App Design Refresh

I was hired as the first in-house designer for the company. Previously, the company hired outside staffing websites like 99designs for the logo, app work, and any marketing collateral work. Within two weeks, I recognized the need for a comprehensive rebrand.

Information Gathering and Research:It was important for me to work collaboratively with everyone in the company (20 or so at the time) while working on this logo. Our company still viewed itself as a start-up, and that start-up culture bred strong feelings of ownership.

My next major project, after completing both the in-house rebrand and marketing website, was to bring the app up to brand standards. The app design that existed when I took the job was the same design that the company had when it started in 2008.

Because the company believes in quick iteration, I needed to scope out a design refresh that accomplished a few things: make it look more modern and bring it to the new design standards. This was an important foundation for future improvements to the overall user experience, but it wasn't enough for me -- I wanted to make sure that the customer could benefit from small design changes.

Scope and Goals:It was important for me to find a balance between customer-facing improvements and shipping. I narrowed in on a few categories that could provide quick wins for the customer experience: table design and policy structure.

My goal with these categories was to make it easier for our users to do the important work that they do every day - protecting their companies from regulatory issues and malicious affiliates. Our users are constantly scanning our app, whether it's scanning a table to identify key markers or scanning a large policy setup page to fine-tune the policies that define data collection.

Existing Design:The existing design was minimal; while it helped to put focus on the data, it failed to provide a meaningful hierarchy for quick scanning. The tables ignored basic best-practices that make it easier to digest large sets of data. And at a more basic level, the design was severely dated. As a company that helps to protect against sketchy and fraudulent partners, it was important to me to bring the app up to a professional standard.

Table Design:When it comes to tables, power users are comfortable with cramped and tight sets of data. Our customers are rarely power users, often spending small amounts of time here-and-there to identify actionable markers. To me, it was important to make these tables as easy to read as possible. Added whitespace via cell padding helps isolate each piece of data and makes it easier to scan across a row. Correct table alignment (string values left aligned, numbers right aligned) helped to organize the table in a way that makes it easier to scan.

Policy Setup Design:Policies are a key component of our tool, and are often set up by account managers. This means that users are rarely, if ever, creating a new policy. Instead, they're making tweaks to collection frequency, crawl location, and keywords. They're scanning these policy pages until they find the cateogry that they need to tweak.

A card-like design helped to better-segment the various categories in a less-obtrusive way. This cleared the way for a new header hierarchy system to be that much more effective. There were plenty of other changes to the app overall, including more hierarchy work, new buttons, and improved navigation.

What I Learned:There's a part of every designer that struggles with shipping a product. You scour over details, trying to make sure that everything is absolutely perfect. As a solo designer in a company that values iteration and shipping over perfection, I had to adjust how I approach projects. In this world, it's more important to set a foundation and plan 5 projects ahead than to spend time second-guessing. The longer you take to ship, the longer it takes to improve the customer experience.

This project was also a strong reminder that some of the most effective design work is simple. While it's easy (and important) to be hyper-creative, significant customer wins can be made by focusing on clarity and simplicity.