Upstream Influence

The document management workflow is the 2nd most used area of our software. This area of our system is important for sharing documents, organizing them, and is the launch pad into the diagraming editor. Our document management area had bloated over the years and was filled with extraneous functionality that did not meet expected interaction patterns and made the experience heavy-handed. By the time my team had redesigned it and finished working with the engineering team to rebuild it, we had increased annual returning revenue by $400K. We did this simply by redesigning the experience, promoting/prioritizing our most valuable calls to action, and adopting more modern paradigms of document management and interaction.

Earning this success wasn’t easy, nor was it required. One of my management philosophies is to work extremely efficiently so that one can create slack in their schedule to get ahead of current (tactical) design work and affect change upstream. Almost 3 months before we actually rebuilt the document management area of our product, my team developed some slack in their schedule and we began to design and deploy a new aesthetic (Blue Steel) to different parts of the product. Our exercise to reimagine the product included 3 core pieces: Administration, Document Management, and the Editor.

As our work evolved, we began circulating it with others in our organization, gathering feedback. The response was exciting and positive. I can’t tell you how many people said, “That’s awesome – when are we building that”? Because we had this work already in our pocket with a decent amount of buy-in, when the organization began beating the “quality drum”, or in other words the – “we put thought into how it looks and functions before we build it drum”, it didn’t take long before our VP tapped us on the shoulder asking to see this beautiful design work. And when that beautiful design work captures the imagination of the founder who is a collaborative, passionate engineer, it gets prioritized.

The lead designer on this project was Taylor Palmer, a young recruit to my team. While directing this work, we looked at feature usage analytics, prevailing document management and progressive disclosure techniques, and our emerging product color and pattern systems. Taylor cut is teeth at Lucid on this project and handled himself very well. He had to make sure that all the transitions, patterns, and components were specified and delivered to the engineering team working on it, inspiring each engineer to build an experience that wasn’t static or disconnected.

We also worked closely with the Testing & Revenue team to release this new piece of our product through A/B testing and session recording. We saw interaction and transition bugs in Inspectlet sessions and watched some of our core engagement metrics drop in the first week of testing. One of the things we had to adjust was the prioritization of actions in the hover/selected state of the document cards. Our sharing icon was too ambiguous to be identified as “sharing” and we diluted it even further by having a strong gear icon for “more actions”. After a few minor adjustments, we watched those behavioral metrics recover and go on to win the A/B test that was set up, seeing it across the finish line and into full-release.

The success of this project was a major springboard for my team. It helped my team round that last corner and fully transition into product leaders and partners in the product building process. It was also the beachhead for building enough consensus and momentum for the organization to take on a bigger, more complicated editor redesign. In the end, the story that the organization saw unfold was that design was a lever that can be pulled to make improvements to the product. And that through the UX team, our processes, and discipline – we can improve the value of the product.