The Pursuit of the Perfect Parking Product

Here at JustPark, we’re forever looking for ways to make our website and apps even more fabulous – because we want all you wonderful drivers and space owners to absolutely love using them.

So it’s no surprise that behind the scenes with the product team at JP HQ, things move pretty quickly. They’re a superhuman bunch who live and breathe tech – and work incredibly hard in the name of pain-free parking.

To give you an insight into this world of parking product professionals, we invited JustPark Product Manager Jeyda Heselton to share with us her top tips for a winning website. Take it away, Jeyda!

Let’s talk tech

Having spent almost a year working in JustPark’s Customer Happiness team, it was somewhat nerve-racking taking the plunge and moving across to the technical side. Turning things off and then on again can only get you so far, right?

Turns out, being a whizz at coding and able to program a website is not what you need in order to be a good product manager. It all boils down to having a really deep understanding of the customer. After a year of speaking to customers every day, it would be hard for me not to have obtained that.

That being said, working in product does still require close work with developers and so there’s plenty of techy stuff to get to grips with. So a few months on, I’m reflecting on some of the biggest learnings anyone new to the product management game should (and will) learn early on.

Does this look good on me?

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Have you ever looked at a hideous pair of jeans and thought – maybe if I look closer I’ll find that there has been exquisite seamstressing and so I’ll buy them anyway? No. That doesn’t happen.

Websites are exactly the same. It doesn’t matter if the backend is the most perfectly complex system in the world – if the frontend design isn’t strong, a customer will bounce.

The human brain processes photos, colours and design much faster than reading the actual content. I’ve heard all kinds of stats around this – anywhere ranging from 3 to 90 seconds.
Although the numbers vary, everyone is settled on the fact that you have an incredibly short amount of time to connect with a customer. Nailing design is absolutely essential.

Simplicity is key

Steve Jobs was the king of simplicity and let’s not put it down to coincidence that Apple’s focus on simplicity and beauty has served them so well. When you’re developing a product it’s important to remember that although you may think the concept is perfectly clear, you work with it every day. Make sure you get an outsider’s opinion.

When you’re at the pub and a semi-sober friend-of-a-friend asks – ‘What do you do?’, can you explain the purpose of your product in one sentence? If not, consider whether you’re trying to do too much with it. Some products are more complex than others, but you should still be able to explain the basic concept without talking for so long that you resemble an actor rehearsing a soliloquy.

In 2013 Phil Libin, the then CEO of Evernote, spoke on this very subject. “What winds up happening at Evernote conferences is that people go and they say, ‘Oh, I love Evernote and I’ve been using it for years and now I realise I’ve only been using it for 5 percent of what it can do,’ ” Libin said. “And the problem is that it’s a different 5 percent for everyone. If everyone just found the same 5 percent, then we’d just cut the other 95 percent and save ourselves a lot of money.”

This ‘5 percent problem’ shows the importance of simplicity. Work out what your core purpose is and play to that. It’s extremely common in product management to work with colleagues and stakeholders who have run away in their imagination-garden with some kind of wild and exciting idea which, whilst cool, has nothing to do with your product’s goal.

Don’t close off the possibility of your product developing into something new, but always keep in mind your audience and their use case. Once you have those completely locked down and you’re happy with the experience you’re providing them, then go back to your CEO’s drone-delivered bouncy castle idea.

On a more granular level, simplicity should be kept in mind on every page of a website. Try to have just one call-to-action on a page. I’m forever seeing websites full of links to other pages which ultimately gives the user far too much choice about where to click, and therefore far too much opportunity to not reach your checkout page.

Who are these people?

People behave in mysterious ways. Customers, can behave in mind-boggling ways. Just when you think you’ve developed the perfect product – you may throw it out to big bad world and find it flops. Back to the drawing board.

Don’t be disheartened by this. At JustPark, we have run A/B tests where we were convinced that we’d improved the product. The results suggested otherwise. After much head-scratching, disbelief and checking whether our analytics were broken, we had to get back on with things.

And don’t see it as wasted effort – as long as you’re learning quickly, it’s still a win. Throwing away work is actually something a lot of big companies, like Snapchat, do every day and it’s far better than blindly pursuing something just because you’ve already started it.

Is that the time already?

As with the rest of life, there will never be enough time for everything. I mean this both in terms of features you want to develop, but also literally your own time in the day.

A product manager’s role often involves tying together the needs and wants of every team in the company to ensure the product is providing the necessary value. This means, you will spend a large portion of your day, having ‘quick 5 minute chats’. The best defence to this seems to be going offline, blocking out your calendar for a couple of hours and locking yourself in a small room.

As for your product, there will always be ways to improve it and you just can’t do all of them. You need to be prepared to give a big, fat ‘NO’ to plenty of things which may sound great. Be wary of ‘nice-to-haves’, i.e. something cool to build if you had all the time and resources in the world.

Although this may seem tricky – particularly when it’s a stakeholder asking for something – Paul Adams, VP of Product Intercom, says limited resources can be a blessing as it ‘forces you to focus on what’s important’.

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And that’s a wrap!

A few months in, these are the biggest learnings I’ve had. Speak to me next year and I may have completely changed my mind on all of the above. But I doubt that. Till next time!

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