Celebrating Women Creators: How BTP Experience Designers Solve Big Problems
In recognition of World Intellectual Property Day 2023 — and this year’s theme of celebrating women creatives — I want to detail below a huge problem that I handed the BTP Experience design team and provide an in-depth interview with two of our team’s female creators, Wendy McGrath and Lara Valenti, who solved it. Added to this, I extracted a few takeaways on how best to work with design teams. Read on….!
To kick off, we need a big heading about the big problem…
THE BIG PROBLEM
One of my duties as Global Communications Director for the Experience team of Business Technology Platform (BTP) is to edit our quarterly newsletter, The Fist Bump. We distribute it via email with links to articles and special features on an internal portal.
According to our latest metrics, the most popular regular feature is Movers & Shakers, which introduces new colleagues to the organization. Before launching our newsletter last year, our research indicated that our people just love to read about other people — not only technology-related topics — and we’ve found this to be true in practice.
In a typical quarter, we might include up to a dozen people in the section. Entirely manageable in terms of effort and portal real estate.
However, here comes the problem: In our latest edition, we had to introduce a staggering 50+ people! Not so manageable…
How does a humble newsletter display 50 new names, faces and biographies? That is, without resorting to some kind of giant doom-scroll list. Or worse, an eye-poppingly ugly spreadsheet?
I certainly didn’t know.
Thankfully, I am lucky enough to work with several excellent design colleagues in the Operations and User Insights Centre of Excellence at BTP Experience.
So, I set them the task instead!
In essence, this is the problem that I dropped on their laps:
Hi Design Team – Please add tons of new people to the Movers & Shakers section, ensuring that the solution is elegant, doesn’t take over the whole portal, and really helps readers get the essence of every new colleague at a glance. Best of Irish luck!
If only there were some kind of process that an SAP design team could follow…
And there is! For this task, the team cycled through the various stages of the Design Thinking process, which is used by SAP designers to tackle big challenges.
The solution met all my expectations, and then left my expectations behind, to head for the stars. I thought it was beautiful and hugely effective.
Our normal neat list was turned into an interactive experience. For privacy reasons, we cannot show how all the people were displayed on the page, but the GIF at the top of the article shows how the elegant mouse-over reveals the bio beyond the profile image.
The solution also encourages readers to actively seek out information on their new colleagues because the photo-flip feature is such fun to use.
But enough from me, let’s get some insights from the people who worked on the solution…
DESIGN TEAM INTERVIEWS
Taking up the story are the following super-talented colleagues, who both work on the Fist Bump newsletter as part of their many, many duties:
- Wendy McGrath, UX Experience Manager & Communications Expert
- Lara Valenti, UX Designer & Art Director
What was the biggest issue you had to overcome?
Wendy: “The sheer number of people and how the heck we were going to display them in a way that didn’t overwhelm the audience.”
Lara: “Introduce all of our new colleagues, and make the solution easy to understand. Also, we wanted to add a joyful component to make the many pieces of information easily consumable. A technical limitation in our internal portal, over which we had no control, disrupted the flow a little. That was another problem to get around.”
What was your timeframe?
Lara: “I’m not sure — I’ve forgotten. Or have I blanked it out?”
Wendy: “It was four weeks. Tight for such a big job. So maybe Lara did blank it out!”
What methods and inspirations did you use to create the solution?
Lara: “Simply put, I combined several methods and inspirations. We already had this fun mouse-over effect on another portal page to display team names. However, this page only showed images — in our solution, we wanted a text section with a biography after the image flipped over. Added to this, I discovered lovely sources of inspiration for team portraits while browsing smaller business and agency websites.
Who did you rely on for assistance?
Wendy: “We asked all the content contributors from the various teams across BTP Experience to gather all the names, images and biographies. A lot of text and pictures to work through.”
Lara: “Colleagues Carl and Dagi did the UI design work to implement the technical side of the solution on the portal. Writers James and Lukas shortened the text, and sub-editor Susanne double-checked that all names and bios were associated with the appropriate profiles.”
Wendy: “We had a small problem where colleagues didn’t provide a photo or a bio — what do we display? Designer Viola had an idea. She created cute placeholder illustrations in keeping with designs elsewhere in the newsletter. This was incorporated very nicely into the design.”
As a user experience expert, what feelings did you experience yourself while trying to solve the issue? Any frustrations?
Lara: “Perhaps before I start working on a big task, I might feel anxious and tense. But when I’m actually working to solve a problem, I don’t suffer negative emotions. I get absorbed in the work and find it enjoyable.”
What made you certain that your idea was the right one?
Wendy: “We went through a number of iterations, and at every stage, Editor-in-Chief Colin provided his notes. He was our in-house first-time user.”
Lara: “The Communications team provided good feedback before publication — and after publication, we heard nice things from readers, who are mostly other designers. This convinced us that our solution was the right one. You might think you have a good solution, but the user is the only one who can tell you this, really.”
How important is positive feedback to you after good work?
Lara: “Honest feedback, rather than simply praise, boosts me the most. This is because it enables me to assess where my work stands, and aids in my personal development. It lets me know where I am strong and where I can improve.”
What did you learn overall?
Lara: “It’s wonderful to collaborate in interdisciplinary teams. We share knowledge and work on a project with people who have very different skill sets, which is needed to make the project come together. I’m always happy when working with others with different skills, rather than working alone.”
Wendy: “A second pair of eyes, preferably of a designer, is vital. I’m often gobsmacked by what these folks see – one pixel off and they can’t live with it.”
5 KEY TAKEAWAYS ON HOW BEST TO WORK WITH DESIGNERS
Below is what I learned from working with the design team on this project:
- Experienced designers should work on more complicated problems.
- Designers think and act from the user’s point of view. That is a great context in which to discuss ideas — how best the solution will help the user.
- Designers should be encouraged to work directly with team members with other skill sets, plus of course with other designers, rather than designing in a vacuum.
- Set a high bar for quality. With clear direction, a good designer will meet it, and then some.
- Honest critiques are one of the most important ways for a designer to improve. Note that we steer clear of value judgments of the work in our team to focus on what is best for the user.
I hope this is of use to you in your own design team work. Feel free to offer your own tips or experiences below on solving problems. Unless, of course, that causes a problem for you…