My baby was born! And by baby I mean product…

Today is the day! My product is live. And by “my” I mean the product I built together with an outrageously talented designer, all star team of engineers, and our fearless product manager who brought out the best in all of us.

I’m not talking about a feature, or a version, or a rebrand of an existing thing. I’m talking “startup within a startup” whole new proper complex product. I can’t contain my pride — we made an amazing thing — and my nostalgia. The two years we worked on this thing, lived and dreamt this thing, made us all better at what we do; the process developed us as people and as professionals. Especially me.

I was a writer, and then a scientist, and then lost, until a genetics product needed a writer and I fell in love with UX writing and product in general. Through the process of creating this product I learned about agile, I learned about business, about collaboration, about startups and best practices and basically everything I know about what I now love to do. I built personal relationships I will cherish for a lifetime. It may sound cheesy, but you’re reading an article called “My baby was born” so what were you expecting?

It’s early to reflect back but here are the first takeaways that come to mind.

Pivots are hard and necessary

The thing we almost launched by the original launch date which was eons ago was a completely different thing from the thing we launched today.

So many flows that I wrote, I then rewrote. From scratch. More than once. And while it stings for a second, when after painstakingly writing a thing for months on end, researching and iterating every word — both because you want to get it right and make the best product possible, but also because it’s fun — you get the news that you’re headed back to the drawing board, it is a bitter sweet moment because while you’re throwing it all away, you know you are about to make something so much greater.

And you’re not throwing it ALL away: The lessons learned from each pivot were so valuable that to this day I can’t help but start a new copy task just a little bit pre-depressed because I know for a fact that whatever I come up with at first will by definition be terrible compared to what I end up with after stakeholder feedback, more directed research as I better understand the right questions to ask, and investing in the creative process: playing with phrasing, weighing choices, and then creating synergetic hybrids using the best parts of each option.

We learn as we go and as we get smarter our product gets better. Setting ego aside and starting over as necessary is worth it.

There is so much more to products than the UI

UX is the tip of the product iceberg

As a UXer, my life is the user experience. I try to stand in the user’s shoes and see what the user sees and then work to make sure they see the very best thing I can make. But what the user sees is the tip of the iceberg, the tip that gets all the glory. That tiny piece that people actually see, and for the most part judge your product by, is tiny indeed.

I work on complex products and these products tend to have an extra layer of moving parts — complicated moving parts — going on behind the scenes. More constraints and limitations, more parameters to weigh in every decision, more stakeholders who are specialists in complex things the PM will never know half as much about, more ethical angles to consider.

The UI can be beautiful and intuitive and accessible and functional and reliable because the UX and R&D teams are phenomenal at what they do. But the real value of the product, the impact it has on the user and on the world, the pain it is solving and the angle it takes to solve it, the tech it leverages, the dreams it makes a reality, those things don’t get as much attention. They aren’t as flashy or concrete or easy to articulate but they are also kind of everything.

Until I started writing a complex product with a complex UI, I never realized that for every app I’ve ever used, I have experienced only a tiny piece of what makes it tick.

People are everything

It takes a village to raise a product and the chemistry of the community of people building a product is essential to its success. In a sense, HR is the silent IC behind the curtain, optimizing the very foundations of every product a company develops. I was so blessed with the people I worked with on this product that I don’t know where to start, so I won’t.

And then there is the other group of vital people — the end users. Complex products are (should be) influenced significantly by the anxieties their users will inevitably have when they arrive at our front door. Health and financial and similarly complex products come with endless fears related to privacy, exploitation, and more. Our products will only make the change we seek in the world if our users use them and they won’t use them, they won’t benefit from them at all, if they’re too scared to try.

As a UX writer for complex products I see my job as making innovative tech accessible to the masses because if you have a super sophisticated awesome breakthrough that no one can use, who cares. This is the same thing. Only by empathizing with our users can we help them overcome barriers to entry. Only by collaborating with them can we make real impact in the real world. Users are the forces on the ground, the ambassadors, that actually execute the change we dream of, the potential we create but cannot bring to life on our own. Products don’t do anything, users do.

This product was a life changer and now it is out in the world. I’m a mom again!

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