In the last couple of months my work here at Automattic has been focused on designing the first version of a new internal tool to be used by our Happiness Engineers. It’s a tool that will at the very least make our coworkers’ day to day a little bit better, but hopefully will impact on an aspect of the division’s staff organization that we think will help streamline how they work greatly.
The tool isn’t exactly disruptive: they have used a handful of similar tools previously, some built in-house and some third party products, and we are following those steps. Their internal processes around this specific organizational area have also evolved with time, and we know that the tool we’re building will need to be flexible enough to allow that evolution to continue. It will inevitably become obsolete in a few months otherwise.
Some of the solutions we’re working on are inspired by functionalities that we know (my team, since we’ve been doing a lot of research lately, but specially our Happiness Engineers as they are the actual users) work well from those previous tools, but many others are being designed relying fundamentally on our intuition and experience. We think these new features will be an improvement and an advancement with respect to how things are done at the moment, but even at this point we can’t be absolutely sure they will. Only real usage of our tool will allow us to confirm that they work, and to iterate on those parts that don’t.
One of Automattic’s Design Principles says: “Intuition is grounded in interpretation through iteration”. I couldn’t agree more, as I’m constantly experiencing it. It requires a lot of effort to succeed if you don’t have enough knowledge or experience to be able to rely on your intuition, but it’s an impossible task to successfully build a product (or set up a store, create a sustainable service, etc.) if you don’t have a way to gather information and feedback, identify the pieces that work and the ones that don’t, check which of your assumptions were correct and which were not —and iterate towards your goal.