Write better walkthroughs with the 3x3 Method

"If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough” — Albert Einstein

As a product designer, you have many roles to fill. Strategist, UX designer, front-end dev, and marketer to name a few. The smaller your team (maybe your “team” is just you), the greater the number of hats there are to wear.

Among these roles, yet often overlooked, is that of salesperson. Not the suited, briefcase-wielding type; but the stealthier kind: the copywriter. When designing your marketing materials — chief among them your app’s walkthrough screens or site’s homepage — your copy and its layout are your primary tools.

When was the last time you got to an app’s homescreen/page and felt a little exasperated? “So what does it do exactly? Why do I need this?” — your job as a designer is to answer these questions quickly, efficiently and beautifully. It’s a tough task, but there’s a method that can help, which I call the 3x3.

Constraints for clarity

When designing the walkthroughs for Peeps, my current startup, I had a hard time knowing what to focus on. My head was so deep in the product — what we had, what was upcoming, what worked well, what wasn’t quite there — that it was hard to see the wood for the trees. I needed a way to focus on what the key benefits were for end-users. Why should they sign up for this?

I decided to constrain my thinking in order to regain clarity. Remembering the Einstein quote above (and various other odes to simplicity), I drew three boxes on a sheet of paper. Underneath each of them, three lines. The task was thus: explain to a n00b what the product is and why they should use it. 3 illustrations, each with 3 words accompanying them. This is the 3x3 method.

Try it now

Try it with your own product. 3 boxes, each with three lines underneath. Sketch a simple illustration in the boxes, then write 3 words on the lines underneath. Explain what, why and how.

  • What - what does your product do?
  • Why - what’s the benefit? (makes for a good slogan).
  • How - a differentiator. Perhaps an innovative piece of functionality or a cost indicator.

Make no mistake: _It’s hard. _But that’s the point. By constraining yourself to an extreme level, you’re forced to boil down your product to its bare fundamentals. Your use of language has to change. Do away with determiners and adjectives and concentrate on verbs and nouns, whilst avoiding lists and maintaining a semblance of a sentence for each panel.

This is the first part of the exercise, designed to help you establish what the core of your product offering is.

I cheated a little on the last panel here (told you it was tough!)

Where’s the beef?

The second part is where you beef out the choices arrived at so far, and shape them into something that will sell your products’ concepts to potential users. In production — that is, where you eventually display the walkthroughs — you will likely need to soften the language so it reads well for your readers; but maintain the key messages derived from the 3x3 exercise.

The final Peeps walkthrough. Note how the original 3x3 has been expanded, but retains the same message.

If you struggle, the reasons why may reveal an insight into your product. For example: perhaps there are two or three features you feel are deserving of attention? The 3x3 should force you to settle on the most pertinent.

These kind of learnings can be super valuable, and a good reason to spend 10 minutes making your 3x3.

Show me your 3x3s - I’m @tomcavill on twitter. You can download Peeps on the App Store.

Source: https://medium.com/@tomcavill/

"If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough” — Albert Einstein As a product designer, you have many roles to fill. Strategist, UX designer, front-end dev, and marketer to name a few. The smaller your team (maybe your “team” is just you), the greater the…

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Launching Soundfly.com with NodeJS

For the past month or so, I've been working on creating an interactive music learning platform with a bunch of amazing and talented musicians, DIYers and makers in Brooklyn called Soundfly.

We're launching our initial concept on September 3rd, 2014 and we're excited to see how the app translates to the rest of the world. Particularly those interested in learning how to play music for the first time as well as advanced courses that will teach you a thing or two about how to improve your current playing skills.

My role at Soundfly is CTO, which is fitting since I am the only tech person (this startup is running lean and I love it) for now. Prior to joining I started working on porting all of my existing PHP apps and websites over to NodeJS, Express, MongoDB, Jade, and Less. I couldn't be any happier with this decision and I've been writing Soundfly's new codebase using a boilerplate NodeJS app that I created prior to joining the team. It's not only helped us produce more work in roughly one month's time, it's also allowed me, a single developer, to rapidly prototype Ian's (our CEO/Founder) design and product decisions in a more flexible and time saving approach.

I honestly love working in Javascript, I never thought I would be using it for an entire web stack. I mean, working in Atom (Githubs IDE) which is written in NodeJS, the ease of installing modules through NPM, the ability to debug so much easier, and working with JSON through the app is incredibly fun to me.

For us at Soundfly, we plan on thinking big and acting small. With that said, we need to move quickly and a have laser sharp understanding and focus of our individual contributions in order to be the most effective and productive. I'm afraid of how long this project would have taken me if I created it in another language. Node is becoming my all time favorite and it's making my job fun and full of life again.

After our launch in September, we will be focusing on several new courses and more advanced interactive learning games. We've been asking the question of "how do people learn online?" we don't believe it's a one size fits all model, we believe people take different steps in learning and comprehension and that everyone's path is unique. We're planning on discovering some best practices and applying these concepts on an more individual and impactful level. Indeed, we have some wonderful challenges ahead and I'm really looking forward to seeing how our app performs throughout it's lifespan.

If you're reading this and thinking to yourself that you would like to start learning how to play music from anywhere, please visit http://soundfly.com and signup to be notified of our official launch.

For the past month or so, I've been working on creating an interactive music learning platform with a bunch of amazing and talented musicians, DIYers and makers in Brooklyn called Soundfly. We're launching our initial concept on September 3rd, 2014 and we're excited to see how the app translates to…

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I've just upgraded this blog. Hopefully everything continues to work as expected. yay. That was easy.

What does this mean to you? Nothing, but I just thought I should share how painless upgrading a Ghost Blogging Platform can be.

I've just upgraded this blog. Hopefully everything continues to work as expected. yay. That was easy. What does this mean to you? Nothing, but I just thought I should share how painless upgrading a Ghost Blogging Platform can be. …

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MongoDB Export Collection to CSV

Yes, that's right I am using my blog to post a sticky note to help me remember how to export mongo collection data.

$ mongoexport --host localhost --db dbname --collection name --csv --out data.csv --fields node1,node2,node3

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My Minimal Dock

No distractions - just a simplified mac dock.

  • Chrome - Always open.
  • Terminal - Always open.
  • Github - I used to only use terminal for git, but this works great now.
  • Atom - Bye bye Sublime Text, I no longer need you.
  • Slack - Always open.
  • Spotify - Not shown, but always open, although the web app is gaining attention from me.
  • Alfred - Not shown, but hands down one of my favorite apps ever.

What does your dock look like?

No distractions - just a simplified mac dock. Chrome - Always open. Terminal - Always open. Github - I used to only use terminal for git, but this works great now. Atom - Bye bye Sublime Text, I no longer need you. Slack - Always open. Spotify - Not shown…

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24 Hours with Calder (our newborn)

So let me begin with this - no matter what you've read about parenting, or how many kids you have or your sister has, or how many kids your mother had, no one can give you precise advice on parenting to a full extent. This golden phrase rings true: "Every child is different."

This is the breakdown of our daily routine with our seven week old newborn, Calder.

8:00am

Prepare a bottle of formula or grab a bottle of breast milk in the refrigerator, or hand him over to Maia so she can breast feed him. In any case, all solutions work, it comes down to whichever is most convenient at the moment.

8:15am

He's eating and calm. His eyes are wide open and he's fully aware it's morning time.

8:30am

He's beginning "phase two" as we call it of feeding - he starts to become fussy. He cries, spits out the bottle and squirms so much we can barely hang on to him. If the bottle ever so slightly leaves his mouth, he cries as if the world is ending.

8:35am

He's sleeping. Passed right out!

8:45am

He's awake and wanting his binky / pacifier. He's slightly more calm now, and offers us some bonding time. He genuinely smiles a few times and sticks his tongue out at us.

9:00am

He needs a diaper change. He cries some more. Sometimes he'll pee all over us, so it's best to keep him covered up down there.

9:05am

All clean and happy again, he's ready to be rocked / held / or played with. Soon he'll be sleeping, so we make sure the environment is quiet.

9:20am

try to lay him down in his crib, but he prefers our bed instead. He doesn't like to be swaddled anymore, so now we just place a light blanket over his torso and give him his pacifier and "sh, sh, shhhh, shhhhhhh" him to sleep.

9:30am

HE'S SLEEEEEEEEPING! Quick, now we can get some work done.

9:35am

HE'S AWAAAAAAAAAKE!! Pick him back up and hold him and walk around the house until he falls asleep again.

9:45am

He's finally sleeping. Gently place him in our bed with a light blanket on him again. Walk away... slowly!

10:45am

He's sleeping, but making some grunting and restless sounds. We check up on him. Quietly walk away...

11:30am

He's waking up again. Repeat routine from above starting at 8:00am - 10:45am

2:30pm

He's awake again. Repeat routine from above starting at 8:00am - 10:45am

4:30pm

He's awake again. Repeat routine from above starting at 8:00am - 10:45am

6:30pm

He's awake again. Repeat routine from above starting at 8:00am - 10:45am

8:30pm

He's awake again. Repeat routine from above starting at 8:00am - 10:45am - This time it's bath time! He loves bath time! We scrub-a-dub-dub him and we sing songs to him. He spends about 5 minutes in the bath tub and then it's time to dry him off. He HATES this part. He also generally pees all over his clean self and us. Clean him up again and diaper him up.

Now feed him some more... more...a little more than that... okay, that's enough!

9:45pm

He's awake again and playful. He doesn't want to go to sleep just yet, he wants to hang out with us. We play and sing and dance with him for about 30 more minutes until he starts to show signs of being tired.

10:25pm

Put him in our bed next to Mommy so she can breast feed him until he falls asleep. He's fussy, still doesn't want to commit to sleeping. Finally after 20 minutes he's out!

10:45pm

Sleeeeeeeeeping!

1:45am

He's awake again. Repeat routine from above starting at 8:00am - 10:45am

5:30am

He's awake again. Repeat routine from above starting at 8:00am - 10:45am

8:00am

Start the day over again!!

So let me begin with this - no matter what you've read about parenting, or how many kids you have or your sister has, or how many kids your mother had, no one can give you precise advice on parenting to a full extent. This golden phrase rings true: "Every…

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