Designing a better design system.
Infor had a problem: a growth strategy based on acquisitions left them with a product catalog that was feature-rich, technically disparate, and UX that was frustrating users and threatening new sales. To provide the most impact across 200 different products, we used a dual track approach: most of the design team was grouped into industry-specific pods to design product-specific experiences, while another team was dedicated to building a comprehensive design system that could be used across the organization. But after two years, development teams were still struggling to implement the design system, and the design pods were struggling to prioritize opportunities and design solutions that could be technically implemented on legacy frameworks. To create a design system that would provide true value to the organization, we would turn the user-centered design practice inward.
The approach: partnering with internal customers.
We kicked off this project with a series of internal workshops. The designers on the product pods were not only users of the design system, but had the most direct contact with the developers, business analysts, and product owners we were ultimately looking to serve. During these workshops we identified the key challenges and opportunities, and used rapid ideation exercises to explore those opportunities and prioritize areas of focus.
The next step was to better understand our users on the development and product teams. With help from the design pods to help identify the best possible candidates, we interviewed developers and product owners we trusted to give us honest, critical feedback. We paired this input with data from surveys we sent to the broader development and product organizations.
The design system team then analyzed and cataloged everything we had learned. We decided to focus on optimizing the design system for use by our key software framework teams: this would have a trickle-down effect to every product built on those platforms, and the technical improvements would create a better system for all products.
With those framework teams providing feedback, we explored different approaches to create the improvements that were needed. As the framework teams saw the potential of the design system, they became invested in our success. When we moved from the design to development cycle, they helped co-develop and test the system components, which allowed us to increase the scope of our improvements
The results: by the numbers.
Our strategy of targeting the key framework teams allowed us to focus our limited resources on the highest impact solutions. The willingness of the framework teams to collaborate in the development of the design system allowed us to deliver more than we promised. And it worked. Twenty-eight different development teams successfully adopted the new design system. And even though we focused on our technical user base, the changes we made helped our designers better understand how to design in this unique technical landscape: we saw a 50% increase in the success of our design projects. Just as importantly, this project became a model for how design and development could collaborate and build better solutions together.
Designers, developers, producers, product managers, and team leads from the entire product experience team took part in the workshop. Each design pod worked independently through a Rose, Bud, Thorn exercise to identify the strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities of the current design system. They then shared their insights with the full group.
Each group presented their insights to the group. Team members asked clarifying questions and after everyone felt comfortable with the results, we clustered similar ideas and concepts together (Affinity Mapping). We then did a round of dot voting to identify the highest priority pain points and opportunity the team wanted to address.
Breaking back into small groups, the teams did several rounds of rapid idea generation to explore solutions to the highest priority items we had identified. Once again, the small groups shared with the whole team, and we finished with another round of dot voting to identify the ideas the team felt were most worth exploring further. Several ideas from this workshop made it into the final product.