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I Remaining Flexible in an Ever-Changing World

How our Point of Sale team adapts to new information to deliver remarkable product experiences.

Designing for a product that has been in the market for 10+ years can be challenging. For the Square Point of Sale team, we have an established base of sellers with unique needs. At the same time, we’re responsible for maintaining the foundation that many other product teams at the company build upon.

How do we balance these obligations while holding space to think about the future of our products? The trick is to keep an open mind, stay focused on the real people who use our products, and leverage the unique superpowers of our cross-functional team.

Our work is never done

Our work doesn’t end when we launch a new feature. Our sellers’ environments are constantly changing, and new technology becomes available every year. Most importantly, there’s always a chance that we didn’t meet the initial goals we set out to achieve.

We need to be willing to adapt to new information and continue iterating on our experiences.

It’s all about our sellers

Everything we do comes back to our sellers — the real people who use our products. We strive to improve their quality of life by simplifying complex workflows. This may seem like a lofty goal, but it becomes relatively straightforward when we keep an open mind and pay attention to the right signals.

For us, that means watching for significant changes in usage, conducting regular seller interviews, and keeping an eye on new industry trends. Our research lead, Sarah Benoit Smyth, puts it best: “Step back, really listen, observe, and try to understand the ‘why’.”

This is a dynamic relationship — what our sellers needed from us in 2019 is vastly different from what they need from us today, so keeping a constant pulse on these various signals is critical.

Collaboration is key

Most teams at Square are equipped with product managers, designers, engineers, analysts, marketers, and researchers. Each of these functions brings a different set of skills and perspectives to the table, allowing us to do some pretty incredible things. Our most successful projects have been those where we lean on each other to thoroughly understand the problem space and validate our solutions. Conversely, our least successful projects have been those where our communication channels have broken down.

The easiest way to ensure the team is working together efficiently is to involve each team member from the early stages of the project. We brainstorm together, we build together, and we ship products together.

Putting it into practice

Throughout 2020, we saw many significant changes to the way small businesses and consumers interact. Most notable was a shift away from in-person commerce due to various local restrictions. With that, many of our sellers turned to other methods of transacting, such as online orders, pickup, and delivery.

While the Point of Sale already allowed sellers to view and manage pickup orders from online channels, they couldn’t create new pickup orders at the point of sale (without creative workarounds). This meant that sellers who began accepting orders over the phone couldn’t input and manage them in their Point of Sale. We recognized that this change in our sellers’ environment presented an urgent need.

Design concepts by Preston Grubbs & Neil Spurgeon

Our team began by prototyping our concept during a hack week. Adding a simple button to the cart allowed sellers to schedule orders for pickup and (eventually) delivery. Once we had our prototype, we were ready to begin forming our project team. We leaned on our analysts to size the problem space, our product managers to articulate the product scope and requirements, and our researchers to validate our concepts. Our engineering team started the build and, once we were ready, our marketers helped introduce the feature to the multitude of sellers who could benefit from it.

Design concepts by Preston Grubbs & Neil Spurgeon

At the end of the day, we learned a lot from this project. Moving fast comes with its own challenges (special shoutout to Preston Grubbs and our entire Orders team for helping us move forward), but ultimately we were able to launch this feature in a time when our sellers needed it most. All because we kept an open mind, stayed focused on the real people who use our products, and leveraged the unique superpowers of our cross-functional team.