PayPal is one of the textbook successes of a venture-backed startup: It was acquired for $1.5 billion by eBay back in 2002.
But by 2011, PayPal was in a rough spot.
It had internal problems in design, product, and engineering, and especially in how those three sections worked together. Namely, that they didn't.
In many ways, PayPal looked like a large, old company. Production was divided over nine organizations, and it took 37 tickets just to get a bug fixed and pushed live.
So PayPal decided to go back to its startup roots. The company now works smarter and faster. It has launched a new PayPal mobile app, and new experiences in checkout, merchant servicing, and onboarding experiences (PayPal has even been thinking about how to buy stuff in outer space.)
PayPal's senior director of user interface engineering, Bill Scott, described how the company solved PayPal's issues in a PowerPoint at a conference last month.
The slideshow in its entirety is pretty long (you can read it all here), so we plucked out some highlights. It's 2011, and here are PayPal's main problems.
Here's an example: The product team needed to send official "product requirement documents" (PRD) to the design team before the design team could send the engineering team the user experience (UX) specs, which needed to happen BEFORE the engineering team tried the product out on users. And then the users might hate the product.
PayPal needed to get lean, like a startup: learn fast, move fast, fail fast, iterate often, change directions when necessary.
There are three key principals that drive lean user experience. Real understanding is key, regardless of whether it's "documented."