Because the best marketers deserve great content.
One year at Percolate: How I’m designing
Twelve months ago, I was designing websites, mobile sites and apps for clients like Samsung, Oreo and Meredith Publishing. My previous agency’s approach to work had everyone responsible for a small portion of the work including strategy, user experience, visual design and engineering.
Personally, I like to collaborate and be involved with the team that is working on a project from beginning to end. A collaborative approach lets people contribute their thoughts and ultimately makes for an even better solution. As someone once said, two heads are greater than one.
I joined Percolate a year ago as the second designer working with our design director Dom.
My process as a designer has evolved with each product feature I’ve worked on. There is no handbook or checklist that tells you the steps to becoming a multi-faceted designer. So you learn as you go and most of all you learn from and build relationships with the team around you.
Here are the three lessons that have helped shape my development as a designer:
1. Thoughtful and rapid approach to design iteration
Percolate wanted to introduce a new streamlined workflow for brands who needed content approved before publishing. We kicked off approvals by talking to our clients. Understanding their daily workflows and how they’re working within their teams was imperative to designing the best solution.
Together with Kevin and Guillaume from our engineering team, we worked on developing hand sketched user flows.
It was important to be able to iterate quickly, discuss and then validate the various workflows with the team. Our collaboration helped us make decisions quickly and efficiently.
We then created a small prototype to test our approach with people across the company before moving into to visual design.
This process ensured that we solved for the user cases we identified in our research and that our product design would integrate seamlessly into Percolate.
The final result looks like this:
2. Understanding all the states
The post drawer is the center of creating a post in Percolate. It is also one the most complex user experiences to solve for. The post drawer is designed intelligently meaning the views rearrange depending on which platform the user selects.
When adding functionality to the drawer to allow for individual post customization, I was faced with the challenge of several dependent states. These states included: reset, empty, no data, expand and closed states to name a few.
At Percolate, one of our guiding design principles is to make things visible. We believe the intention of products should be obvious. Design helps us create intuitive interfaces that give users visual feedback to the actions they take. We are not simple for the sake of minimalism, we are simple to focus users.
For example, when allowing a brand’s post to be published to multiple Twitter handles we needed to have a selected, deselected and disable state for each channel. The challenge here was how to visualize these states so it was obvious to the user what actions could be taken or weren’t available. Working through all of the states in wireframes and visual design is the only way to validate a solution. Guillaume, who leads the frontend team, is a states superstar. Working with him has pushed me to be constantly be thinking this way.
3. How to deliver insightful analytics
Building an insightful look into a client’s performance analytics was a major undertaking. We wanted to surface the most relevant data stories and help our clients make more informed publishing choices. For example, we surface the most optimum time for a brand to post to their social platforms based on publishing and engagement history. This example showcases how and when a brand’s audiences are engaging with their content across platforms to capitalize on publishing and/or engagement trends.
I worked with Zach and Erik on our engineering team to work out the specifics of the data we could surface. Recently, there was a great tweet from Eddie Opara from Pentagram that rings true in this example:
"Too often people start with a pie or bar chart. You have to understand the patterns in data before throwing images on paper." Eddie Opara
— Pentagram Design (@pentagram) June 30, 2013
The quote best describes my biggest takeaway when working with data. We need to identify the patterns which will ultimate structure the design.
Analytics was a large scope of work that we trimmed down into phases. Working with Stacy, our product manager, has helped me tailor scopes to a MVP. An MVP is the minimum viable product (though at Percolate, we often refer to the MDP – minimum delightful product). Working like this allows us to iterate and build upon a solution.
The designer I am today
Becoming a product designer is an evolution because you’re forced to become a better thinker who’s constantly refining your skills and learning from those who surround you. Percolate gave me the opportunity to work on product design from start to finish and to work in an environment that is continually challenging me – its awesome.