vArmour Design Sharing Sessions - Google’s Iram Mirza

vArmour Design Sharing Sessions - Google’s Iram Mirza

At vArmour, we actively seek out diverse perspectives to make our work more impactful. vArmour’s design team members come from a plethora of backgrounds and bring various skillsets to the table. vArmour’s design team started the ‘Design Sharing Sessions’ initiative where we have Design experts visit vArmour HQ and share their experiences. Our first speaker was Iram Mirza, who has led multidisciplinary teams and established design thinking and UX strategy in organizations. 

Her talk was primarily structured in two parts - creating a strong team culture and working effectively with UX

Creating a strong team culture

Having worked in leadership roles at 23&Me, Paypal, and now Google, Iram knows a thing or two about what it takes to build a great team. She pointed to some examples - Great team values lie in the Star Trek crew knowing when their duties end and trusting and transferring to another, in Snow White’s dwarfs breaking down their complex problems into simple goals, or in Real Madrid soccer players blindly trusting one another in the field. Great teams trust in their leader, understand their roles and know their path to success. The secret has always been out there - in nature! Iram talks about the new buzzword in product - ‘Bio-mimicry’ - and how our team cultures can be inspired by how nature functions.

Celebrate diversity:  If you have a diverse culture - celebrate it! Respect your differences and recognize that everyone brings unique and multiple perspectives to bear. At vArmour, we always have our eyes and ears open to listen to different points of view, and this is the key to making our product functional and usable.

Ecosystem first: Ever seen a buffalo and bird co-exist, where the bird selflessly helps the buffalo scratch its back? It’s a beautiful sight that teaches us how the bird cares about, and contributes to, the sustainability of the ecosystem in which it exists. An organization succeeds when every member of the ecosystem (not just the founders and executive staff) contributes their vision to move things forward. Iram exhorted the team to really own their vision and their work -  It is terribly mundane to keep working on someone else’s vision. 

Adapt and evolve: Every product inadvertently evolves based on customer feedback. But what companies often miss in that evolution is actively evolving their processes and people to make the organization stronger. Iram underlined that you must give yourself permission to change your mind -Listen to what experts and industry trends say. 

Respect the law: In nature, we see groups that work together towards a common goal. In your team, it is good to have that one person that everyone respects, to drive and own the decision.

Working effectively with UX

There are two parts to this role - User and Designer, and the two parts tied together with Experience.

A UX Designer understands user needs, defines the product’s architecture, writes content, is involved with customer service and is integral to marketing, makes the product usable, supports engineering, forms a visual language system, and tests product. A UX Designer typically intersects many roles and supports multiple stakeholders in the product development cycle. Hence, it is essential for an organization to be able to best leverage their UX Designer’s expertise.

What a UX Designer must do

Structure your UX Process

A successful UX process is often both a divergent and convergent cycle that involves a UX designer to follow a step by step approach as in diagram below:

Articulate your goals

A designer strives to make the user-product relationship elegant, simple and intuitive. Demystify and quantify the metrics of ‘elegant’, ‘simple’ and ‘intuitive’. If you are a Product Manager or work in QA, make sure to have your UX designer articulate and quantify these terms. 

Craft a shared understanding

Your first key step in a project - be it design or redesign, should be to align everyone’s understanding of the process and roles - come to a common understanding of what needs redesign and why, and what the redesign process will involve. 

Fail fast and fail early

One word - prototype! A prototype is worth a thousand mock-ups. Do this early in the process to avoid sunk time building product with the wrong parameters. Prototyping is a big part of our design culture at vArmour.

Communicate

There is no such thing as too much communication. From an early stage sitemap to a late stage wireframe, communicate your artifacts, update them and share them in meetings. At vArmour, we use the Confluence tool to store and update prototypes and communicate effectively with the team.

We’re all in this together: How PM and Engineering teams can help

Help UX designers work within your constraints: Help the UX Designer on your team to understand your constraints early in the process.This will allow them to come up with the design, keeping your constraints in mind.

Have UX be a part of team defining product: If UX is an integral part of the company’s thinking and process, the products are automatically loved by your user and less likely to fail. 

Research/prototyping will not slow you down: Quite the opposite - It is saving you time and money in the long term. 

Keep UX in the loop of short/long term roadmap: Your UX designer must always be aware of what you plan to achieve in the long and short terms and work towards these goals. 

Agree on success metrics with your UX partner: Your metric of what success looks like should be documented early in the process.

Consider UX your equal partner: When you consider UX to be as important as product functionality, your products are a delight to use. Consider UX an equal partner in the product at all stages in the product lifecycle and always keep usability in mind. 

These core principles of working with UX are critical for UX designers as well as Product Managers and Engineers. The design team at vArmour comprises of six designers with a varied skillset and full ownership of the products that we work on. We collaborate with each other, as well as with back-end and front-end engineering teams. At vArmour, we do not shy away from creating prototypes, testing them and iterating on them regularly. Iram’s design sharing insights are really helping us continue to focus on the key principles to drive winning product at vArmour.