I joined WMI in the position of Junior Developer, my first job after my move to Seattle, but I knew my vision for my future at WMI put me in a design leadership position in our technology services team, leading the design & creative processes on all our internal and client projects. The road to this goal didn’t come without roadblocks, in that our enterprise clients had no previous exposure to implementing the design process in the project workflow. Their notion of “graphics”, “look and feel”, and “adding colors” all fell in this misunderstanding of what positive impact design provided to the software development lifecycle.
My job wasn’t just to make things look pretty. The biggest question I tried to solve:
How do we recommend and apply modern design thinking for digital products that scale to enterprise software, in a world where design thinking isn’t prioritized for internal software and reporting?
In order to create a user-centric design approach to our software, I began focusing on smaller components of the process.
Introducing design thinking
The best way to begin building our user-centric design approach was to introduce minor visual elements that engage interest while providing appropriate solutions for internal needs.
Most of those changes required moving users from relying on horribly inefficient Excel collaborated documents, so even the smallest improvements to data visualization on client project allowed for our users to get relevant and actionable information right away.
Design as part of our processs
I started working with our project managers much closer. During our initial discovery and timeline stages of projects, I created outlines that establish time at the beginning of the design process to flush out the real user needs with the client and how the solution could best solve those problems. I've had the pleasure of leading great design teams of illustrators, designers, videographers, and 3D modelers to bring our client's solutions to life.
Upgrading to a Modern Web
As the youngest member of our team, the weight often fell on me to research the newest directions in the world of software development, and push new changes within our team. One of the best ways for our team to embrace new design and development philosophies came from upgrading our own outdated systems and recommendations with modern web practices.
The introduction of InVision helped our team streamline internal design review of projects before development. It also helped us sell design ideas and solutions to our clients as we introduced rapid prototyping to the design flow as well.
We really needed to break from old cornerstones of enterprise development (Excel, Sharepoint, etc.) and introduce the modern web to internal solutions. .NET MVC drastically improved the performance of our products, and I started applying modern front-end frameworks (UIKit 3, Bootstrap, Xamarin, etc.) to streamline handoff from design to development and from front-end to back end. This highlighted to our clients how performance issues hinders the bottom line and money spent on inefficiencies.
A Touch of Style
The harder sell for most enterprise projects is implementing visual design changes. Adding extra layers of visual design not only engages users but informs them in small but powerful ways of what the system is asking them to do. Without these considerations, time spent figuring out how the system actually works far exceeds time spent on actually completing core work.
Now, our proficiency in design thinking and enterprise scale software solutions opened opportunities for us to build products that help manage multi-million dollar projects, and I continue refining our design process in the implementation of new products and solutions. I lead design efforts not just in initial information architecture and interaction design, but also graphic and motion design, branding and animation.