How to Design Hardware Products

Hosain Rahman, founder of Jawbone, talks about Jawbone’s process for developing products, combining hardware, software, and data insights.

This talk was very specific to one company’s process for operating. It shows the level of detail and expertise that goes into the whole process of developing a product.

Hosain Rahman – @hosain


  • Overview
  • 33s – Beauty and Engineering in service of a better life
  • Jawbone Products: wireless headset, wireless speaker, wearable health tracker
  • Internet of Things: everything has sensors, connected, but not organized
  • think about where things are going
  • need organizing principles; less about things and more about actual user
  • world is moving to user at center of internet of things with wearables
  • complete platform requires: hardware, software & services, and data
  • 6m32s – Everything is a system: hardware, sensors, algorithms, applications, service, science and data insight, api partners and signals
  • 7m18s – How we create: exploration, early validation, concept, planning, development, continued innovation
  • guiding principles: vision, brand, strategy
  • Exploration: dreaming, futuristic, science project-y
  • Early Validation: like proving your thesis
  • Concept: big human-centric concepts
  • Planning: no turning back, sobering, tradeoffs
  • Development: laser focus, craftsmanship
  • Initial Launch
  • Continued innovation: learn from users, evaluate, start over
  • 10m10s: Exploration
  • building and tinkering; driven by personal passions; use tools of hackathons and data and insights
  • involves R&D, Engineering, Product Experience, Product management
  • staff acts as a sounding board
  • required to move to next phase: meets $50,0000 investment test
  • 11m28s – Early Validation
  • checking for concept robustness, dev leadership meetings drive it; use scientific method, data and insights
  • Hypothesized “whys”: why are we doing this, why does this need to exist, etc
  • involves R&D; staff prioritizes concepts and approve budget
  • require to move to next phase: fits vision; feasible to make now; business viability; early experience
  • 13m05s – Concept
  • Defining the “whys”; driven by R&D concepts
  • use storyboards, interaction models; user research; pitch videos
  • involved: LEAD: product experience; engineering; project management business case
  • required from staff: imagine what’s possible, determin if an idea has merit
  • required to move to next phase: highly resolve whys and differentiation; strategy (from competitors, other products in family); prodocut roadmap
  • 15m19s – Planning
  • making a plan, validating feasibility
  • driven by quarterly forecasting
  • tools: early prototypes, functional briefs, data and insights
  • involvement: LEAD product management; engineering; product experience; sales and marketing; finance: capital
  • required from staff: make key trade-off decisions; sign off on plan to move forward
  • required to move to next phase: prioritized features, functionality, and minimum bar; business plan and product roadmap
  • 16m27s – Development
  • making a plan; quarterly forecasting, early prototypes; LEAD: PM, users making key decisions around trade-offs
  • required to move to next phase: design sign-off; engineering (hardware & software) sign-off; hosain sign-off
  • 16m39s – Continued innovation
  • deepening and broadening engagement, creating more value for users
  • driven by retail calendar, sprint cycles
  • tools: feature briefs, UI screenshots, data and insights
  • LEAD: product management, product experience team, engineering, sales and marketing
  • staff: provide guidence on goals and strategies; be the final approver for Jawbone worthy output
  • 18m11s – the framework: creating rich, continuous & signature experiences
  • whys, themes, pods, hero/sidekick experiences, features
  • 18m55s – Why’s
  • ask questions then use as guidepost, do we meet it
  • what is user problem that once we solve users can’t live without?
  • Jawbone Jambox product cycle: bluetooth speaker
  • state now, future, going forward
  • Jawbone is experience company: how pieces come together
  • Experience framework becames guide post for team to follow and validate decisions
  • Research, insight, concept, design and build
  • Whys: a list of consumer problems to solve
  • Principles: the Jawbone approach to solving those problems
  • Hows: Proposed solutions to the problems presented as experience scenarios
  • Whats: Requirements that have to be included in the product to execute the solutions
  • User interviews: don’t ask would you buy this/ use that; instead ask about current behaviors and how they live
  • Up24 product example
  • 24/7 engagement; understand & act in moment; actionable insights; progressive & contextual tagging
  • track + understand + act
  • Users we design for: profile, percentage of total, big needs
  • Hero Experience: real time understanding + smart actions
  • 32m43s – Q&A
  • How do you consider features and tradeoffs?
  • Have to think across entire experience not just product silo; with big companies have to force communication
  • 35m33s – How does system think work?
  • Think about how all the pieces fit together across the entire system.
  • 36m30s – What goes into different versions of same product?
  • There is grand unified vision and everything fits together or will
  • 38m11s – What goes into graphic design?
  • Wanted to convey certain theme and feeling; all part of same process
  • 38m58s – How does thinking and process change after launch?
  • Take new information and data after release and take back to exploration face as new set of problems, challenges, opportunities; but sometimes don’t always need to go all the way back, but just back to planning or development and skip over steps
  • 41m30s – How does process change as number of employees change?
  • 500 employees now, very distributed, get to talent; always work at getting better at communication; up3 has daily 2.5 hour call
  • 43m25s – How did you decide to expand?
  • Expanded product line, geography; some deliberate plan, some opportunistic based on specific case
  • 44m50s – Why don’t make headphones?
  • Desire to enter space with product order of magnitude better than existing; sometimes market not ready; sometimes technology not ready
  • 45m30s – Are you running Jawbone as software or hardware company how is different?
  • Very new, no model to base it on; try to best of everything and put it together

Additional Reading



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