Notes on Paul Adam’s Future of Product Design

(From a podcast between Amy Jo Kim and Paul Adams on Amy’s site,, link here)

Paul runs product at a fast-growing customer communications startup called Intercom

Paul and his colleagues use Job Stories that are inspired by the Jobs-To-Be-Done approach first developed by Clayton Christensen

Job stories use the format “When I want to….so I can…” (read more about how they are used at Intercom here)

They include Job Stories in their initial design briefs then use them as check ins throughout the design process

Job Stories are better than personas in product development because they are less limiting—sticking too closely to personas can limit the solutions your team considers (I just faced this situation a couple of days ago!)

Paul’s work at Facebook convinced him that most users are trying to do the same basic things so he focuses on those actions rather than persona descriptions—all types of people use the same basic workflow: “The Facebook example I use is a good one because if you are the designer for a photo sharing experience in Facebook and you go about it in one of two ways, you can write the job story, which is something like when people attend an event and take photos, they want to share them easily with friends so that they can reminisce there or in the future…They could be old or young. They could be in any culture.”

They use feedback from their product Intercom ( a customer communication tool) to help figure out what the most important actions are

Amy Jo uses Job Stories and extends them over time for game design—a discovery job story, an onboarding job story, a habit building job story and a mastery job story

Personas are still a valuable tool to help weed out false assumptions by the folks in the enterprise with little or no contact with customers

Intercom ensures their product design process is clearly mission-driven so they don’t develop too many features and make the product too complex or confusing

When they build out roadmaps, they have 5 key inputs:

  1. Continued iteration of the most recently released features (so that they don’t just move on to the next shiny thing)
  2. Developing cool new things—defined mostly by intuition since they are in constant customer contact
  3. Customer problems—the team assumes their customers are experts in their problems, not their solutions, so they always go back to their problems
  4. Feature customization for their bigger customers
  5. Bugs, speed, latency etc

Paul is a big believer for designing prototypes in code very early in the process—designers and coders working together from the outset so they get a real feel for how a feature feels in the real world

Intercom isn’t stictly Agile (or anything) but they work on concrete goals within 6-week cadences. They don’t create longer-term concrete goals than that

Their long-term goals are 6 years out—that way the goals are focused on the mission and not technology or trends

Aside from long-term goals, they also have 6-month strategy boards: “The strategy boards, they’re not a project. They’re themes for all teams to think about. That’s some of the stuff that I work on or try and find as much time to work on as possible, as building out these strategic themes that are actionable enough for our product teams to take on and fold into the work they do everyday.”

There’s also an interesting discussion of bots, go to the link to read more!

About Paul Adam (from Paul Adams is a Dublin-based designer, researcher and product manager with a storied career. He’s played influential roles at both Google and Facebook — and now runs product at a fast-growing customer communications startup called Intercom.




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