Developer Diaries: How Life at Yammer Inspired a New Hit Feature
As a Product Marketing Manager, I have the opportunity to work with many different Product Managers at once. This means I get exposure to a wide range of new features – typically from conception to full release. This past quarter, one feature in particular caught my attention: New User Badges. There is an interesting story behind this feature, so I sat down with Product Manager Christina Lucey to talk through the development and process behind this feature.
Michelle Tandler: So Christina, what is a New User badge?
Christina Lucey: A New User Badge is an overlay across the bottom of a new user’s profile picture. It says “New” to indicate to existing members that the user has recently joined the organization’s Yammer network. Once a user has been on Yammer for two weeks, the badge disappears.
MT: Where did this idea come from? Was there an inspiration for this feature?
CL: Actually yes, the feature was inspired by something we do for new hires at Yammer. On a new-hire’s first day, they get a name tag on a lanyard and are encouraged to wear it around their neck for the first week. This makes new employees easy to spot, so others can strike up a conversation, welcome them, and find out what they’re going to be working on. For the new person too, it makes them more comfortable to do the same, and introduce themselves. We thought if we could replicate this behavior within our customer’s Yammer networks, new users would have an easier time connecting with their colleagues.
MT: So what was the ultimate goal? Why does it matter if people in a network reach out to someone new?
CL: The main goal was to help users seeing Yammer for the first time get value right away, by making them feel more comfortable about posting, Liking, and replying to other people’s messages. Effectively, we wanted new users to see how easy it is to interact with people across their company. It might sound obvious, but if a new user sees value from Yammer early on, they are more likely to return and contribute to their company’s network again and again.
MT: Makes a lot of sense. So how hard was it to build?
CL: This feature was actually relatively easy to build compared to many of the other features – it took just a couple of weeks with one engineer. The hardest part was figuring out where to add the badges since we display avatars (profile pictures) in many places on Yammer.
MT: How did you test the feature, and what were the results?
CL: We ran an A/B test for a few weeks on a subset of new users. During the test some new users had the badge and some didn’t, and we compared them. The results were really impactful. The group of users with the badge posted more, used Yammer more, and sent a lot more invitations to Yammer.
MT: Were the results a surprise for you?
CL: Yes – the feature was more impactful than we anticipated considering how minimal the change to the product was. The increase in invites was definitely the most surprising outcome.
MT: Interesting. Why do you think users sent so many invites?
CL: Unfortunately, the data only tells us what happened and not why it happened; but that is why we have an awesome user research team. One theory is that users seeing the “New” badges were reminded that not all of their colleagues are on Yammer and that they should invite more. A theory I like better is users in the experiment had a better experience, and wanted to recommend the product to their coworkers.
MT: That’s great. So what are some takeaways from this project?
CL: There are a couple. First, there can be value in capturing the essence of real life behavior and mimicking it in the features we build online. For this feature we took something pretty traditional (new hire name tags) and translated them to the virtual world (an overlay on the avatar). Second, the size of the team doesn’t necessarily equate to the impact a feature can have on the user experience. This was a very small team working on a pretty small feature, but it resulted in significant improvements for new users. Third, it’s important to test a feature to see the full scope of results. In this case, an increase in sending invites was an unexpected, yet pleasant surprise.
MT: So what happens next? Is this feature still testing?
CL: The results were very positive so we rolled the feature out to all networks. Now all new users on Yammer receive the New User Badge.
MT: Great to hear. Thanks, Christina.