How would you approach that search now, knowing what makes you tick and what types of role you would enjoy versus how we will do it for you? 

David: Yeah. So, I mean, the way, the way I’ve approached it, how I found myself at Shopify, I’ve found myself, um, naturally just quite attracted to commercial.

Um, and you know, I hadn’t worked in the mortgage lending sector and credit cards. Um, I re I realized that I really enjoy commercial companies. Um, you know, kind of quite proud to say that, you know, in a, in a strange way, because for me, for me, that’s what I get really excited about. Um, and also it helps me really apply, you know, the thought process of putting impact against, um, you know, um, a measure and, and, and, you know, really starting to connect design to business.

And, and, and you’ve got a, you know, all of the commercial aspects around, around that space, which for me, you know, It’s a, it’s a dreamy place. It’s such a crazy place to be. Right. Because there’s so much things that you can do as it is. It’s just trying to figure out the right thing at the right time, I think, because timing’s really important to things as well.

Um, and so for me, I found myself gravitating more to work towards that, but I think again, that’s through experience, right? You have to be able to find yourself the things that you you’re interested in. Um, the sector that really makes you, you happy, um, is super important. And I say happy in a sense that I’m in.

You know, you, you have to get something back from it. Um, so that, you know, sometimes it’s going to really get you out of bed. You know, you’ve got to stay true to yourself and, and know the work that you’re doing is, is having an impact or create value somewhere. Uh, what that value means, whether it be for a customer or whether it’d be for a business, um, is, is something that you, I think you really need to dig into, you know, and you will, at some point early on in your career, get that job.

You thought about why did I take this job? Um, do you may not, but there’s always a reason why you switched from one job to the next. And I think it’s all around trying to find, you know, that, that thing that you, that you crave. And I’d like to think at some point, I would love to start another business, um, to gov the amount of ideas that flood your brain or my brain, um, constantly, um, is, is, is something that I really, yeah, I cherish that, but I also tried to.

Lea level that off, because I think having that constantly is a bit of a dangerous 

Christian: curse. Right. It’s all about balance. Isn’t it? 

David: It’s a balance. Yeah. It’s a balance. Yeah. 

Christian: All right, David, I had two more questions for you. The ones that I ask everyone at the end of the show. So, uh, the first one is what is one soft skill that you wish more designers would possess?

David: Um, a soft skill. I think it will very much just, uh, being able to ask us very, very open questions. Um, 

Christian: I thought you were going to say self-awareness 

David: so self-awareness is always going. We covered that one. Um, but yeah, I think just, just generally how to start a conversation, just to ask a question, um, I think more often than not, I have seen there’s some designers starting companies and they stay quite quiet.

Um, and, and you do, you should be, feel, feel quite comfortable. I feel quite open enough to be able to just ask any question. Um, and so that’s what I generally try to do. I really encouraged that aspect of, of people, you know, make a list of questions. If you don’t know how to even approach it, just list out some questions and you can use that as a, as a nice kind of guiding path for you to just start the conversation.

And just at least have one question, right. Um, to be able to start, start conversations. Um, cool. 

Christian: So ask more questions. That’s that’s the sort of questions the other one is what’s one piece of advice that has changed your career for the better. 

David: Um, great. I think for me, I think the best advice I’ve had is to.

The people that you’re having conversations with is really understand, um, the things they’re trying to achieve and how you can help. Um, so really, really, when you’re talking about forming alliances, really, really yeah. Ask the questions, but I find the opportunities to be able to help something create a stronger trust overall in a team.

Um, that that’s for me, for me, it’s, it’s an excellent way to operate. Um, it’s, it’s just, it helps you, uh, form a very, very. Kind of bond and build that trust from the very, very beginning. Um, and hopefully you’ll be able to, you’ll become a go-to person. I think that’s kind of the thing, the more you help, the more of a go-to person you become, the more you become.

And generally that’s how you will start to have more of an impact in, in, in your role and feel a little bit more rewarded and, you know, no one’s going to come running to you straight away when you’re, when you’re new in a company, people are going to be more curious about you and kind of maybe a little bit hesitant, but, you know, don’t, you know, remove, remove that hesitancy or, you know, how it start those conversations in an open way, and people will naturally start coming to you.

And I think that’s kind of a great way to live life. 

Christian: Uh, that’s also a great way to end the show. I think that was the, it was pretty good, David, uh, any, any last doors, where can people find you? Where can they get in touch with you? 

David: Yeah, well, hit me up on LinkedIn. Um, I, you know, I, I, for some reason I find it, that’s my, that’s my home.

I love following links and it’s crazy. Um, yeah, so, you know, if he wants to connect on LinkedIn, let’s, let’s have a chat a bit good to get to chat, see where, you know, see what’s happening in your life and in your career. Um, love having conversations get to do lights connects. Um, and if anyone’s interested, um, in looking for a career change or looking for that next step to reach out and send me.

Christian: right. We’re going to put all of that in the show notes so people can easily find you, David. This has been a massive pleasure. Thanks so much for, for being a guest on the, on the show. And, um, we will, uh, be in touch. 

David: We’ll speak soon, super stuff. Thank you so much for having me, Christian. 

Christian: That’s a wrap for today.

I hope you found this episode useful and that you’ve learned something that you were ready to implement at work tomorrow. If you’ve enjoyed this as always, it would mean the world to me. If you’d share it with your community, if you’d leave a review. And of course, if you’d remember to tune in for the next one, peace.