Product design in the ag world can feel fast and furious: new features hitting the market before they’re ready, companies competing with each other to be first with a new feature, and new problems that need solutions appearing quickly.
But at AgVend, a prioritization of speed doesn’t have to mean less quality. In the lightning-fast 21st century, we work to release features as soon as possible too. But added to that process is continuous iteration on our features after they’re released. In our design process, minimum viability is just a starting point, not the finish line. We listen to feedback, come up with better ideas, and iterate on our products — from minimum viability to maximum evolution. There’s no “MVP and done” here.
We have empathy for our users and care about solving their problems in tangible ways. That’s why human-centered design is at the core of our products. But what does empathy for the end user mean in practice? How does it affect the design process? To put it simply, we iterate on products frequently, take into account both user feedback and employee ideas, test assumptions, and never believe we have all the answers.
Here’s a glimpse in more detail of how our design process plays out to create the best, most helpful and solutions-oriented products possible:
We act on user feedback
Think about the last time you filled out some kind of feedback survey — for your gym, car repair shop, or new computer you just bought. You put time into giving answers that could help make the product or experience better. And then… you wait, and wait, and wait some more. You keep returning for the same service or product, but nothing changes. What was even the point of you giving all that feedback?
That’s the opposite of what we do at AgVend. User feedback informs our whole design process. We don’t stash it at the end of a 3-year roadmap; instead, we use it to make our product better as soon as possible. It sounds like common sense — but in a world where companies feel a rush to get a product out quickly (even when it’s flawed), integrating user feedback in real time can be rare. But we believe speed doesn’t have to mean a sacrifice in quality.
Instead, our approach is twofold: speed and iteration. We start simple to quickly get a solution into the world. It may be imperfect at first, but it still provides value and is a foundation on which to build. Then, we test it with our users, listen to feedback, and iterate. A fast feature release does not equal “done” for us; it’s simply a starting point to continuously improve.
“It’s important to act on the feedback instead of just sitting on it, so people you’re making the product for can see the results of your conversations with them,” said AgVend product designer Melinda West. “We want to empower our users to make an impact on the product they use every day.”
For example, take our Job Completed Notifications. When we first released these for growers, our partners asked for those notifications to also go to their sales team so everyone stays on the same page. Just a week later, we implemented text notifications for salespeople. And we can take it further: going forward, we’ll implement in-platform notifications, notification settings, and more. Every feature starts with the kernel of an idea, and many of those ideas come directly from our users.
When it’s time to design a new product or feature, we start with a simple, lightweight solution to a problem we’re aware of. We start with that simpler solution so we can test and expand on it as the process evolves.
Throughout that expansion process, we prioritize any user experience issues we find, instead of shuffling them to our backlog and promising to deal with them later. Because user feedback isn’t an annoyance to be dealt with: it’s a core feature of our product design.
We are always iterating
Our products and features are constantly evolving. It’s a design process that’s less a closed loop and more a constantly-moving wave of information and ideas. Our partners’ needs and problems are always changing as the world does, so why shouldn’t our design process mirror that?
When we design a new feature, it’s not a race to get something out as soon as possible, and then move onto the next prod