Tell me about your design process on new features, from idea to launch.
It depends on the project, but we usually start off outlining and defining our requirements through business goals or functionality improvements energized by user research and understanding. We brainstorm, research, and conceptualize in the early stages in order to come up with ideas and bring in new and unexplored discussion points.
We tweak and iterate designs accordingly before translating them to high-fidelity and passing them onto the development teams. It’s so important not to lose traction of your process—designers should always be in tune with development teams and be there to mentor and inform where necessary.
Before deployment, we also test thoroughly and listen and respond to user feedback.
What’s a typical day look like?
It always starts with good coffee and a few minutes of catching up on reading about inspiring designers, projects, or case studies on news boards. You never know—reading a particular article might influence your work that day.
Mid-morning, the team shares achievements from the previous day and talks about tasks for the next day. It’s beneficial to know what we’re all working on so that we can help each other if necessary.
From there, the day’s normally a mix of focused design work (both exploratory and task-led), discussions with project leads, and cross-collaboration with other team members.
Are there any qualities in your design process that you consider unique or proprietary?
I adhere to some personal approaches that help with the fluidity of work:
- Gain, share, and discuss knowledge. Be as transparent as possible with your team. Be open to other people’s ideas and unify your own.
- Spark innovation by exploring methodologies and absorbing information from articles, books, blog posts and case studies.
- Understand and prioritize your users. Research, observe, learn, and evolve.
What do you think is the most powerful part of your design process?
Providing space for ideas, thoughts, and inspiration to materialize and grow—the ability to explore and conjure compelling ideas and influence that within your designs to create valuable and engaging experiences.
Unified principles are important as a general understanding within design, but it’s in our nature as designers to be explorers: we create and evolve ideas while retaining a certain quality.
What are some of the more important values that you try to see reflected in design changes?
Our audiences and users are at the heart of everything we do here. We’re always aiming to improve the quality and the general presentation of our content and the overall experience.
“The more we learn from our users, the better understanding we have.”
How do you make design decisions when you work for clients with such a massive and diverse global audience?
We’re continually coming up with ways to present our content. Creativity is the lifeblood of our organization. We’re always transparent with our ideas and thoughts to develop them and maintain memorable experiences.
What kind of metrics do you watch?
We focus, manage, and monitor user engagement levels—their time spent on pages and their depth of visit. With Earth, we’ve seen an increased dwell time on stories and more shareability across social platforms because of share tools on all the pages. We use various metric tools to shape, build, and evolve our designs and create a better experience.
“We’ve seen an increased dwell time on stories and more shareability across social platforms because of share tools on all the pages.”
How cross-functional is your organization and how do you work successfully with other departments?
It’s a mix of the culture and collaboration efforts of the teams. We all have different thoughts and opinions that we all respect, and out of that we can create some amazing things.
How do you continue to innovate.
You could call it our design lab—we’re always challenging and envisioning new ideas, and we try to encompass all the new trends happening online while exploring our own features. We’re all passionate people working towards creating the best content and presenting it in the best way, and that’s what I really enjoy about working here.
It’s easy to get bogged down by principles, but I try to keep a clear mind while I’m designing.
“Be as transparent as possible with your team.”
How do you address the death of print media? Do you have any insights for people who are working on a similar problem?
We don’t have a legacy print business, but our design team has been instrumental in building the success of our native offering for advertisers. Having a very prominent past dealing with the print media, it’d be wrong to think print media is dying—it’s the only current media format that doesn’t require a constant connection, or even a charged battery, to engage with. Sometimes we forget that.
How do you get inspired?
Individual designer’s blogs are inspiring as well because you get a personal and emotive response from like-minded people in the design community. We’re such a passionate community, so this can spark friendly debates.
Observing how others communicate with interfaces and environments is another one. User engagement is all around us, whether it be digital, tangible, or in the real world. Being extra observant helps influence your perceptions, patterns, and ideologies.
Do you have any insight for younger designers?
Listen to your colleagues, learn from your users, and stay inspired.
How do I communicate with a web development team?
Myself, the developer and the client or client representative sits in a group, allowing for a lot of in-person communication.
We’re lucky to have media city on our front doors with plenty of different meeting spaces that allow for collaboration but within and across teams.
We’re constantly sharing screenshots and recordings of our work. This continual feedback loop has proven very helpful in building and maintaining an open team culture.
What are the most important values you try to see reflected in your designs?
It’s important to me that we’ve taken some risks in the design. That what I’m working on isn’t a super obvious solution, it’s had to get buy-in from others.
I see my colleagues and customers as family—we’re all in this together and enjoy helping one another. Taking risks keeps us on our toes and motivates us all. Love helps eradicate pain, foster growth, and is downright beautiful.
What’s the most powerful part of my website design process?
I always work really closely with engineering from the beginning, but one of the more powerful moments is when we prepare to release a new feature or product. Engineers and designers will sit together over a couple of days and work out all the final tweaks. We find bugs, we make last-minute changes, we get things signed off. Proximity lets us focus and move quickly. Those last few days before a release are always pretty exciting.
How I hand off designs to developers?
I'm in constant conversation with each other, so there isn’t really a culture of hand-off. We work through problems side-by-side on a daily basis.
I understand that it’s important to develop the relationship between designer and engineer. Everyone has a style, and getting to know each others’ is super valuable.
“Take the time to ask developers how they prefer to collaborate.”
I take time to observe and ask engineers how they prefer to collaborate. Lots of talking? No talking? Technical jargon? Prototyping on the fly? From there, we find a vibe that works for the two of us. I ask our engineers questions all day to see how they think, both as an engineer but also as a user. It’s important to me that engineers know we can truly talk, and it’s not always about sign-offs and closing tickets.
Recently I have researching more into web design software and resources. Up to now I have been using photoshop for web pages but now I am really into using Sketch. Unlike Photoshop Sketch has been designed especially for webs designers. I like because you can lay all the different art boards for different device and see your progress. Its lie a cross between photoshop, illustrator and keynote. Its much more hassle free. Its built to be really quick which is great for rapid prototyping.
Check out Sketch: http://bohemiancoding.com/sketch/
Also this is a useful plugin for Sketch. It generates text and images until have the real thing.Sketch content generator: https://github.com/timuric/Content-ge...
Also I have started using Invision to share screen flows and get feedback on your designs. Its great because the client can see the design in a flow in a browser or on a phone as in is meant to be intended, rather than scrolling through a PDF. So it simulates the real thing as much as possible so you get the best possible feedback because the client leave comments on the part of the design they are talking about which helps you manage all the feedback and collating it all.
Check out Invision: http://www.invisionapp.com/
Image Optim: https://imageoptim.com/
Noun project for icons: https://thenounproject.com/
Pictos icons: http://pictos.cc/
GuideGuide photoshop plugin: http://guideguide.me/
Ten Dollar Fonts: http://tendollarfonts.com/
Lost Type Co-op: http://losttype.com/
I found this You tube video really helpful because it reminded me that even though putting your head down and practicing is important, we need to do more to improve. You and I can learn much quicker by completing tutorials and getting feedback and then get back to practicing. Theres more great advice, check it out here.