Let’s face it: The phrase “enterprise web app” doesn’t exactly conjure visions of usable, attractive software. Visual design isn’t often a priority; given finite resources and paying customers, the choice between the next big feature and improved aesthetics usually comes down in favor of the feature.
That’s true even at a company that values design like Heap, which offers behavioral analytics for websites and mobile apps, without your needing to know the data questions you want to ask before you launch. When I joined as VP of Design, it was with the recognition of design debt we knew we wouldn’t be able to fix on day one. Instead, I started a design debt backlog that we’d tackle over time and looked for opportunities where systemic progress could arise out of feature work.
Over the course of 2018 this resulted in numerous UX improvements and some consolidated styles. But it didn’t touch a fundamental problem: Our look and feel was dated, and over time — and in the absence of designers — it had fragmented into inconsistency. While there’s no easy way to quantify how the look and feel affects user sentiment or prospective sales deals, it was a concern.
So, in October 2018, I sat down with our CEO, chief marketing officer, chief revenue officer, vice president of product, and front-end engineering lead. We agreed a revamp of the look and feel needed to happen at some point, and we had a short window of engineering time on the schedule. We decided to go for it.
But our engineering window started within a few weeks and closed around the end of the year; there wasn’t much time. How could we update the UI of our entire app, from design to launch, in three months?
No mood boards, no focus groups, no stakeholder interviews: We went from decision to design, fast.