Tag Archive for: usability

Part 2 of 2

This is the second post in a series about Value Proposition Design and focuses on a technique to build a digital strategy roadmap using the VPD methodology. The series covers what Value Proposition Design is, what its benefits are and how it fits into a larger Digital Strategy.

Click here for part 1. Also, stay tuned for our updated Digital Strategy Resources Guide.

About This Series

Value Proposition Design Flying lens

In my previous post in this series about Value Proposition Design, we covered the high-level benefits of VPD as a design thinking process. In addition to its inherent benefits, it can help establish a common language that connects 10,000-foot level thinkers with their more detail oriented counterparts, be it employees or service providers.

If you missed the previous post, you might like to check out Value Proposition Design – “Just Do Me Up One Of These”.

What You Will Get Out Of Reading This Post

In this post, I will go into how we use the Value Proposition Design process in a slightly unorthodox way. The goal is to create an actionable digital strategy roadmap and project plans, even for solopreneurs and small business owners.

Benefits of using VPD as a starting point in this way are many:

  • Better web design and site content
  • Better SEO and link building approach
  • Better Engagement for blog and social media posts
  • Increased e-Mail list sign up rates
  • Better converting lead magnets
    • Inbound Marketing Readiness
    • More compelling marketing language
    • Clarity about what analytics to measure
    • Clarity around UX goals
    • More representative UX design processes

    So if you are interested in these outcomes, read on!

    Origins of Value Proposition Design

    So where did Value Proposition Design come from? Many of our readers who are into the start-up scene will have heard of the Business Model Canvas. The Business Model Canvas is a strategic management and lean start-up template for developing new, or documenting existing, business models. It is one of the better known “lean” start-up processes. (Wikipedia and YouTube references).

    Have you and your business ever looked for partners or investors?

    Digital strategy roadmaps are not just for start-ups

    You may not be going in front of Shark Tank, but creating a pitch for potential partners or investors in your business or non-profit happens more often than one might think.

    The Business Model Canvas and Value Proposition Design processes allow you to communicate and test the ins and outs of your business model. For a good overview of the canvas, check out this Business Model Canvas post on Floship. Some start-ups use it to build their “Shark Tank Ready” pitch to investors covering all the bases in terms of customer segments, product market fit, financials, etc. But it is also a terrific process to test out the viability of new product and business ideas. And we use it in a unique way to feed into our digital strategy roadmap process.

    “Do you produce products and services customers actually want? “

    Value Proposition Design Book

    Value Proposition Design (VPD) was authored by Alex Osterwalder and his team at Strategyzer.com, and has emerged as a subset of the Business Model Canvas. It focuses specifically on understanding customer segments and product-market fit of your products and services. The clear value proposition definitions that emerge from a VPD exercise are extremely useful, regardless of where in your business life-cycle you currently are.

    As I touched upon in my previous post, we often find that many of our clients benefit hugely from creating clear value proposition statements around their products and services. Often these have not been formally established and can be used to connect their various marketing activities and projects in a strategic and holistic way.

    How We Use VPD Design Thinking To Impact Small and Large Businesses

    Digital Strategy Roadmap Design Primer

    I should note that we at Polymash use VPD in a slightly unorthodox way: We do not necessarily create fully fledged Shark Tank ready business plans and pitch decks for investors.

    More often we use the initial stages of the VPD process to feed into our own Digital Strategy Design methodology, which creates actionable plans across multiple dimensions of a digital strategy roadmap.

    And we do not focus only on supporting start-ups but have found ways to help businesses of any size, including solopreneurs, small businesses, and corporates. To see why this works so well for us, read on.

    In short, we call this process “inbound design“, the intentional design patterns and practices that more easily allow you and your business to be customer-centric, and as a result to attract, convert, close and delight your audience and turn them into customers.

    Appreciative Inquiry is Asset Based Thinking

    Another point of differentiation is that we start by focusing on existing assets, rather than on deficits. Starting with what already works well and can be built upon is a more energizing experience for clients to work on, rather than on solely zooming in on gaps that exist. The “Strength-Based Approach” we use is based on applying “Appreciative Inquiry” methodology. It creates a more collaborative and blame-free environment, with people more willingly contributing and implementing changes, all the while feeling like they are co-creating their own digital future presence.

    How Does A VPD Workshop Function, And Who Should Attend?

    Value Proposition Design Workshop as part of building a clients digital strategy roadmap

    It is best to invite a facilitator familiar with the VPD process run the workshop. As far as attendees, we think that 3-25 stakeholders are a good size, depending on the size and complexity of the business or product set being worked on.

    It is, of course, a good idea to get diverse representation from inside the business. Business owners or C-level execs, product management, marketing, operations, and sales should all be represented. For small businesses, the owners and supporters that know the business intimately can suffice.

    But getting input from actual clients representing different customer segments is valuable. For example, if you were developing an educational product or business it would be great to have representation from students, teachers as well as parents.

    VPD workshops can be conducted in a single day or spread out into smaller sessions in multiple days, but it will be difficult to be productive in just a few hours. Building a digital strategy is a strategic effort, and we recommend doing at least 2 sessions, usually on separate days.

    • Session One focuses on customer profiles, value maps and product marketing fit. It produces “Value Proposition Statements” as an end of session deliverable.
    • Session Two can have fewer attendees who focus on project planning as part of a larger digital strategy roadmap. This is achieved by feeding the VPD statements into each relevant dimension on our Digital Strategy CCC Process.

    Suggested Workshop Sessions & Workflow

    Session One

    • Identify Customer Segments to Work On
    • Use Sticky Notes and Dotmocracy to document ideas
    • Post-It App to digitize
    • Focus on Customer Profile First
    • Focus on Value Map Second
    • Produce Value Proposition Statements

    Session Two

    • Recap Session One
    • Evaluate Potential Fits
    • Focus on Most Compelling VPD Statements
    • Digital Strategy Roadmap Design (CCC Process)
    • Follow Up Task and Project Plan

    Workshop Trigger Questions

    Example Trigger Questions for "Customer Jobs To Be Done" courtesy of Strategyzer.com

    Example Trigger Questions, courtesy of Strategyzer.com

    To stimulate thinking during the workshop, the VPD process provides a series of trigger questions that lead participants to consider aspects they may not have thought of before.

    • “Jobs to Be Done” trigger questions explore key jobs customers do, as well as contexts and even emotional states in which they operate.
    • “Pains” trigger questions focus on pains customers may experience in their daily lives, in terms of money, time, effort and frustrations they may encounter.
    • “Gains” trigger questions explore potential gains, in terms how saving time, cost, effort or increased quality can delight customers and lead them to achieve their aspirations.

    Trigger questions are also used to explore your current of future products and services, and how well these products and services address gains or pains of each customer segment.

    Customer Profile Trigger Questions

    • Customer Jobs
    • Customer Pains
    • Customer Gains

    Value Map Trigger Questions

    • Pain Relievers
    • Gain Creators

    Sticky Notes and Dotmocracy

    VPD results for a client building a digital strategy roadmap with our process

    Depending on the number of people in the room, the activities can be split into sub-groups, each working a separate customer profile or product profile for example.

    We use whiteboards with large VPD diagrams to work on and place sticky notes with participant ideas to record all ideas.

    The sticky notes can be prioritized and sorted in a number of ways. We are fond of “Dotmocracy” sorting, where every participant gets 10 small “dot” stickers they can vote with by placing a dot on the ideas they like best.

    Side Note Alert:

    There is a terrific way to capture and digitize these sticky notes along the way:

    One of my favorite apps in this process is “Post-It Plus App”, which takes a photo of the entire whiteboard and produces digital “sticky note” square images that can be assembled and used to create great looking workshop documentation and client reports after the session.

    Click here for a video of this in action…

    Value Proposition Statements

    Example of a Value Proposition Statement, part of a digital strategy roadmap

    Example VPD Statement

    “Value Proposition Statements” are a quick but formalized way of describing how your products solve problems or create gains for each of your customer segments.

    One has to experience the entire process to see how amazingly concise and nuanced the VPD can be for each customer segment. The format to follow is illustrated in the example to the right, taken from a recent educational website we are building for a client.

    Finding “Fit”

    Here you discover what sort of fit exists between your products and the needs of each market segment you have defined. In his VPD book Alex Osterwalder differentiates between three types of potential fit:

    On Paper: Problem Solution Fit

    This occurs when you have evidence that customers care about certain jobs, pains or gains, and have designed a VPD statement that matches your product or service up with these needs.

    In The Market: Product Market Fit

    Occurs when you have evidence that your existing products and services are actually solving customer pains and providing gains the market. In short, you are in the process of getting traction.

    In the Bank: Business Model Fit

    occurs when there is evidence that your VPD statements can be part of a sustainable and scalable business model

    So Now What? How to make the VPD Statements Actionable

    Steps in Building a Digital Strategy Roadmap

    This is where the “rubber meets the road”. This is also where we at Polymash diverge from the rest of the VPD and Business Model Canvas process. We utilize a simple “Create, Chuck, Continue” (CCC Process) to define follow up tasks and projects as we evaluate strategic application areas. (More on this later)

    The goal is to take the VPD insights gained and to then apply the carefully crafted VPD statements to all segments of a digital strategy.

    Application areas quickly become obvious.

    1.) VPD Drives Content Strategy

    Good VPD statement can drive Content Strategy. For example, clarity gained around customer segments and what they truly value will help you create an editorial calendar with more relevant topics for blog posts that better connect your target audience.

    2.) VPD Drives Web Design and Re-Design

    Think of how your website is structured. Think about how it is laid out, the pages that exist today. Can VPD help you improve your site design to make the content more compelling, more relevant to your audience? Can you think of creating sections and content that better connect with your customers and “speaks” to their needs? The answer has been a resounding “yes” in our experience. It can inform what pages to A/B test, VPD design can drive SEO keyword and Google AdWords research, it can drive link building efforts, the list goes on.

    3.) VPD Drives User Experience

    Not all businesses have a UX practice in place, but many smaller and start-up businesses have at least built design personas to understand their customer better. VPD is terrific input into many UX processes, from Design Personas to Customer Journey Mapping or Core Model Designs.

    4.) VPD Drives Marketing

    When it comes to Marketing, there are too many application areas to even mention. Obviously VPD improves the overall marketing language by being more focused and clear about needs and wants of each customer segment. But it also provides a basis for social media posts, topics of content curation, targeted offers, discount strategy and so on. Applications are only limited by a marketers imagination.

    5.) VPD Drives Analytics

    Lastly, the overall VPD process creates clarity around what to measure and where to apply analytics. This can help in setting up Google analytics segmentation, can be used to drive SEO keyword research. And of course, the output of analytics can then also be used to inform the next phase of validating, refining, changing and adjusting the overall strategy from year to year.

    Building a Digital Strategy Roadmap: Our CCC Process

    Building a Digital Strategy Roadmap does not need to be complex or expensive.

    Polymash CCC Process for our digital strategy roadmap

    One Example of our Polymash CCC Process Template

    The overall investment of time is relatively low when compared to the results and ROI we have observed from this approach. And the way in which these insights can be executed can vary from simple to do lists to more robust project planning tools for larger businesses.

    The process we use to build a holistic strategy roadmap is our Create, Chuck, Continue (CCC) process.

    • For each customer segment and for each Digital Strategy dimension we use this process to decide which activities need to take place (Create), what should be discontinued (Chuck), and what should be kept in place (Continue).

    At the end of the entire workshop process, this will produce a high-level roadmap of small or large projects that need to take place in each Digital Strategy Dimension listed above. This roadmap can then easily be transferred into to do lists, editorial calendars, social media scheduling tools or an organization’s project planning software.

    Strategy Roadmap Case Studies and Examples

    Ready For Life digital strategy roadmap

    I’m excited to be launching several new sites for clients who have gone through the entire VPD process. The client has been delighted with the VPD process, and has applied the insights to the user experience and web designs for his new site, as well as to his content strategy and all other aspects of the digital strategy roadmap we co-created.


  • The first of these sites is called Ready4Life, it helps parents and kids by providing tools and a practical processes to help them know their strengths and discover opportunities in the world that need what they do best.
  • Positivity Strategist

  • Another good example is Positivity Strategist, where we went about creating strategy roadmaps using the value proposition design methods and built a fundamentally customer-centric and inbound design oriented approach.
  • Good Dad Project

  • The Good Dad Project uses value proposition design patterns to help the audience self select into segments on parenting, fitness or relationships, all topics that provide different resources to each audience.
  • I’ll be posting additional case studies and success stories soon.


    If you’ve read this far, I thank you for bearing with me through this rather lengthy discussion on how we collaborate with our clients to build holistic digital strategy roadmaps.

    Since starting Polymash as an app and web design and development company, we’ve observed that most of our engagements are never “just about creating an app” or “re-designing a website”. When asking our client’s fundamental questions about their business goals and reasons behind wanting to start a web or app project, a clear need for a holistic digital strategy usually emerged.

    Starting with VPD and finishing with our Digital Strategy Roadmap process has made this a reality for our clients and has successfully produced significant and measurable results.

    I’d love to hear your views, observations or questions about this process, please feel free to leave a comment or contact us at info@polymash.com.

    I’m motivated to share some valuable findings from a study about consumers’ behaviors as they relate to the use of mobile devices and apps.  The study, The Pulse of the Consumer: Global Trends in Mobile Communications was presented by Deloitte Dbriefs as part of their technology, media and telecommunications (TMT) series.

    The study included the following countries: Belgium, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, United Kingdom, and the United States, Argentina, Brazil, Croatia, Mexico, South Africa, and Turkey.

    Survey Findings

    Device awareness and usage


    • The average monthly spend on smartphone contracts was $60, ranging from less than $20 per month at the low end to more than $170 per month at the high end.
    • When it came to choosing their current smartphone, the top seven most important features listed by respondants were: design, touchscreen, brand, operating system, reliability, camera and applications.


    Tablets have changed consumer behavior.


    At the time of the survey, May 2012:

    • 18% of tablet owners hardly use their laptops any more.
    • 23% use their laptops less often.
    • We know from other research (Forrestor and Gartner) that it’s anticipated that in less than two years – by mid 2014 –  more consumers will be accessing the web on their mobile devices than on their desktops.


    App user awareness and downloads


    When it comes to app awareness and downloads on smartphones and on tablets, Japan pips the post, with US not far behind.

    As far as age demographic globally, among app users:

    • 18 – 34 year olds scored  the highest number of downloads in the 70- 80% range
    • 34 – 44 year olds download around 60%
    • 45-54 age group hovering on 50%
    • 55 years and older, 30% of them download apps.


    The Canadians and Germans are greater app users, downloading more apps and spending more money

    German and Canadian App UsersWhile, globally, 73% of those surveyed download 1 – 4 apps per month, and 58% spend zero dollars per month, 21% of Canadians spend more that $5 per month and 29% download more than 5 apps per month. The Germans appear to be the heaviest downloaders with 30% downloading more than 5 apps per month and 14% spending more than $5.  These statistics apply to smartphones.

    Germany and Canada came out on top as app users when it came to tablets. 41% of Germans tablet owners download more that 5 apps per month, and 17% more than 10 downloads. As far as spend, 31% of German tablet owners spend more than $5 per month.  Among the Canadian tablet owners, 37% download more than 5 apps per month and 28% of them spend more than $5 per month.

    Least appreciated smartphone capability

    NFC - app userThe most misunderstood and undervalued smartphone capability is near field communications NFC, especially for m-commerce. 49% of the respondents indicated that would not want NFC capability at all.  Only 3% replied they would only want a phone with such capability.  Despite having responded that way, around 50% of respondents indicated they would use the activities that NFC enables, implying NFC functionality is not yet fully understood or appreciated.  See the graph below.

    Deloitte Webinar - App user NFC SlideIf you are interested to learn more, you can download the PDF of the full set of slides of Deloitte’s presentation: The Pulse of the Consumer: Global Trends in Mobile Communications

    Some context about risk-taking

    The press release (full text here) has been met with a lot of buzz on Twitter and a number of review sites.

    [button size=’small’ color=’black’ link=’http://www.polymash.com/app/the-crankamacallit-ipad-apps-for-kids/’]Visit the Crankamcallit Home Page[/button]

    At Polymash we feel the Crankamacallit is interactive story-telling with a difference, and I wanted to provide a little context as to why and elaborate a bit more on the following part of the release:

    This iPad app for kids takes some risks that set it apart from most children’s stories. The developer took a page out of game design by utilizing a first person perspective in interactivity, animation and illustration. Interactive elements are intentionally not highlighted nor easy to find. User testing feedback revealed kids “get it” and show their parents the functionality, not the other way around. Another risk was to use the recently released Adobe CS5.5 Digital Publishing Suite platform for a children’s book, and to extend its core functions with HTML5 and JavaScript coding. The developer participated in the alpha and beta testing for Adobe beginning in the summer of 2010, and with this app shows that the platform can be used for much more than just the digital magazines it was created for.

    The buzz about iPad usability

    I  come from a corporate IT background in user experience and usability engineering. And recent buzz complains about the lack of usability  standards on the iPad (based on a report by the Nielsen Norman Group, an authority in the field) Here is an example on the Huffington Post referring to this study. They point out that because of a lack of standard user interfaces for the Pad, interactive elements and the overall user experience is  not always obvious and predictable.

    So, can “lack of usability standards” ever be a good thing?

    iPad app for kids - crankamacallitWhile this lack may be a frustration to grown ups, our own usability studies have shown that for kids this has not been an issue.

    Why? My theory is that unlike grown-ups, kid’s egos are not as involved or hurt by having to explore and hunt for functionality, and they delight in figuring it out. We’ve often witnessed grown ups pick up an iPad for the first time with a sense of trepidation and fear of not quite knowing how to use it, but kids immediately start to experiment and play. And I think as grown ups start to understand the device, they too delight in their “discoveries”.  To me, this sense of discovery creates much deeper engagement, and the many brilliant app designs unencumbered by any usability standards illustrate the magic of the iPad.

    So I for one do not necessarily look forward to seeing universal iPad usability standards develop. So unlike many kid’s apps we see, for our interactive children’s story we have intentionally not been too obvious about brightly highlighting interactive regions, providing instructions or hints. Our testing with kids proved that they “get it” and are able to show functionality of the app to their parents, not the other way around.

    Here’s a grown up’s (unsolicited) review on iTunes that illustrates the point:

    “The first time I went through this book on my iPad I missed 90% of it and I thought, “well, this is pretty lame”. Then my 3 year old daughter got ahold of it and showed me what was possible. Even without having seen the rest of it, what I did see initially was visually stunning. The rest of it just made it worth the $5. It’s not a book of puzzles, it’s a book that tells a story (obviously), and invites you to explore the world created so cleverly by the graphic artist. Don’t leave a single stone unturned when you go through the book, or, give it to your 3 year old and sit back and be amazed. “

    I’ve really come to appreciate the 5 second usability test:

    [one_half]Conducting these 5 second tests for our recently launched iPad helped a lot in getting user feedback on the look and feel and iconography. This tried and true UX exercise may at first glance seems like a lot of work to set up, but the 5 second site makes it ridiculously easy: IN the app development process it helped develop personas, and gave us direct feedback on how users perceived icons in the app store, allowed us to get a handle on what people thought of the look and feel, and what conceptual associations they made with the images and page layouts used.[/one_half]

    [one_half_last][box type=”info”]There are two basic test types the 5 second site allows: A 5 second test to pick from a choice of designs that at first glance are more appealing, and a click test that displays a heat map of where users clicked the most. The mock up’s ewere easy enough to create: We took screenshots from the iTunes app store, and randomly overlayed our own icon designs. Then we asked people a range of questions.[/box][/one_half_last]

    Concepts for our latest iPad app icons

    You can try it, if you have 5 seconds to spare:

    Click on the image to launch a five second test!