In this blog series, we dive into the world of work at bol.com. Who are the people behind the platform? What are our roles? How do we work together? And why do we love it here? Whether it’s IT, Logistics, Platform or Commerce, we each have something unique to contribute and it all adds up to make us who we are. That’s how we make bol.com ‘de winkel van ons allemaal’ (the shop for everyone).
Product design comes in different shapes and sizes. Every company has its own ideas and does things differently. At bol.com, a product designer is someone who understands our user inside out. Someone who knows exactly how they move around our web shop and app. Their focus lies on the interaction with these users, thinking about their problems and devising solutions from start to finish. A product designer is responsible for the entire process, involving and working together with all the relevant stakeholders. Pitu Cabanillas is one of our talented product designers. In this blog, he shares what makes his job interesting and fun.
Meet the product designer
Let’s start at the beginning. Pitu is 35, comes from Argentina, and moved to the Netherlands in 2015. From his workspace at home in Nijmegen, he’s responsible for everything that makes the bol.com app user-friendly.
“I enjoy my work. I’m energetic, optimistic and a team player. That’s something I get from back home. In Argentina, everything revolves around family. And I need that in my work, too. You can’t do this job on your own. You have to do it together with a team, a family. Especially in design. Personally, I believe that design is a synonym of teamwork.”
As product designer, Pitu is responsible for how customers navigate their way through the bol.com app. Interaction is the focus. He knows the user inside out like a UX designer.
“As the world speeds up, consumers expect — and demand — more and more from an app or website. For example: They want to keep products in their shopping cart longer or take advantage of the option in the app to have their order delivered later that day instead of tomorrow. That’s where our challenge lies. Bring consistency across the platforms, and putting our customers in the centre of the picture. If our customers aren’t coming back often, or we see that stuff we work on isn’t working, it’s a direct impact on the ‘store’. That’s why it’s super important to work closely with the design community and branding. It’s all about bringing a consistent user-journey.
Product design at bol.com
How does it work? Pitu receives a feature request from one of the departments within bol.com. For example: “How can we get more Select members to use the app?” That triggers research, which in turn generates questions and potential solutions. In other words: We fall in love with the problem and not the solution. It’s easy to get lost in the ‘how to solve this problem?’, but we need to keep focus on the understanding phase of the problem. That’s the reason why it’s important that every designer applies the ‘design-thinking-methodology’.
The next step is to bring in the various stakeholders (product owners, business analysts, developers (iOS and android), backend, tester, and other key stakeholders) and explain what problem we are solving. Together we discuss potential ideas, and finally define a roadmap with action points. Why are the stakeholders involved? Because the idea might be good from a design standpoint, but it might not be technically feasible. At the same time, we think about the lead time required for production and delivery. This has to be checked with the stakeholders, too. And don’t forget, a product designer must never lose sight of the objectives and KPIs.
Web and app
And what about the projects? Isn’t it all a bit one-sided? Not at all. Bol.com is still growing fast and there are many areas to develop and improve. So new opportunities are coming along all the time. Innovation is important here. In the product design role, you can opt for either web or app. Ideally, a designer is capable to work on both platforms. Then the designer would immerse him/herself in the technology and see what can be developed. You need to be creative and innovative, and focused and structured in your work. Because at bol.com, you’re free to approach your design work as you wish. As I always say, follow the four P’s: People, Patience, Proactivity and Planning (not particularly in that order).
“Product designers are storytellers. One way or another, they need to explain their ideas and sell them to stakeholders. That doesn’t mean I’m a salesman, because stakeholders are engaged in the entire process. But the idea is that everyone involved must understand your idea, where it will take us, and how it works. And, naturally, data is an important element in the story.”
The art of asking questions
In his spare time, Pitu runs marathons all over the Netherlands. Running is part of his way of life. It keeps him fit — especially, these days. Running also reflects his results-driven nature: to always come up with the best design, using all the input and research in a unique ‘recipe’.
“Transforming this recipe into a good story, convincing your stakeholders of the choices we’re making and getting them onboard takes energy and focus. It also calls for collaboration. We’re in a team because you can’t do it all on your own. Asking the right questions is part of this work. It’s an art in itself. You have to ask the right question to get the information you need from your stakeholders, users, teammates and yourself. What do you see, what can you do, how can we support each other, and where do we want to go? Together, we use the answers to devise solutions. If you enjoy doing all this, then I’m sure you’d enjoy being a product designer, too!”