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Written by Max Tam Product Designer
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25 Apr 2018  |  Culture

Supporting A Growing Design Team

6 minute read

I’m Max, Paddle’s first Product Designer. I’ve interviewed the founders and the leadership team at Paddle to understand why they think good design is important and how they will empower good design. I’d like to share with you the 7 key takeaways.

Hello, world! I’m Max, Paddle’s first Product Designer.

I joined Paddle at the most exciting time possible. We've got an incredible growth and we have aggressive plans to explore new markets. To do that, the user experience of our products need to step up, big time.

Product design as a function is new here. We are building everything from the ground up, from the team, to the process, to design language, and everything in between.

This is an intense and multi-faceted endeavour. And the last thing you want, is to fight an uphill battle to “sell design” within your organisation.

The design culture of the company as a whole is as important as the culture within the design team, if not more. How often do you get shut down for pushing through good design changes by a fellow designer? Rarely, I bet. Most resistance comes from elsewhere in the organisation, from colleagues or teams who have different priorities and agendas.

Luckily for Paddle, we’re blessed with great non-designers who care, appreciate and support good design. Design already “has a seat at the table” without too much fighting.

Such organisation-wide design savviness is precious, especially for startups with a growing design team. Recognising and articulating such quality can help to establish a solid foundation for the design culture. It gives designers confidence and the “mandate” to make great design happen.

I've interviewed the founders and the leadership team at Paddle to understand why they think good design is important and how they will empower good design. I’d like to share with you the following key takeaways:

  1. Design is about functions as well as aesthetics

  2. Good design is good business

  3. Design simple solutions for complex problems

  4. Understand customers to delight them

  5. Bring consistency at all levels

  6. Create “space” for design

  7. Collaborate with everyone

Design Is About Functions As Well As Aesthetics

I started my interviews with the question “What is design?” to explore the general understanding of design. It didn’t take long to get a scholarly answer from Christian, our co-founder and CEO:

Design is deliberately creating an experience for a user, both in terms of how a product looks but also how it functions.

The rest of the leadership team echoed the above. We view design as holistic means to solve users’ problems and improve their experience - it is about how things look as well as how they work. Harrison, our co-founder & CCO (Chief Customer Officer) added his perspective to it:

Finding the sweet spot between functional and aesthetics will set us apart.

“Good Design Is Good Business” (For Paddle And Beyond)

IBM’s Thomas Watson Jr. said it best, and this quote is particularly relevant to Paddle. Our mission is to help software companies to succeed. We've built our entire business upon such mission. When our products are well-designed, our customers thrive. When they thrive, we thrive.

We are a product-led company, selling to a lot of other product-led companies. Design has a direct impact on the success of our business and our seller's businesses. ” Harrison (CCO)

The most tangible example is our checkout solution. Thousands of software companies use our checkout to sell products to millions of users. A better checkout experience increases conversion rate, helping our sellers to sell more products. Happy days for all.

Design impacts our bottom line. Even a tiny but intuitive design improvement can move the needle a few percentage points, and for a commerce solution that makes a big impact on our seller's revenues. ” Andy (CTO)

Design Simple Solutions For Complex Problems

We need to make Paddle easy to use so that people can do what they want with less friction. This is very important to our strategies, reducing support requests and improving customer retention. ” Rob (CPO)

Our clients run their business operations on Paddle. And that involves tackling a lot of incredibly complex problems. The only way we can add value effectively is to provide incredibly simple solutions.

We have a complex platform, if we don't have good product design, it's impossible for anyone to understand what they can do and how they can do it. It doesn't scale. ” Octave (CMO)

Understand Customers To Delight Them

“Delight Our Customers” is one of our 5 company values. But first, we need to understand what makes them happy.

Over the years, we have developed strong relationships and trust with our customers. We work with them closely to grow their businesses (see case studies). In return, we get the opportunity to understand their problems directly.

We can facilitate all the good feedback due to the level of quality of companies that we work with and give the design team as much access to that as possible - candid and transparent feedback, good or bad, on the design and product. ” Harrison (CCO)

This enables the design team to work hand in hand with our customers to design the best experience possible, at all levels.

Every interaction is an opportunity to delight; through ease, through experience, or just by making something fun. ” Christian (CEO)

Bring Consistency At All Levels

“Consistency” is everyone’s top design criterion. At the implementation level, it is about making sure our products feel and work the same way wherever and however you use them.

More importantly, we need consistent processes. Consistent process yields consistent results.

This is something we're constantly evolving and trying to improve at. A good start has been agreed upon: guidelines, style guides and documentation that we can build upon over time to bring consistency to the process. ” Christian (CEO)

Create “Space” For Design

" Design is not like cookie-cutting. We need to create the "space" for the design process, by pre-empting the design work and ensuring the design team has enough time space to get into the right headspace, and curate the right physical space for design discussions. ” Rob (CPO)

Good design requires rationality as well as creativity. Providing the right process and physical environment for designers to explore and focus fosters good design culture and quality.

I feel the more important thing is to hire amazing people, give them trust and autonomy to come up with ideas. Give time and opportunity to fully understand problems, and experience them from the customers perspective, and implement solutions through design iteratively. ” Christian (CEO)

Collaborate With Everyone

Involve everyone from different teams in the process ” Rob (CPO)

The benefits of interdisciplinary and diverse team is well-understood. As our organisation gets bigger, it will get harder to be inclusive. Paddle has an open and collaborative culture that encourages everyone contribute and work together. We’re committed to staying this way. The design team plays a key role in this, by being the listener of problems, the curator of ideas, and the evangelist of design.

Encourage everyone to think about product design in anything we do ” Octave (CMO)

In Conclusion

Building a good design team and culture requires a lot of effort and persistence. We have a great starting point in terms of culture and leadership support for design, but we’ve a lot of work to do. We’re just getting started!

Btw we’re hiring product designers. Paddle is very exciting, come join me! Or if you're using Paddle, get in touch and let us know how we can make the Paddle experience better!

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