Hi, I'm Kumail 👋

A product designer and software engineer with over 12 years of experience building software. I've worked in design and engineering roles at companies like Broadly, McKinsey & Company and Dubizzle. In my spare time, I run the OG of startup marketplaces, Borderline.biz.

Learn about my approach to software >>

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Recent work in
Marketing Automation

Broadly is a California-based startup that builds marketing automation software to help local businesses provide great customer experiences. Their mobile app accepts payments, manages reviews, conversations, and even sends campaigns.

I worked with the Broadly product team to improve their cross-platform (mobile + desktop) applications and dashboard products. Watch the show reel to see some of my work, shown here with their permission.

 Play Reel Takes 1min & 28mb of bandwidth

Recent work in
Marketing Automation

Broadly is a California-based startup that builds marketing automation software to help local businesses provide great customer experiences. Their mobile app accepts payments, manages reviews, conversations, and even sends campaigns.

I worked with the Broadly product team to improve their cross-platform (mobile + desktop) applications and dashboard products. Play the show reel to see some of my work, shown here with their permission.

 Play Reel (1 MIN)

Attention to detail adds up

When it comes to interaction design, I believe in getting the details right. It's an obsessive craft where you consider every detail, almost meaningless on their own; working out the exact paddings, margins, font sizes, weights, letter spacings, colors, shadows, and the thousand other details that only really great designers obsess over. These are the thousands of micro-decisions that really no user will ever remark about, but in aggregate, they make interactions feel seamless, delightful, almost magical!

My approach to software

Improvements to a product can positively impact all areas of a business. You can spend more on marketing if retention is high, sales can bring on more customers if the features being built resonate with potential customers, and it’s easier to provide support for a product that isn’t confusing to the customer.

Design can change everything from how customers perceive you, quality engineering can give customers the confidence to trust your software for mission critical tasks.

When software is a core competency, design and engineering becomes a competitive advantage.

Make remarkable software

“In the past, brilliant marketing could sell even the most ordinary product. But today, competition is so fierce that you have to create something remarkable in order to succeed.” — Seth Godin

Google Search, for instance, is a remarkable product. It takes minutes to switch from Google to Bing or DuckDuckGo, yet, without any lock-in, Google has incredible retention – measured in decades per user. They've achieved this by consistently and considerably re-investing in their Search business, their core offering, widening the gap enough to disuade any new entrants.
Compare that with Netflix, which let the quality of its library slip, encouraging competition and leading to a 35% share price drop in April of 2022.

When times are great, invest disproportionately in your economic moat to keep acquisition costs low and reinforce the growth cycle.

Look for constraints

The Theory of Constraints is a methodology for identifying the most important limiting factor (i.e. constraint) that stands in the way of achieving a goal and then systematically improving that constraint until it is no longer the limiting factor. (Eli Goldratt, TOC)

This book is required reading in over 1,400 business schools and at Amazon, Boeing, and Hitachi. The principles in the book are taught in the context of a traditional factory setup. However, they translate really well into the software world. Complex software applications can be broken down into distinct user journeys, each step in a journey resembling a machine with a measurable throughput, which is the potential constraint in a system.

When looking for constraints, distinguish between local and global optimizations. Not all improvements will increase global throughput. In other words, improving your product onboarding is somewhat pointless if your landing page is doing a terrible job of driving users to it.

Use limited engineering
resources to do more

Engineering is often the most expensive resource in a software company for obvious reasons, but it doesn’t have to become a constraint. When designing a feature, strategic tradeoffs can bring the go-to market time down from weeks to days.

Getting rid of low-impact specifications in a feature can help you move a lot faster. Low fidelity prototypes can de-risk a design before it ever reaches engineering, and a short-to-medium-term design roadmap is a great way to build momentum.

Half the battle is not working on stuff that doesn’t matter.

Solve multi-disciplinary problems with cross-functional thinking

Collaboration across departments, also known as a cross-functional style of working, is important for innovation because multi-dimensional problems, like the kind technology companies face, require solutions that overlap across business functions.

In large corporations, change is a risk, and predictability is rewarded. Startups, however need to move quicky and challenge commonly held beliefs to be innovative.

Customer support has front-line knowledge about the customer, engineers have an intuition for complexity, marketing can reframe a feature to feel more relevant, and sales can tell you what people really value in your product.

Connecting the dots is your tactical advantage.

I've worked at companies like

Broadly McKinsey & Company Dubizzle

How I like to work

My working style is collaborative, fast-paced, and high-impact. I like working with startups that want to move the needle on product. Here is how I think about product development and engineering.

Lifecycle Analysis

The data between acquisition and churn tells an incredible story

Retention is the cheapest customer acquisition. It’s like selling to customers in the store, they’re already here! Spending more on customer acquisition is a waste of resources if your product funnel is leaky. Data can help solve this.

In a connected system, a constraint is the single weakest link that holds back the entire system. As outlined by Eli Goldratt, solving this constraint should become an organizational priority.

Not all data is created equal and is often an unreliable source of truth. Data can be statistically insignificant, miss important vectors, be a lagging indicator or be only locally optimal. While we value data when good data is available, we are careful not to be blinded by it and weigh that data against intuition and experience.

Lifecycle Analysis

The data between acquisition and churn tells an incredible story

Retention is the cheapest customer acquisition. It’s like selling to customers in the store, they’re already here! Spending more on customer acquisition is a waste of resources if your product funnel is leaky. Data can help solve this.

In a connected system, a constraint is the single weakest link that holds back the entire system. As outlined by Eli Goldratt, solving this constraint should become an organizational priority.

Not all data is created equal and is often an unreliable source of truth. Data can be statistically insignificant, miss important vectors, be a lagging indicator or be only locally optimal. While we value data when good data is available, we are careful not to be blinded by it and weigh that data against intuition and experience.

Customer Feedback
& User Testing

Build features customers actually want

The elusive product-market Fit is a spectrum, not an event. By understanding the customer better, deliver more value for every dollar spent and unlock new growth potential. In other words, build features customers actually want.

Read between the lines to understand why retention isn’t improving. While some customers will articulate how they feel about your product perfectly and help you improve, most will be polite and mask negative feedback. Obvious problems might be difficult to spot until you speak with customers and pay close attention.

Making feedback a habit helps you maintain a pulse on product. Digg.com, the homepage of the internet, lost marketshare to Reddit when they made major moves that didn’t resonate with their audience. When things start to take a rough turn, course adjust before it’s too late.

Customer Feedback
& User Testing

Build features customers actually want

The elusive product-market Fit is a spectrum, not an event. By understanding the customer better, deliver more value for every dollar spent and unlock new growth potential. In other words, build features customers actually want.

Read between the lines to understand why retention isn’t improving. While some customers will articulate how they feel about your product perfectly and help you improve, most will be polite and mask negative feedback. Obvious problems might be difficult to spot until you speak with customers and pay close attention.

Making feedback a habit helps you maintain a pulse on product. Digg.com, the homepage of the internet, lost marketshare to Reddit when they made major moves that didn’t resonate with their audience. When things start to take a rough turn, course adjust before it’s too late.

Iterative Approach

An iterative approach builds momentum and reduces risk

It's not only possible to transform a complex product one feature at a time; in fact, it's the better approach. Major re-builds are often a risky “bet the company” move that can backfire by costing more than expected or closing the gap for competitors.

Momentum builds team morale; customers see frequent improvements; sales gets to speak about the constant improvements and new features to potential customers; and while you work on the next thing, the built-up features start to generate returns.

Something appears to be working with your current product. A big redesign can miss what makes your product work well right now, and you risk launching a product that’s less so. With continuous feedback cycles, gauge customer feedback and only build features that matter.

Iterative Approach

An iterative approach builds momentum and reduces risk

It's not only possible to transform a complex product one feature at a time; in fact, it's the better approach. Major re-builds are often a risky “bet the company” move that can backfire by costing more than expected or closing the gap for competitors.

Momentum builds team morale; customers see frequent improvements; sales gets to speak about the constant improvements and new features to potential customers; and while you work on the next thing, the built-up features start to generate returns.

Something appears to be working with your current product. A big redesign can miss what makes your product work well right now, and you risk launching a product that’s less so. With continuous feedback cycles, gauge customer feedback and only build features that matter.

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My contribution to Open Source

The GitHub Arctic Code Vault is a data repository preserved in the Arctic World Archive (AWA), a very-long-term archival facility 250 meters deep in the permafrost of an Arctic mountain.

I built 3 open source projects that are now part of this historic code archival programme. These repositories have been starred over 5k times and forked 400 times.

Flakes

A data oriented frontend framework designed for internal business applications and optimised for performance. It’s free to use and comes with it’s own grid system, typography, form elements, grid based data editing components and table based layouts.

GridForms

When building Flakes, I noticed a pattern of representing and editing data which benefit from the grid like form. GridForms have had wide appeal and is used my many companies, including Wells Fargo Bank and Broadly (where I once worked).

Responsive Elements

The CSS specification gives developers the ability to conditionally apply CSS using Media Queries. Unfortunately, media queries are not capable of detecting changes on a DOM Node level. With Responsive Elements, elements can re-render as the space they occupy changes. This library went viral on Twitter and tweeted by people I really admire like Paul Irish, Ethan Marcotte (a responsive web design pioneer) and Chris Coyer of CSS Tricks.

More about me   

Kumail is an interaction designer and software engineer. He’s worked in design and engineering roles at companies like Dubizzle and McKinsey & Company. At Dubizzle, Kumail worked on software serving millions of users, while at McKinsey he supported digital transformation engagements with clients in banking, government, and insurance in the UAE, Johannesburg, Singapore, and Prague.

As a product designer and full-stack software engineer. My greatest strength is being able to think in code and design. I love software that is simple to use. My favorite apps are Google Maps, Shazam and Lichess. For the amount of complexity they manage, they are remarkably simple. When an inordinate amount of complexity is hidden from the viewer, it's like a magic trick. And good software, like a mind bending trick is delightful!

I build my applications in Node/Javascript & Express and have experience using frameworks like React & Svelte. I also have a working knowledge of Python & Django.

I have launched 3 open source projects that have been starred 5k times and forked 400 times (GridFroms, Flakes, & Responsive Elements). I've worked at Dubizzle (massive regional classifieds company), McKinsey & Company and Broadly.

Work with me

Need a full stack engineer or product designer for your next project? Reach me on contact@kumailht.com.

You can also follow me on Twitter or on LinkedIn.