Happy new year! Since the late spring of 2018 we’ve been redesigning Kin and, as we gear up to release it to our customers, I’m reflecting on the choices we’ve made along the way. Our company has experienced a reorientation of sorts with the values of real community and social well being. That’s informed our view of Kin’s role in your workplace which has, in turn, informed the design of Kin itself.
Hey doc, are you here?
If you’ve been to a doctor lately, you may have noticed something peculiar: medical professionals spend an inordinate amount of time interacting with screens compared to the time they spend with you. How’s that make you feel? There’s a parallel in the workplace. The digital tools we depend on at work, from project scheduling products to employee feedback services, have nudged their way into almost every interaction we have with coworkers.
Many of these technologies make a workplace like ours possible. Our geographic disparity however (we’re a 100% remote workplace), has made us acutely aware of the value of authentic, direct human interactions in our feedback to one another, or when we’re troubleshooting code. Over the last year, we’ve actively sought to remove technology from situations where the human touch is unparalleled in its power to heal and solve.
As a result, we view the role of these technologies as that of a facilitator, rather than as an object of fascination. The tools we value most (with dozens of choices in any category) are the most frictionless, the most invisible. We certainly explore new technologies, but the bar for welcoming them into our work lives has been raised. We’ve raised that bar for Kin too.
Use it, then lose it.
As nonsensical as it may sound, one of the objectives of the new Kin is to decrease the time customers spend using it. The five year old app had some user experience problems that we fixed to speed up core jobs like scheduling time off, uploading files, and importing employee data.
More conceptually though, as we reevaluated the myriad workplace challenges Kin should solve, we considered that Kin, like so many other technologies, isn’t meant to solve all of them; people are. If Kin doesn’t help employees spend time working with one another, it’s not designed well. If Kin doesn’t help employees feel more fulfilled at work, it’s not doing its job. If Kin’s user experience isn’t efficient enough, it’s not doing its job.
In redesigning a workplace technology that thousands of people use each day, we considered it our ethical obligation to avoid making Kin the object of fascination in all the ways it’s meant to help. Kin should do its job, then get out of the way.
Looking beyond your attention span
I don’t think the makers of medical record software set out knowing that, ultimately, the quality of the medical care experience may suffer because of an improvement in the portability of patient data. I honestly don’t believe Mark Zuckerberg ever considered that Facebook would subvert humankind’s trust. Yet, here we are. We live in an age where massive technology platforms are nearing ubiquity and we’re learning the price of deferring to technology for an ever-increasing share of our lives.
Kin – its mission and the role it plays in your workplace, isn’t following in those footsteps. Starting with a humble, if time intensive, redesign of our web app, we intend to be a facilitator, not a dominator; a platform that doesn’t vie for your attention, rather a partner that improves what matters most: your workplace community and the quality work it enables.
A new year, a new Kin
I’m excited to ship the new Kin in the next few weeks. There are so many improvements that are baked into it that we’ve seen validated over and over since Kin first launched in 2013. What I’m most looking forward to though is this fresh start for our own workplace. Kin’s codebase is faster and cleaner. Its interface is faster and cleaner too. The new Kin is our team’s springboard to build healthier, happier workplaces.