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A look Inside Design at HubSpot

joshua-porter-UX-designer

We’re tracking down InVision users inside the world’s most amazing companies to discover their favorite tools, inspirations, workspace must-haves and the philosophy behind what makes them work.

This week we interviewed Joshua Porter, Director of UX at Hubspot, in Cambridge, MA.

What is your role and responsibilities at HubSpot?

At Hubspot we make software for professional marketers – an entire platform used to manage content publishing through a variety of channels. I manage the UX team here with seven designers as well as two usability specialists and two documentation/copywriting specialists.

We work side by side with the product teams to design the user interface of the Hubspot products. One of our challenges is to keep our product consistent over a whole suite of different marketing tools, so the design team is a key part of keeping that consistency. Each designer is assigned and embedded within a product team alongside a PM and several developers.

How did you get into design and what was your path into your current role?

I have a computer science degree, but realized development wasn’t for me. I love building websites, because it combines code and visual presentation. Ever since my first computer science class that was the most exciting part of everything I did.

I was at a well-known usability and design consulting firm here in Massachusetts called User Interface Engineering under founder Jared Spool for five years. After that, I went out on my own for a couple of years. Then it became all about startups for me. I helped co-found a company called Performable, which built enterprise marketing software until we were acquired by Hubspot in 2011.

What wider industry trends are changing the nature of the designer role?

I think measuring design in general, through KPIs, is a clear trend. Also, there is growing acceptance for doing real user research.

And the maturation of prototyping tools is really awesome, particularly mobile prototyping. The idea that you can build a piece of software and have a lot of confidence that it will be a success without writing a line of iOS code is huge, especially as someone who’s been doing this for ten years and has had to totally scrap projects or restart projects or kill them because it wasn’t the right thing.

Overall, I feel the biggest design trend of our time is the widespread appreciation of useable software.

What’s the biggest challenge in your design projects right now?

The biggest pain point I am working on right now is just product consistency. It’s hard enough to make a product that delights people, a product that people really love. We are successful at doing that. The challenge is consistency: delighting people every time. Doing that across each of our tools, so that people feel like the HubSpot platform is as integrated as it really is. It’s so that they feel they’re working with a single piece of software, just doing different things with it.

Our software is incredibly capable. It has everything a marketer needs, but from a design standpoint, that makes it extremely challenging to keep all those moving parts simple and easily approachable. My biggest design challenges are really about keeping things simple and consistent and user-friendly. Keeping it really focused on a marketer’s goals of analyzing what they’ve published to see what they should publish next.

What are the three critical elements of your workspace you couldn’t live without?

  1. WhiteboardsJust sketching out and conceptualizing early ideas is critical for every project we work on.
  2. Sketch – Sketch is an awesome minimalist app focused on UI design. There’s none of that image-editing sh*t in there. The team really loves it, it helps us be as fast as we can possibly be.
  3. InVision – I don’t want to sound like I’m pandering, but because we use InVision both for design communications and usability testing it’s a really valuable part of what we do. You can quickly create a clickable mockup and share during two critical parts of the design process: to get feedback from stakeholders and to use for usability testing. The end result is that InVision really speeds up our workflow. We’re moving much quicker than we used to.

The end result is that InVision really speeds up our workflow. We’re moving much quicker than we used to.

How do you use InVision at HubSpot?

InVision is extremely useful for keeping consistent, for sharing designs immediately with each other, getting feedback and critique. First, we share within the design team to do dummy checking and get that initial wave of feedback. Then, we email all the stakeholders — the project managers, the sales people, the marketing team, and anybody else invested in the product. We can easily share when we want to and that helps us get appropriate feedback. One of our biggest challenges is scaling, and we actually use InVision to help us scale in a really good way.

Collaborating-on-Prototypes

One of our biggest challenges is scaling, and we actually use InVision to help us scale in a really good way.

What are some of the other tools you use in your design process?

  • Whiteboards – We take pictures of whiteboards with our iPhones and share them around; that’s important. We’re moving pretty fast so the designer works out a high-fidelity prototype right from the whiteboard. We don’t do wireframes. That’s just a deliverable we don’t need so we don’t produce them.
  • HipChat – We use Hipchat as our company wide chat tool.
  • Skitch – We use Skitch, a screen-capture program, to grab screenshots super-quick and say “hey, check this out.”
  • Sketchbooks – A bunch of the designers have sketchbooks, I guess I should include that. But we don’t have a lot of other tools. We’ve got a really simple kind of work flow.

What equipment are you using and how does it help you do your job effectively?

We all have Macs with cinema displays. I have a Macbook Air, everyone else has Macbook Pros.

People love their standing desks. Everyone feels a little more fit.  I’d say most people split their time evenly between sitting and standing, while I’m about 75/25 – mostly sitting. It just keeps your legs stronger, people talk about having fewer back problems, with a slow improvement of posture over time.

The other essential equipment for our product team is an espresso maker. It’s a very expensive Italian espresso machine and it’s basically used nonstop in the product room. It’s shocking. I would hate to see our product team’s coffee bean expense. It wouldn’t be pretty.

Free-Snacks

Where do you look for design inspiration?

Good question. I look at mobile apps for inspiration because their designers have been forced to prioritize what’s truly important and what’s not. They tend to have extreme constraints on them, so people have done some really fascinating and creative things.

For example, I read a post yesterday about how in the startup world everyone is saying “I want a Dark Sky for this,” “I want a Dark Sky for that” – Dark Sky is a really interesting app that sends notifications about when it will start raining or snowing in your area. I’m actually doing a side project called What to Wear that recommends what clothes to wear based on the weather. It was the mobile constraint that got me there… really distilling down what our core goal is when we look at the weather (it’s very often just to figure out what to wear).

For me, Dark Sky is a good example of an app that leads to some really interesting questions. For example, we might take the idea of an app that prompts you when your environment changes and use it in our marketing software – that is, how we can let marketers know that something is going on in their environment, like a hot new inbound link that just came in? That could be our Dark Sky version of a marketing tool.

What blogs and news sites are you loving at the moment?

I don’t use RSS anymore so everything I read is basically through Twitter. I enjoy Des Traynor‘s Intercom blog. I wrote a response recently to a post on Felt Presence, which is by Basecamp’s Ryan Singer – always thoughtful around product stuff. I read anything by Clayton Christensen about his jobs-to-be-done framework. Oh, and Mark Andreeson’s old blog posts about startups.

I also read a bit from design-oriented VC’s like Fred Wilson and MG Siegler – people who are talking about design-first businesses built around products.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give other designers?

Publish your work. Tell the story of your work. Whether it be throwing it up on Dribbble, publishing a blog post, writing a Smashing Magazine article, or giving a talk about it, telling the story of your work makes you realize what’s important about it and lets others know how you think as a designer. For designers, the work is not about you but the people you’re designing for and the problem you’re designing around- you’re just bringing this information and creativity together.

HubSpot Gallery

Author

Amanda Hackwith
Writer, editor, and lover of words, stories, games, and adventure. Tweets on @ajhackwith and at Google+.

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