Product design

Great products are not designed in silos. Instead they emerge from an iterative process that involves many different skills. While no-one can take on all the roles, someone needs to keep the design process going – akin to a movie director, but more hands-on.

Project: Barnplay at SVT #public-service

Visual & motion design

Visuals and motions have two jobs: To help users understand the interface (which is close to interaction design) and to help users identify with the product (which is close to branding). They are both crucial to great products.

Project: Stories for King/Queen Me #art

Design research

Research can answer specific questions and give novel insights but also help users "come alive" to the team.

Project: Early morning home visit for SVT #media

Information architecture

Content rich products need a structure that matches the user's mental models – so they can find the info or entertainment they are after.

Project: Tags in OrkidéPrat #community

Content & editorial strategy

Which kind of content is produced, and how it is presented, are key aspects of great content rich products. The krux: the output needs to constantly evolve, while staying true to the concept.

Projects: SVT & ReAct #public-service, #health

Systems thinking

Few products are islands. Instead they are part of a web of products, services and human relationships which exists to help people accomplish their goals. It's messy, but to build great products we need to understanding those contexts – those systems.

Systems are core to my practice

Strategy development

Great products need strategic foundations. 'Nuf said? ;)

Project: Company strategy at Eidu #education, #startup

Now i want to learn...

Many more practices are involved in making great products. Some of them are so closely related to the other product/ux design skills that they seem natural to learn now...

Future skills

Product design at SVT

1 thing I learnt A powerful design process and an engaged team are important for great products to take shape.

I worked for three years at SVT, the Swedish national television, in several of their scrum teams. At one point Malin who is the product owner for services for kids told me and the team: "The current system for kids to watch shows, and find new favorites, is not performing as well as it should. How might we reimagine the system and also optimize it for kids' new main device – tablets?"

Me and the team's concept developer started by doing ethnographic research with kids. We met kids and parents and spoke about media consumption and about our competitors. We also let kids show us their favorite TV shows. I looked extra much for interaction design aspects but together me and the concept developer synthesized our findings.

Rio's favourites in Barnplay

An important research insight, which I based my interaction design work on, was that kids are in discovery mode to find a show to watch, but then want to focus on just one episode.

Over the course of two months I and the development team ideated solutions and eventually found the core concept for the product: only episodes as content, 2 taxonomies + search as information architecture, swipe + tap as main interaction patterns and a content rich grid + focused full screen player as interface.

Throughout the project I lead the team and some stakeholders as they tested and validated each major decision with kids. During my time at SVT I conducted or facilitated over 1000 research, test and validation sessions.

A few months after launching the reimagined system the key KPI's were up – monthly returning users increased 150%, minutes of episodes watched increased 300%.

Peek inside the process

Some steps in the evolution of the use case "Choose a series and start an episode"

Swipe lists and tap "Abby's" and "Babar" to try the prototypes. The prototypes where built for landscape iPad (kids' main device) and each question was answered via tests with 10–30 children.

Prototype C1 Question Does the basic behaviour Swipe to see more and Tap to open episode lists work? Answer Yeah :)

Prototype C2 Question If we add an A-Z list with character portraits above the categories, will kids still use the categories? Answer Cat's are used much less, but A-Z does not replace categories completely.

Prototype C7 Question When an episode list is open, other shows are dimmed and thus a bit difficult to see. If we add a Close button, will kids close the episode list before they look for other shows? Answer Nope. Kids still leave the episode list open...

Prototype D1 Question Is it ok to have quite small stills from episodes? Answer Yeah!


1 thing I've learnt I'm a systems thinker.

At University I studied systems development – programming and databases – but soon realised that I'm much more interested in helping users than to build technically efficient apps. When I left Uni I did not think that now, 15 years later, I would be back to thinking hard about systems – albeit human ones.

Many systems inform my design process. For example customer journey maps – representations of the systems that the user currently uses to get stuff done. Also, my work is usually done in an existing organization where lots of technical and human systems influence the design.

The output of my work can also be a system – for example a user flow, including all states the user may encounter when performing a specific task. Or a DesignOps system that helps the organization do good design with the correct level of effort. Or, of course, the different types of systems that are the result of Information Architecture methods.

Early customer journeys, in two levels of definition, for a shop.

Strategy at EIDU

1 thing I learnt My design methods can facilitate strategic decision making.

Eidu's mission is to provide high quality digitally supported education for all children by 2030. They currently work towards this by building an app for pre-school math education. In early 2017 I was asked to lead the strategy creation process in the organization.

Until that point, the strategy had been defined by the CEO and founder, Bernd. By immersing myself in the team, I understood that to most Eidu employees it's very valuable to have autonomy and to influence the direction of the company. Based on this, and in collaboration with Bernd, I designed and facilitated a system for the employees to continuously define the company's strategy and goals. The system is not a one-off event but rather happen each quarter and thus the activities in the system can evolve over time based on feedback from the employees.

Strategy definition at Eidu

Currently the cycle starts with all employees refining the purpose and mission of the organization. They also define the company's objectives for the coming year. In teams, they then create their own goals for the quarter. A key aspect is that Bernd chose to delegate power to the organization and to the teams. For Bernd to feel comfortable with this we implemented the Advice Process for decision making.

This kind of fundamental change was hard for some in the organization. Both the concept of teams creating their own goals and methods such as the advice process where unsettling. In some ways it's easier to have a product owner who makes all the hard choices. In the days after introducing the system there was one crisis meeting with an Eiduer. They did not want to be limited to working in one team, which is a valid point. I and Bernd explained our thinking and a compromise was reached with our colleague. What I learned from this, and other resistance around the system, was the importance of including all Eiduers not only in defining the strategy but even in defining the system for defining the strategy. I had not done my design research and I had not used co-creation methods. I will do better in the future.

I continue to immerse myself in the organization to pick up on any issues and to facilitate activities that help teams keep on track towards their goals. All but one person in the organization find the process to be a step forward, so in general the process makes Eiduers happier at work.

Design research at SVT

Things I learned My meetup with the Ahlstrand family helped inform insights such as that the iPad is the preferred device for TV watching for kids, how kids' fingers move while watching and how TV can help families in their morning routine. More about how 3 to 5 year olds behave on my blog.

Via literature studies and internal research we in the kids department of SVT knew that a lot of TV is consumed in the morning by children. We wanted to know more and also see the behaviour of kids in this context. I volunteered to meet a few families in their home. However, I'm quite grumpy in the mornings. Before 11 I literally avoid answering emails because I often regret how I phrased them. So this was a bit of a gamble...

One morning, at 06:25, I woke up, had a cup of coffee and traveled 20 km with public transport to visit the Ahlstrand family. When I arrived the kids, one and five years old, where just getting out of bed. This was the first time I met them so we got introduced and as the family had breakfast we had a chat about mornings, routines, media consumption, etc.

The Ahlstrand family, a few months before my visit

After the sandwiches and choco was eaten me and Oliver, the five year old, started talking about their favourite shows and I asked them if we could watch something together. With them on the sofa and me on the floor next to it we watched an episode on the family's iPad. I helped Oliver tie their shoelaces and as the family went off to pre-school and work I got a big good bye hug.

The visit to the Ahlstrand family was so fun and interesting that my usual morning grumpiness never appeared that day. Lightweight ethnographic research rocks!

Visual & motion design for King/Queen Me

1 thing I learnt I thought that I would feel limited by the constraints that a Whatsapp message has. The opposite was true – working with a small set of options increases my visual creativity. I want to bend the walls of the box.

King/Queen Me is a visual storytelling project based on the art of Gerhard Blum, distributed as chat messages in Whatsapp and Messenger. Gerhard provided the visual art, we collaborated on the stories and I did the remaining work – visual design, text and video editing, distribution, etc. A project presentation on my blog.

Screengrab of the first few messages in the project. To see the videos, get in contact.

The visual language of King/Queen Me needed to be flexible. The art we presented, and stories we told, where diverse. We also had no control over the distribution channels – a chat message in Whatsapp always looks the same and very different from a message in Messenger. At the same time we wanted the visuals to be as flamboyant as Gerhard's art is. The solution was to use flat, bold colors which I usually chose from the art. The visuals where usually presented in the videos we created. Most text was sent as pure text, but sometimes we created a graphic with the text in a powerful typeface on a colored background, or embedded the text in a video. In general we opted for coherence rather than consistency.

The project had strong visual moments and provoked lots of thoughts. While the project had limited reach – a few hundred persons – many of them became fans of the project and of Gerhard's art. As Nadja wrote to us: "So I had a really bad day at work and totally forgot about this. When I opened this message I got really surprised and felt happy! A bit of color was what I needed!"

A message announcing a short summer break for the project. Sent to fans in July 2016.

Information Architecture for OrkidéPrat

1 thing I learnt We should understand and use our users' mental models when organizing content. They have all the answers – but we need to know how to ask and listen.
Bonus thing: The polar bear book is great!

An early foray into the design discipline was my work on the content system for Orkidé OrkidéPrat ("orchid talk") is a community site for Scandinavian orchid lovers which I founded in 2007. To help members find relevant information on the site I organised content in several ways – chronologically, by content type, by author, etc.

Different orchids require different care. Orchid growers therefore often want help for specific plants. However, they also want info about buying and selling plants, how to arrange pots in their windows, how to repot, and such. I wanted to help OrkidéPrat's members find answers to their questions among the material that is already on the site so I made it possible to add tags to posts and images. I then wanted to create groups – taxonomies – of these tags.

For the care of specific genera and species the taxonomy was obvious – a generic plant taxonomy was created by Linnaeus 300 years ago. However, for the remaining knowledge there was no obvious taxonomy so I set out to create one.

My main method was card sorting. I started by finding lots of possible tags/areas from orchid books and web sites. I then met orchid growers – in person and over Skype – and asked them to group the cards and give each group a name. After a few sessions clear patterns emerged and a taxonomy came in to being.

The site now has 300 000 pieces of content and almost all of them fit into either of the two taxonomies.

Sketch for a coming update to OrkidéPrat's visual appearance. This post has tags ("nyckelord") in both taxonomies: Dendrobium Hibiki is a type of orchid, Röllke Orchideen is an orchid seller.

Content strategy at ReAct

1 thing I've learnt It is important to not only include the editorial team in the concept creation, but to also analyse what type of content the editorial team is able and willing to create. Based on that analysis we can choose to create a concept that the editors can already work in or we can choose to work with the editors to change what they can and want to create.

ReAct is a non-profit whose mission is to decrease the negative impact of antibiotic resistance. I recently helped move their website to Wordpress and refresh its visual language.

My biggest impact though, was that I helped them address issues around how the site supports their mission – I lead a process that resulted in a new content concept for the site. Now the site focuses on ReAct's main audiences – healthcare professions, staff in civil society organizations and policy makers in governments. Individuals in the audiences have varying levels of knowledge about antibiotic resistance (ABR), so we also created an "introduction to ABR" and incorporated an existing "toolbox" with deep and broad knowledge about the topic.

I continue to work with the editorial team as they discover ways to improve both the content and the structure of the site.

Peek inside the processAn early presentation of the new content strategy for (PDF).

Editorial processes at SVT

SVT is a content organization and produces both video, text and interactive content such as polls and games. Traditionally the editors for SVT's content for kids have focused on creating creative marketing for the shows.

During my time at SVT we created new content concepts such as the Instagram like feed on the start page. An insight from research with kids was that feed entries are most powerful if they have a person, preferably a tv personality, as the "author". The feed also needs to be filled with content that has value on it's own, rather than be an advert for future tv episodes. Together with the concept developer Nina and product owner Malin I helped kick off a transformation both of how the editors see their work and of what they want to publish.

Malin recently wrote (my translation):

What you started a few years ago Björn and Nina, has finally taken off with fantastic speed and shape. So enormously much good work has been done on the way to this proud moment...

Which works best – profile pic and heart above the image or both below it? At SVT we figured it out with the help of a user test. (Answer: the former works best.)

New areas that I want to learn things about

Marketing and sales

Many at Eidu believe that parents will play a vital role in getting preschool kids to learn math via the Eidu app. One team was recently tasked with finding ways to motivate parents to continuously hand the app to their kids.

Some mid-definition deliverables from the Eidu parent project – two states for the main view and the most important dynamics.

Together with the team I came up with a handful of game dynamics that we can create experiments around – in the app as well as via notifications, human interventions, etc. During the design process we focused on the core loop – how parents use the app when they have used it for a few weeks. So in design activities we said things like "The parent knows that the app can teach math, so we can...". My hero Amy Jo Kim has made me understand that starting with this part of the user journey is almost always correct.

However, at some point we need to design the system for getting parents to start using the app and helping them understand what the app can do, i.e. onboarding. And as Samuel Hulick writes the onboarding starts already when a user first hears about a service. Those early interactions are often the domain of Marketing and Sales. However, as Samuel points out, there needs to be coherence from discovery all the way to first success with the product.

To be able to work well with marketing and sales teams I need to learn more about the skills they have.

What will happen with onboarding for the Eidu parents you might ask? To be honest we have still not figured that out...


My site for orchid lovers, OrkidéPrat, has its tenth birthday this year. The community is lively and members have real connections. But the service is still basically the same size as it was when it was two years old. And I believe that more people could benefit from finding the community, and that the site could benefit from more people being a part of it. Growth activities also overlap design activities like interaction design and strategy development. I clearly need to learn more about growth...