UX London: Redesigning For Millions

by May 29, 2014

In his Redesigning For Millions presentation at UX London 2014 Aarron Walter shared the process behind Mailchimp's recent redesign. Here are my notes from his talk:

  • Redesigning is dangerous. When you change people's habits and workflows need to adjust, people lose their knowledge of how things work. So when you redesign, you better have a good reason for it.
  • Technical debt can scar your software and designs and force you to redesign. Redesigns can provide perspective and allow you to refocus.
  • Mailchimp's recent redesign was triggered by customer requests for a mobile experience. People were asked for mobile apps but (after research) what they really needed was an experience accessible everywhere that weaved people's workflow across multiple devices.
  • To start, Mailchimp hired actors and created a script that illustrated how people could work with the product in the future. This vision allowed the team to see where the product was going and why. It also shifted the conversation from technical solutions and designs to the big picture.
  • From there the design process focused on the core object in Mailchimp: the campaign. A few explorations of the campaign were put into context and debated. But ultimately, they did not align with the vision.
  • Sometimes as designers we can get seduced by an idea and loose sight of what we are doing for our customers.
  • After a lot of iteration and exploration, the team had to stop and focus on a good solution vs. continuing to explore.
  • When problems are really big, you have to break them down into smaller elements: pages, components, units, etc. Mailchimp created a modular pattern library to help organize these elements.
  • Printing out your design on big plots can help you see things together in a new light.
  • The physical environment of Mailchimp also changed to accommodate the design process. People moved to an open environment.
  • The launch process required Mailchimp to start communicating early through blog posts. They also soft-launched the product and gave people a chance to try things out for a month before making the switch. The language said people "may" try the new version vs. they "must".
  • During and after the launch, the importance of communication remained. Listen hard and change fast.