7 Principles I follow to Design for the Enterprise
While working in a company, especially a larger team or an organization that’s beyond the early-stage startup and has evolved to move to an SME or a larger behemoth, it’s important to have a few principles or values in mind on how you should work, that should also live within your team, and the wider organization to put all of you on the same page.
Few of these are values I’ve learned at CleverTap, during my past year and half of heads-down execution, and they somehow coincide with the values I’ve learned from my peers throughout the startups I’ve worked on and the wider Google Developers community, my friends, and mentors. So, is it a coincidence? Sherlock Holmes would disagree.
These values should benefit you if you’re at a place where you’re working in a team where people are dependent on you or you’re dependent on them, and while it’s great to follow these values yourself, it’s almost always that it needs to be followed at an individual level to achieve.
1. Taking Ownership of Outcomes
The word ownership is a rabbit hole. While we hear terms like product owners, it comes down to owning something you do and being responsible and accountable for it end-to-end, from inception to delivery and from delivery to the business impact of what you do.
You don’t need to be a product manager, a business owner, or anyone to become an owner. You just need to care enough about what your design/build and put your efforts towards the same and if you fail, it’s alright because you’ll learn. Gaurav Munjal beautifully covers more on this topic on his blog.
2. Solving for Scale
As opposed to designing for an early-stage startup, a good strategy for the doers is to always keep thinking of scale in a larger company or for the enterprise. If you’re building an entirely new product, it’s often the case that you might not need to think of scale.
But if it’s business-as-usual, you should always think holistically about how the feature your design will affect the overall product. Will it match what users are used to across the existing product’s design patterns? Also, something to keep in mind is to also think if the feature can get future additions so as to keep your design or development flexible to accommodate.
I used the same principle in my stints in early-stage startups but they didn’t work there because when you’re looking for a product-market fit or are trying new things, certain things might not scale and be scrapped.
3. Thinking from First Principles
A successful team has a combination of thinkers and doers. It’s important to know when to switch to which mode if you do both. I struggle with this all the time but here’s what I’ve learned, even if the world follows a best practice, if something is already solved, one can always make it better, hence why you should have a threshold of doing something better even if you know a solution exists out there. Small innovations don’t happen by blatantly copying but improving existing things.
That’s why even when you see Apple launch a feature on the iOS 5 years after Android has had it; people are still amazed and praise the implementation. Thinking it through first principles and adding your own flair and elegance to it matters a lot.
4. Ensuring Form Always Follows Function
It’s clear as day that if you design to solve for the enterprise, looks matter but only if your product is functional and covers all the workflows, and does the job for the customer. The primary focus is always to get the basic workflows cleared out and then head to the visual design, consistency, and wow factor in every project I work on for our customers.
5. Aiming for Consistent, Holistic Experiences
Across the team, we follow a detailed design style guide maintained by our design system manager which gives every designer a plethora of components to make experiences consistent for our customers. These components are also vetted by the front-end team to ensure UI consistency during implementation.
I also do an internal design quality assurance before any feature is handed off for development, so the design system manager can check and correct any inconsistencies before it’s shipped to development, to avoid feedback, and discussions after the hand-off that affects time-to-market for the product or the feature.
This gives the customer a holistic, interconnected experience through all modules of the product woven by our design system, and helps me become better by optimizing my workflow.
6. Staying Agile
When you work at a company that follows the agile methodology, it naturally, also flows in the blood-line. This doesn’t necessarily only mean the company uses a kanban board or follow scrum teams or work in sprints. It also means that your mindset is open to change and moving quickly by aiming for outcomes. This makes me super dynamic and open to readily accept changes and adapt quickly while delivering results every single day.
I individually do documentation, user research, flow charts, wireframing, high-fidelity design, UX Writing, and assets designing for most projects all reviewed by peers and a specialist in all of the above areas.
This helps me to be up-to-date with the trends in the industry but also helps me be on our toes with whatever project we pick up, which in the long term helps me focus and learn the product’s breadth.
7. Helping Out Since We’re in This Together
And most importantly, help each other out. Regardless of how times might be you never know who needs your help. Reach out if you need help and from time to time check on your team members and peers if they need help, especially in these times. Remember, everyone achieves together and there’s no need to shy away to ask for help or ask if someone needs help.
Those were a few principles I’ve been following for the past one and half years. Let me know if there are any of these you follow or share your favorite principles down in the comments.