Designing to delight at scale

4 min read
Tara Malone
  •  Jul 9, 2018
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Delighting users is one of the main goals of design, but when a company experiences rapid growth, it can be really tough to hit that goal.

Designing for scale is a challenge that hugely successful companies such as Airbnb and Slack have had to confront. InVision’s Eli Woolery recently sat down with Slack and Airbnb designers Diogenes Brito and Jason Culbertson for a fireside chat on how companies can design to delight their users at scale. Did you miss it? No sweat—read on for the highlights, or watch the video.

What makes design delightful?

In short, design is delightful when it consistently provides a high-quality user experience. Jason, the Growth Team Leader at Airbnb, expressed that it can be difficult for designers “to step away and see that people have a really wonderful experience with the product.” This is because designers work on a product so closely over an extended period of time, which makes it challenging to see the product through their customers’ eyes.

“Design is delightful when it consistently provides a high-quality user experience.”

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For this reason, Slack and Airbnb promote a user-centered design process in which they welcome user input and keep in touch with customers. In this way, they ensure their products are delivering value and are delightful for their customers to use.

Challenges of designing for scale

Designing for scale is a challenge that both Slack and Airbnb have had to face given their exponential growth. Diogenes, the Senior Product Designer at Slack, expressed that when the company was new, the teams were more aware of each other’s projects. Maintaining open communication is much more difficult now because the teams are so large. As Diogenes explained, “the challenge is making sure we know what works when we have a completely different scale.”

Related: Designing at scale: How industry leaders leverage design systems

Jason agreed that scale is also one of Airbnb’s main challenges, especially since the core users have changed over time. He said that increasingly, their users are “not really the millennial user that was at the core of Airbnb for a very long time. There’s family travelers, there’s business travelers… so we are now going through designer exercises to try and figure out how to have those folks decide to try something like Airbnb.”

As a result, the design teams need to find a way to address the needs of these different users while continuing to develop new products. Jason stresses that the process is ongoing and can be “really complicated for designers.”

How to design for global audiences and global teams

As our world becomes more and more interconnected, there’s an increasing need for a global approach to design. The question of how to design globally is especially relevant in two situations: when designing for global audiences and when working with global teams.

Jason believes that utilizing a shared set of tools is essential for working effectively with a global team. He explained that at Airbnb, all the designers used to be based in San Francisco. Now there are designers in additional locations, including Beijing, Seattle, and Portland.

“Global teams must develop a means of consistent and open communication.”

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At Airbnb, the teams rely on “a shared set of tools that allow us to be very transparent with one another. We also do a weekly sync with all designers around the world and have a shared deck that everyone can access to see the projects going on.”

The challenges are ongoing, but an important place to begin is for the global teams to develop a means of consistent and open communication with one another.

How to keep the user in mind when testing design and product updates

It is essential for designers to keep the needs of their users in mind as they develop and update products. Diogenes mentioned that designers are “extreme users” of their products, trying out many different functions as they determine the best uses of each product. As a result, at Slack designers “rely very heavily on user research” to better understand how their customers actually use these products.

User testing is also valuable for promoting “human-centered design.” For designers, Diogenes says this means “making sure that you’re providing real value to the people you’re delivering product to and actually having their input.” When user testing, companies need to include their audience and use surveys and other methods to get their input. They need to then analyze the data and consider the users’ perspectives as they improve their products.

“When designing at scale, keep your users in mind and utilize their input as much as possible.”

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Designers in both companies strive to maintain a sense of empathy when user testing. They make an effort to understand what their users’ pain points are and to build a product that will address them. To better empathize with their users, Diogenes says it’s important to “have a constant stream of information from users coming in.” In this way, designers can keep their user in mind when testing new products and updates.

Related: All research isn’t created equal

When designing at scale, keep your users in mind and utilize their input as much as possible. In the words of Jason, “If you approach everything from a user-centered perspective, you will actually have greater success with growth.”

Ultimately, a user-centered approach results in a product that benefits your users—and helps companies be more successful in the long run.

You can listen to the full recording of this fireside chat to learn more about how companies can design products to delight their users on a larger scale.

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