What is this question about?
This product design interview question is testing to see if you understand that products are designed to help users accomplish something they desire to do. The interviewer is also trying to determine whether you can articulate what makes a product better than alternatives in the eyes of the user.
What is the interviewer looking for?
The interviewer is evaluating you on the following:
- Can you answer the question in a structured and organized way, or do you shoot from the hip and answer without taking a moment to think about the question?
- Can you think deeply about the product? Can you make the connection between the product features and why it delights a user? Or do you tend to describe what you like about the product and stop there?
- Are you knowledgeable about competitive alternatives? Can you explain why your favorite product is better?
- Are you exhaustive when talking about types of users and use cases?
- Do you articulate your answers or do you tend to ramble?
Which favorite product to pick?
Pick a product you love. Do not pick a product that you think would be a good example. You are more likely to have unique insights, if you personally connect with the product. You also want your excitement and passion to show.
How to structure your answer?
We suggest structuring your answer in the following way:
- What is your favorite product?
- What does it do?
- Who is the user and what do they want to do with the product?
- If you are the user, why do you use it?
How does your favorite product delight the user?
- Mention three things the product does that delight the user.
- Is there something about the business model that is essential for the user?
- If users are emotionally attached to the product, why do you think that is?
How do competitors or alternatives compare?
- What are the alternatives?
- Why are those products not preferred?
How would you improve your favorite product? (optional)
- Which metrics can be improved (e.g. customer base, retention, conversion, and engagement)?
- Describe use case scenarios.
- What would you change or add to the product to support these use cases and improve the metric?
INTERVIEWER: What is your favorite product and why?
INTERVIEWEE: Bitmoji is an emoji based keyword and app, by the company Bitstrips, that allows the user to create personalized emojis. Bitstrips was acquired by Snap last year. The Bitmoji keyword and app enables the user to create their own avatar and place it in caricature like images. The scenarios presented in the images are based on a phrase, tech meme or keyword you type. These images with your avatar in them are called bitmojis. For example, if I type the phrase no way in the Bitmoji app search box, Bitmoji will display several caricature scenes with my avatar saying, “No way” with a stone face, or “What the?!” with my body shaking, or “Oh, Hell Naw” with a defiant expression. So it creates different images that imitate real world conversation scenarios.
Communication is complex. When we talk to people, we use our body language, tone of voice and facial expressions to convey exactly how we are feeling, which you cannot convey with basic texting. And this is what Bitmoji is trying to do, but with an additional touch of humor, by creating caricatures of ourselves. The bitmoji avatar looks uncannily like the real person. The facial expressions and body language are super expressive and so funny looking that it makes you laugh. So instead of writing a long sentence to say what you are doing and how you feel, you only need one bitmoji with the added bonus of making your friend laugh. This is why I love Bitmoji. I can express myself in many different ways not possible with text and make my friends laugh at the same time.
If you install Bitmoji as a software keyboard on your smartphone, bitmojis will be available in the messaging apps you use. Bitmojis have become extremely popular because of what I just said, which I can summarize as three things:
- people can express themselves in a way that evokes laughter,
- bitmojis describe people’s feelings with more nuance, and
- people can personalize their avatar to show individuality. For example, people can change their wardrobe to express their sense of fashion.
There are other alternatives to Bitmoji but they do not come close. For example, many messaging apps include emojis, stickers and GIFs, with animated options that people use to express feeling or emotion. But they represent characters that do not look like you, so they are not as humorous and real life looking as Bitmojis. People like to laugh and make their friends laugh, so they prefer Bitmojis.
I think there are several things that Snap could do to increase usage, engagement, and ad revenue using bitmojis.
For users, Snap could add two features:
- create group bitmojis, and
- create bitmoji based short cartoon videos.
Before Snap acquired Bitstrips, the group bitmoji feature was available. People could create avatars of friends and add them to their own bitmojis. But after the acquisition of Bitstrips, Snap disabled that feature. My feeling is that Snap disabled that feature for general availability to make it an exclusive feature of Snapchat in the future. Users of competitive apps like Kik and Messenger, that use the plain bitmojis, would be lured to Snapchat for its richer bitmoji features. And with respect to the cartoon video features, I think Snapchat teen users, who frequently communicate via videos, would love the idea of creating their own cartoons using their avatars.
For businesses, I think Snap could generate additional revenue with two new ad revenue models. For example:
- let brands create branded bitmojis in Snapchat for users to use when messaging, and
- let fashion brands create their own avatar clothes and accessories, so users can dress their avatars with those brands.
These features will be great for sports fans, for example. Getting ready for a big game, fans can express themselves by changing their avatar into wearing a favorite team’s jersey or hat with team logo. Snap can then charge brands a fee every time a user uses a branded bitmoji or branded clothing or accessory in their messages.
And finally, Snap could partner with eCards or digital gift businesses to offer users the ability to personalize eCards or gifts with their own avatars. Snap could get a cut from each purchase.
Of these ideas, I think the group bitmojis and cartoon video features can be very successful in attracting more users to Snapchat. These features appeal to the teen segment. Branded bitmojis and branded clothing and accessories are likely to be more successful than the personalization of eCards, because the main activity in a messaging app is sending messages not buying gifts. So I would prioritize these four features for future improvements.