User-experience Design: The Link Between Design and Engineering
December 26, 2014
Things are always moving forward at Juntos. From our earliest attempts at creating our messages, the focus has been on iterative design based on feedback from our users . Although this philosophy extends across all parts of the company, the core remains with the development of our products. For us, this means a deep connection and collaboration between engineering and design.
On a weekly basis our designers set the course, detailing which new SMS experiences we want to test, and which existing ones need to be re-designed or removed. Their vision of how users will receive and interact with our text messages then gets queued up, ready to be integrated with our software.
In most cases, the new experience is scheduled to go live within a week. By the time it goes live, the design team will have the next iteration ready to be queued up and integrated. These quick iterations fed by the data we collect from our users are essential for finding the best way to talk with our users and to create content that engages them with information they can truly use.
To maintain agility in creating these experiences we’ve designed a process that does not require an enormous commitment of resources from our software engineers. Instead, they have built a highly flexible and configurable framework that can accommodate any design. My work as a user experience (UX) engineer consists of translating each design into this framework, and using the available building blocks to bring the designer’s vision to life.
The addition of an extra step in between design and engineering benefits both teams. The designers are free to create complex experiences and to run frequent tests without having to wait a long time for a finished product. And the software engineers are able to focus on keeping the framework working well and to develop new capabilities. If the data tells us that a set of messages doesn’t work, then we can remove them without feeling like resources were misspent.
Working within a flexible framework to continuously improve our products makes communication and connection between the teams essential. The point where a design reaches configuration is where all the “what if” questions get answered. All the paths that the users can take through our messages get defined here, which often means several rounds of questions and comments back and forth between the UX engineer and the designer.
The idea is to create a product that is easy for the user to have a conversation with, so that the user’s responses will dynamically shape the experience they receive. Ultimately, it is the user who shapes our products and shows us the way to design the Juntos experience. Their part in the feedback process gives us our cue to refine our products and gives us insight into new ideas we can explore.