Butter and smooth experiences are more art and less science. There are three broad steps that you can take to make a ‘butter’ experience:
1/ Hire exceptional people.
You need people that care deeply about usability, and are willing to fight for it. Usability is often the first casualty of a high-pressure environment, so you need people that won’t compromise on it. The best way for you to create butter is to hire people that care about it.
Make sure that you hire people with impeccable taste and commercial pragmatism. Set your bar high; don’t filter out for averages. Colin Powell, former US Secretary of State, used to advise that you should “hire for strengths, rather than a lack of weaknesses”.
This obviously applies to designers, as well as (perhaps less obviously) engineers and product managers too.
2/ Create a culture where butter is expected.
Give your team the time and space to do user testing, and craft a thoughtful process. Make sure all product teams know that a fantastic and delightful user experience is expected by leadership. Create a common language where people can talk about brilliant experiences without feeling fluffy.
Mariam El Beshlawi explains that teams “often only celebrate numeric goals and milestones, it’s important to also celebrate the quality of your product”
Enzo Avigo, tells how they bake butter in at June.so:
A method we have at June is systematically include a butter in the first scope of a feature. Let’s say you’re at a scoping session, someone in the room should stand up and say “where is the delight on that feature?”. Often time it’s fine to scope down some functionality to add the cherry on top of what we’ve built.
We have a channel called #cool-product In it we mostly share stunning design. Over time it has become alsmot a game to share amazing designs. It influences the team in terms of “what stunning means” in this world.
3/ Spend deliberate time in other products.
You should be learning from all products, not just direct competitors. Spend time in travel, media, SaaS, e-commerce products. Pay attention to the experiences they’ve built, rather than just whizzing through. You’ll learn as much from brilliant experiences as you will from shoddy ones.
4/ Be clear with your principles.
Over time, product teams acting independently can create a Frankenstein product. Lots of individual features and components that optimise for their individual purpose, but together create a janky experience. This is similar to what Steven Sinofsky of Andreessen Horowitz calls “shipping the org chart”.
A strong tool to guard against this is having a clear set of principles in place when building product. These are things that you believe, that will beat data in an argument. A famous example is Google’s “don’t be evil”, which was more important than moving metrics. Define the things that you really care about, and will always care about ahead of metrics.