Jeff Domke’s article about working on “unshiny” products sums up my view of my own work at Optimizely. The crux of his argument is that many designers are drawn to working on “shiny” products — products that are pretty and lauded in the design community — but “unshiny” products are a lot more interesting to work on. They’re often solving difficult problems, and have more room for you to make an impact. You’re working to make the product reach its potential. Shiny products, on the other hand, have reached that potential, and you are less able to make your mark.
Optimizely sits right in the sweet spot. We aren’t “shiny” (compared to sexy products like Square and Medium, we have a long way to go); nor are we “unshiny” (our customers describe us as well-designed and easy-to-use). Rather, we land more in the middle — we have a solid user experience that has a lot of room for improvement.
We’re also solving really hairy, complex problems. Apps that get mounds of praise tend to solve relatively simple problems (such as to-do list apps). It’s much more interesting to work on a problem space that is unexplored and is full of murky, vague, conflicting goals that must be untangled. And once you’ve made sense of the mess, you know you’ve enabled someone to do their job better.
And that’s the most exciting part of working at Optimizely — making the product fulfill its potential, and solving tough problems that impact businesses’ bottom lines.