Vox Product Design Methodology
In early 2019, the product design team at Vox went through a leadership transition. In the wake of that gap, I identified the lack of a clear process on the product design team and stepped up to fill it.
I began by conducting interviews with every product designer at Vox to learn what was challenging for them, what was unclear, and what was working well. Since we work on a highly collaborative team, I knew that our process would not affect just designers—so I also met with many people in roles who worked with designers such as product managers, engineers, engineering managers, and user researchers to learn about their experiences as well.
From that research, I quickly identified some common patterns. I socialized these to the design leadership group, who found the insights to be invaluable to understand the needs of our product designers. The research directly informed my areas of focus for creating a holistic product methodology across a variety of teams with different working styles.
Designing a toolbox
Having worked at Vox for several years, I had tried a variety of process approaches on different teams and knew that there would never be a one-size-fits-all solution. I focused on creating a "toolbox" of strategies, tools, and templates for designers to use during various phases of the project. One common sentiment I heard from folks outside of the design org was that they had no idea what to expect from designers or when. Outlining the general macro buckets of work that designers should be doing on every project helped to orient non-designers on the team to what they can expect from designers. Within those buckets, there are a variety of optional micro tools that designers can use as they see fit.
Rolling out a process for an entire team is not an easy feat, so I worked to ensure the transition would be as painless as possible. Throughout every draft of this work, I reviewed it with the product designers to gather their input for them to be invested in shaping it. I worked with key stakeholders outside of design to ensure their needs were heard as well. At the end of the endeavor when I was ready to roll it out, I organized a townhall with the entire 140 person Product Team to answer their questions, bring their concerns, and allow space for this to be socialized to the team. The entire collaborative process and rollout was received favorably from the product team and leadership. A 90 day follow up townhall was scheduled to provide avenues for feedback on what should evolve after the team had time to utilize this new process.
As a result, our designers are more aligned with what is expected of them and how they should be working. We saw an increase in designers feeling empowered (reflected by positive feedback in our quarterly surveys), utilizing best research practices in their work, and providing clarity to non-designers on how we work. The design org went from being the underserved leg of the 3-legged stool to being a leader in how an organization can effectively create a transparent toolkit to the benefit of everyone—with engineering and product wanting to model their processes after this methodology that was created for design.