The CEO of Snap described Spectacles as a toy, ideal for capturing occasions like barbecues and outdoor concerts. You are the PM of Spectacles and the CEO has asked you to propose new features for Spectacles. What would you recommend?
This is a typical product design interview question. One useful structure to apply when tackling this type of question is the CIRCLES Method™ from Lewis Lin’s book Decode and Conquer, which boils down to:
- Ask clarifying questions to narrow the scope and to understand what the goal is
- Talk about the target user(s)
- Brainstorm use cases
- Prioritize use cases
- Brainstorm solutions
- Evaluate the solutions
- Summarize: which solution would you recommend; recap what the solution does, why is it beneficial and why do you prefer this solution
This is just a guideline, use it judiciously.
After you ask clarifying questions, take a minute to write down the outline above. List a few bullet points regarding the target users. If you have time, list some some use cases. These will help you remember the points you want to touch on when answering.
Ask clarifying questions
INTERVIEWEE: What is the main objective for adding new features to Spectacles?
INTERVIEWER: Our first priority is to increase brand recognition by getting the eyeglasses into the hands of as many Snapchat users as possible. Increasing revenue is our second priority. We want our users to think of Snap as not just a mobile app company, but as a hardware and software company.
INTERVIEWEE: Okay. Could I take a few minutes to think about some ideas?
(The interviewee starts by writing down how he will structure his answer, and including a few bullet points under users and use cases.)
INTERVIEWEE: First, I would like to talk about who the users of Spectacles are to get a feel for the activities they do, what possible uses cases there could be, and brainstorm ideas for features to support those use cases.
INTERVIEWER: Go ahead.
INTERVIEWEE: The users of Snapchat are mostly young people ranging in age from 15 to 35 more or less. These are the same users that would buy Spectacles because Spectacles and Snapchat are meant to work together. The videos taken with Spectacles are automatically sent to Snapchat Memories, so the user can share the videos with friends and family.
INTERVIEWER: That is correct.
INTERVIEWEE: Okay, now I am going to explore other use cases besides the existing ones that Spectacles support. When thinking about use cases, it is very important to keep in mind, what you mentioned, which is that Spectacles is positioned as a toy. Spectacles are supposed to be used for fun. I think this positioning was key in overcoming “the creep factor” and perceived invasion of privacy that Spectacles could have encountered at launch, which were issues that worked against Google Glass, for example. Therefore, I’m going to focus on use cases that are related to fun activities.
Here are a few ideas for use cases:
- Electroplated lenses: Teenagers and young adults love to do goofy things to provoke reactions from their friends. So make Spectacles glasses with custom designs printed on the outer lenses that do not hinder vision. The user could record and share their friends reactions for fun. There are already small businesses that make customizable eyeglasses using electroplate technology, like collegeglasses.com, and the process is not expensive.
- Animated GIFs on lenses: A more advanced idea is to display animated GIFs on the outer lenses. Some examples could be: hypnotic eyes, bulging eyes, heart eyes, shifty eyes, or cartoon eyes. There could be a variety of GIFs for the user to choose from.
- Indoor activities: Create stories of your tours while on vacation, such as recording visits to museums. Or, record cooking demonstrations by aficionados that want to share their recipes with friends. The key feature here is to offer a version of Spectacles with clear lenses to be used inside buildings.
- Outdoor sports: Create stories by recording your experience skiing or biking with friends. These use cases would likely require changing the shape of Spectacles and making the temples grip stronger during high impact motion.
- Getting feedback: Picking out new clothes can be a tough decision. Spectacles could turn this activity into fun, especially for girls. Before making a purchase, the user records herself wearing the new outfit in front of a mirror, then shares the video with her friends asking for opinions.
Prioritize Use Cases
There are too many use cases to choose from, so I’m going to select a few based on criteria that considers how fun and social the use case is, as well as how easily and costly it would be to implement a solution that supports it.
I will use a table to do this analysis. To rate the use cases across the attributes of fun, social, ease of implementation and cost, I will use the numbers 1, 2, and 3 as the ratings. Number 1 will mean that the use case is least desirable for the respective attribute, 2 means mid-desirable and 3 most desirable.
Getting feedback when trying new clothes, is a very fun and social use case. It would be easy to implement a mobile feature to support it. The only cost involved would be software development, which would be inexpensive.
The electroplated lenses and the animated GIFs on lenses are to me the most fun and social uses cases, but probably more costly to implement since they require changes to the Spectacles product. I would support these two uses cases after the feedback feature, because fun and social are core attributes. Both use cases show goofy images on the outer lenses and would attract lots of reactions from friends or a passerby, making the experience super fun to share. Of these two uses cases, the electroplated lenses would be easier to support, since the technology exists and is inexpensive. The animated GIFs on lenses, however, would require cutting edge technology to display dynamic images on the lenses but still enable the user to see through the lenses.
These are the three use cases I would select as priority for implementation. Now, I will do some brainstorming on how to implement them in more detail.
INTERVIEWER: Go ahead.
INTERVIEWEE: For the feedback from friends use case, I picture a scenario where a girl is recording herself in front of a mirror with her new clothes on and wants to share the video with friends to see if they like how the clothes look on her. This would require adding another storage feature to Snapchat, similar to the My Story feature, to store and share the videos immediately with friends. Friends would be notified when videos are available so they can reply. These videos, unlike snaps, would need to be available long enough for friends to view in detail, view multiple times, and respond. The response could be a text message or for more fun, an edited snapshot of the video, overlaid with text, emojis and other fun media. I would call this feature Feedback, and add it to the list of other features in the Memories page of the Snapchat app.
The electroplated lenses with customized designs use case would require using electroplate technology to create permanent see-through prints on the lens of the eyeglasses. This technology is simple to implement and would add a maximum of $5 to the price of Spectacles, based on what some businesses are charging today. The Spectacles website could allow people to submit their own digital designs or provide a catalog of proprietary designs. The designs could be outsourced to professional designers and there could be competitions for best designs to create buzz.
The display of animated GIFs on lenses use case is a more complex use case to support, because it would require having a see-through display to play GIFs. The technology already exists, such as Transparent OLED Display. This technology is currently being researched for eyeglasses but for different use cases, like vision-impairments. Snap could be the first company to commercialize such technology for eyeglasses at a large scale, but it would likely take time to learn how to produce the eyeglasses at a low cost.
Of these three solutions, the easiest to implement and thus faster to turn around would be the Feedback feature, because it is a simple software addition to the mobile app and is low cost.
The electroplated lenses with customized designs would be the second least complex use case to implement in terms of technology. It would require introducing a store for submitting or ordering customized printed designs for the lenses, and applying existing electroplated processes to print designs on lenses. These tasks will likely take more time to implement than the Feedback feature, but I think these printed lenses would be more fun and wouldn’t increase the price of Spectacles by much, so I would consider this a very close second choice to implement.
The display of animated GIFs on the lenses solution would be one that I would consider a long term research project. It may produce valuable intellectual property for Snap in the future.
In summary, I explored six use cases that Spectacles target users may find fun and social, attributes that align with Spectacles positioning as a toy. Of these use cases, I selected three that I think are the most likely to be a hit with users: Getting feedback from friends when trying new clothes; showing goofy printed designs on the lenses; and displaying animated GIFs on the lenses. If I were to develop a product roadmap, the first half of the year would be developing the Feedback feature; the second half of the year developing the Electroplated Eyeglasses feature. And, as a long term product strategy, I would put together a research group to start investigating how to productize Transparent OLED Display eyeglasses for the third use case.