The brand team at Zendesk has a mission to make everything the company does feel, taste, sound, and smell like their brand. While they largely accomplish this during in-person events, finding ways to scale those brand experiences digitally had always been part of their strategy.
When the global pandemic hit, digital experiences became their only option. The team needed to keep the heart and soul of the brand going without the ability to meet with people in person. They also wanted to provide a sense of community, but likewise offer a break from virtual meeting fatigue.
In 2019, the brand team was focused on scaling. That meant investing in design systems and design operations, brand guidelines, and our agency network. When Covid hit, we relied on those systems to launch the Thank You Machine in record time, becoming a reliable source of internet companionship in an uncertain time.
VP of Brand Creative, Zendesk
To help make those important personal connections, the Zendesk brand team launched a global online experience to spread empathy and gratitude called the Thank You Machine. They used InVision Freehand to map out the UX, and digitize and iterate on concepts for the UI. They also used InVision Prototype for smoother, speedier design reviews, stakeholder approvals, and handoff to dev.
With employees scattered across the globe, the Zendesk team used InVision for better communication and brainstorming, faster feedback and decision-making with prototypes, and a quicker launch of the Thank You Machine site.
The brand team created the full-scale UX and conceptual UI in Freehand in only 7 to 10 days—a process that typically takes about a month. Using Freehand wireframe templates helped them speed up translation time to about 30 minutes and make faster updates. And once they imported their Sketch designs into Prototype, design reviews moved along more smoothly. Instead of presenting stakeholders with a static slideshow, designers had something they could click through, bring to life, and continue to develop.
The team all did quick pencil sketches to brainstorm different aspects of the UI and overall website flow. To move those into Freehand with a wireframe template was amazing, and so quick and simple to digitize our ideas and continue to iterate with higher fidelity and precision.
Art Director, Zendesk
The team also wanted to be sure they were designing a fun, engaging on-brand experience with a completely inclusive style. So they took an illustration approach. Rather than using flesh tones, they built characters with green or purple skin, along with options like burkas and wheelchairs. People can choose from colorful, whimsical components to customize the head, body, face, hair, and accessories to make fun characters in the Zendesk spirit resembling humans, robots, or blob shapes. They can also choose from pre-populated or custom messages.
The response to the Thank You Machine has been overwhelmingly positive.
Within three months of launching the site, more than 10,000 messages have been sent in nine different languages. And to get into the holiday spirit (and keep the gratitude momentum going), the team updated the experience in December to include holiday-themed illustrations and copy, a reminder that while holiday parties and family gatherings may not take place, we can still connect and say thanks virtually.
Throughout the process, the Zendesk team found a way to stay true to its brand by spreading empathy around the globe, one virtual thank you at a time.