6 Lessons on Scaling Design from Top Tech Companies
Learn how from teams at Facebook, Booking.com, Spotify, Ticketmaster, N26, and Dropbox.
We’re lucky to have some of the best product design teams in the world as customers. Many have had to scale their teams and innovate quickly to be successful, changing industry best-practices in the process.
Here are six valuable lessons that have helped teams at Facebook, Booking.com, Spotify, Ticketmaster, N26, and Dropbox get to where they are now.
Use pre-made components
Why create something from scratch when someone else has made it already? This is one of the main advantages of component-based design. Designers across the world are using powerful components from the Store to create sophisticated prototypes. Putting together something like a location-based prototype using the Mapbox package can take less than 30 minutes.
The Store’s ability to kickstart projects is something designers at Facebook have taken full advantage of.
“In my opinion, one of the huge advantages of Framer X is that component libraries are a core part of the tool via the Store. Framer decided from the outset that design systems were going to be a foundational part of Framer X, and they built the Store as part of the initial release.”
— Jeff Smith, Designer at Facebook
Make assets standardized and accessible
Standardizing your approach to design will save time and ensure work is consistent. Using a design system is one of the best ways to do this. It will save your team from making simple mistakes, like using incorrect fonts or brand colors, or having to endlessly recreate components.
“Having one place to access pre-approved components, which are also connected to your production components, provides designers with a solid foundation. So you’re not spending time redoing UI elements or wondering if you’re using the latest version, but actually designing with data or expressing your most creative ideas.”
— Duncan Crozier, Senior UX Designer at Booking.com
Design with real data
Fusing your designs with data is a surefire way to take them to the next level. Zoom product designer Max Steitle explains that this helps you get closer to the customer and makes your work more contextual. He created a chat app that users can actually interact with. It uses an API for avatar images and JSON data to send responses. “Designing with data helps build a connection to the people who use your product every day,” he says.
Spotify designers use their web API to effortlessly pull in album art, artist images, and up-to palylists into their Framer X designs. They’re even able to integrate playble tracks, meaning their prototypes almost feel like the real app.
Booking.com is using data in other interesting ways. All of their product designers are empowered to design with data, whether it’s using interactive maps, pulling in real hotel listings, or validating UX copy on the fly. This has revolutionized their user testing and helped them validate their ideas faster.
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Tie your design system to development
Linking your design system with development will ensure everyone in your organization is on the same page. Ticketmaster is using their Team Store to house real React-based production components. This means all of their designers are able to use these in their projects, regardless of technical ability.
It’s made a huge impact on their design mindset as well as how they collaborate with developers. The designers have a better understanding of the constraints and capabilities of the products they’re creating, which ultimately saves valuable development time.
“It reduces the work for the engineer, gives knowledge to the designer, and creates a better UX design interface. Building components with pre-built pieces makes development time much shorter.”
— Michael Anama, Senior Engineer
Complement metrics with user research
Quantifying the impact of design can be difficult. To make it easier Christian Hertlein, the head of design at N26, has created a series of proactive, repeatable processes that connect design with business metrics.
As well as solid statistics like engagement and their impact on conversion, Christian and his team lean heavily on qualitative data, like user research. They aim to always start from the user’s perspective and encourage others in the company to do the same.
“User research is not just about getting validation of a concept or prototype. It’s also about having conversations with people. We need to understand the context and the industry we are in so we know where we should be and where we shouldn’t,” says Christian. “For example, when should we avoid sending a push notification? Where can we be helpful and supportive?”
“This is where Framer X is great — we can add real data to the prototype and personalize it down to the user. That’s when we get the kind of valuable feedback we need.”
Foster diverse teams
It’s more important than ever to have diverse perspectives in tech teams. At Dropbox, they’re focusing on diversity beyond just race and gender, which is a fundamental part of their playbook for DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion).
In three years, they were able to get their design team to 57% female, while 61% of the leadership team is made up of women.
“The biggest mistake we make is forcing people into a box, when instead we should celebrate what makes them unique. These are the things that elevate the team and help us make fewer assumptions as product makers.”
— Teresa Hernandez, Design Research Manager
Facebook has also seen the benefit of ensuring diversity is part of the way they design, which they believe results in better end products. “As designers get better at expressing ideas throughout the entire design cycle, more people can contribute feedback and expertise,” says Jeff Smith, Product Design Manager at Facebook. “Input from people with a more diverse background provides a natural tendency toward more accessible and inclusive design choices.”
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for how to scale and innovate in design, but there are common lessons many teams can benefit from. Whether it’s streamlining processes, investing in more powerful tooling, or working on your team, there are always ways to improve—big and small.
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