Behind the Scenes: Product Design at Google


Product Designer Sandy Woodruff went from being a designer on a giant group at Fab to being the solely designer. In this Real Talk, we go behind the scenes on her profession journey from Fab to Rent the Runway to Etsy to Google (the place she utilized three instances earlier than getting in!). Hear her recommendations on collaborating with engineers, upcoming alternative areas in design, and creating core person journeys. 

What was your path to UX Design at Google?

My first job was at, which at the time was a darling in the New York startup neighborhood. They have been this enormous firm, rising actually quick. After I joined they’d a collection of layoffs — and I went from being a designer on a very huge group with nice mentorship to being the solely designer. It was an fascinating expertise as a result of I really feel like I obtained a complete lot of expertise in a really condensed period of time. But I used to be glad to have had the expertise of mentorship earlier than then the place I might study quite a bit on the job after which come to a degree the place I wanted to make use of that information and simply begin advocating for the customers alone.

After that I labored at Rent the Runway and at Etsy and presently I’m on the Cloud AI UX group at Google. I knew I all the time wished to work for Google, I used to be a giant fangirl and I utilized 3 times earlier than lastly getting in. I’m actually glad there now.

What does it imply to be an awesome UX designer?

For me, an awesome UX designer needs to be an awesome collaborator, an awesome compromiser, and, in fact, an awesome advocate for the person. Design abilities are simpler to study than individuals abilities. And I feel an enormous a part of my job is simply interacting with completely different stakeholders like product engineering and it’s a must to know find out how to form of converse their language, a compromiser as a result of they are saying that good design is invisible however I feel good designers are additionally invisible. Not in a foul means, however in a means that try to be comfy with sharing your sketch information with different designers and collaborating on one thing and never being too tied to at least one concept. It’s essential to have the ability to all the time deliver again what’s finest for the person and being proper is much less essential than advocating for the person.

What are a few of the largest developments in the UX design sector proper now?

One pattern that I’m actually desirous about is designing for digital wellbeing. There’s truly now a digital wellbeing group at Google they usually work on issues like a timer to point out you the way a lot time you’ve been spending in an app or reminders to take breaks in issues like YouTube if you’ve been watching for therefore lengthy. Companies are beginning to understand that customers will respect a product extra if it respects their time and designing for optimum engagement all the time isn’t all the time the proper method to go. I feel instruments like these digital wellbeing instruments are nice. I’d like to see designers form of taking initiative and designing with wellbeing ideas in thoughts from the begin in order that they design for much less dependancy and issues like that.

As for compromise, I can consider one undertaking particularly the place this got here up as a superb instance. I used to be working at Fab and we have been attempting to create an AR app for furnishings visualization so you can purchase a settee after which view it in your house at precise dimension. At the time AR had not been totally developed but and there have been nonetheless lots of technical constraints on find out how to do AR, so the engineers advised me like the solely means we are able to do that is if the customers print out a QR code and place it on the floor and use their cellphone to grasp the house. I form of thought that was a bit of bit an excessive amount of and that was confirmed once we introduced customers in to check and customers stated, “There’s no way I’m going to spend time printing this out.” Only our like energy customers have been okay with doing that.

I pushed again and advised engineers, “There’s no way we can get users to do this.” And they form of got here again and stated, “There’s no way that you can do this without the QR code.” So we have been at an deadlock for some time, till I began studying up about AR and I discovered that the most essential factor was to get a way of the house. And you are able to do that when you have an object that’s normally all the time the similar dimension. So for instance, a pencil, it’ll know {that a} pencil is normally the similar dimension. So I attempted to see if perhaps customers might simply {photograph} a pencil and use that as their baseline, and the engineers constructed a fast prototype and it labored. So we have been in a position to take this actually arduous course of and switch it into one thing easy like photographing a pencil, which customers have been in a position to do and luxuriate in the app extra rapidly.

What are a few of the largest challenges that you just face as a UX designer?

Two challenges come to thoughts: 

  1. Evangelizing UX. There are those that I’ve labored with that don’t perceive what UX is and I all the time attempt to use the metaphor of a home. A UX designer isn’t the person who’s simply portray the partitions of the home – one thing you are able to do at the finish and it simply will get utilized afterwards – the UX designer is extra like the architect who’s drawing up the plans to construct a home and ensuring that earlier than you go in and begin constructing issues, issues are in place – like there’s no rest room in the kitchen. It’s way more expensive to tear that down than it’s to construct it appropriately in the first place. That’s the place individuals see the worth of UX to construct issues versus going again to sort things.
  2. Dealing with my very own biases. I feel it’s simple so that you can assume that you’re the person and definitely once I labored at Rent the Runway and Etsy, I used to be form of the person. I overlapped with the person in some sense, nevertheless it was more durable for me to cope with my very own assumptions about how the person would possibly act as a result of I’m very completely different from another person utilizing the app in a foreign country or any variety of methods. So I feel it has been simpler at Google now that our customers are enterprise prospects and I’m actually not an enterprise AI buyer so it’s simpler for me to separate out the two. But I feel regardless, it’s essential so that you can understand the variations between you and the person.

What’s the distinction between UX design and UI design?

The instance I like to make use of is that this picture of two paths. One may be very properly paved and main straight forward. The different is chopping by way of the grass and it’s simply grime. But individuals wish to take this different path as a result of it’s the shortest method to wherever it’s a must to go. So that actually good paved path that’s form of probably not used, wasn’t very thought out, is form of like UI and the grime street path that’s properly worn, everybody needs to make use of it, that’s UX.

At the similar time, I don’t actually purchase into the thought that UX and UI are that separate. I imply, should you’re designing, let’s say for voice or designing an API, in fact then there’s going to be no interface, no UI. But it’s all the time essential to as a UX designer take into consideration these parts that customers are going to be interacting with in case you are designing an interface. For instance, at Google we now have a really huge design methods group, so these are the of us which have already fleshed out what this button goes to seem like, what the nook radius, what the pixels and colours are, like fully optimized. So I’ve to consider that rather less day after day. But there are instances that come up the place we’re constructing on prime of this design library, however we could discover use instances that come up that both modified the design library or there are causes to make tweaks to that. So it’s form of all the time in the again of my thoughts, despite the fact that I’m not targeted on the UI.

What’s one talent that he discovered on the job that you just want you’ll have discovered in your UX design schooling?

In my UX schooling, we targeted quite a bit on course of. What I wasn’t ready for was that the course of all the time adjustments relying on what firm you’re working for, the individuals you’re working with, and the dimension of the undertaking. So whereas it’s essential to study the fundamentals of a course of, I feel it’s additionally essential to comprehend that UX is only one small thread in a bigger tapestry of issues and also you’re in a position to alter as wanted based mostly on the state of affairs. Also that the course of can form of fluctuate extensively relying on the firm you’re working for, and even inside one firm. So I do know at Google a few of my pals who’re designers are extra far reaching trigger they’re on a smaller group. So their position consists of interplay design, UI design, even branding generally, which wasn’t a part of the job description. Learning the full spectrum of the course of is useful. It’s additionally useful to know which components you’re most desirous about or excited by to construct upon these abilities.

Could you describe your design course of and what strategies you observe?

As far as course of goes, happily at Google, we now have lots of emphasis on the design discovery section, so researchers will speak to potential prospects and area specialists and others in the discipline to simply form of find out about the house earlier than leaping in and constructing one thing. And relying on what we discover in that analysis, which will imply that PMs have to both scale back scope or elevated scope or change the undertaking. By being introduced in at this stage we actually have a foundational position. And then after we get a way of the individuals we’re designing for, which is usually a number of several types of customers, we begin arising with CUJs, or core person journeys. So that’s what a person wants to perform, what’s their most important purpose and which targets are the most essential.

All of this to date has been in collaboration with PMs and engineering in order that we are able to get on the similar web page about the customers we’re designing for, which person journeys are completely essential, which of them are essential for model one and which of them we could wish to push out later to model two or three, form of prioritizing issues, not simply from a UX standpoint but additionally from is that this simple for engineers to construct, is it possible inside the time interval, And in fact, discovering how precious are they to the enterprise.

And, in fact, we attempt to get suggestions on our designs as a lot as potential all through this course of. So I’ll be creating prototypes for usability exams, the constancy various relying on what we’re looking for out, and simply accumulating that suggestions from customers and exposing it to stakeholders all through the course of. And then as soon as we’ve obtained a comparatively good concept about what we must always construct, the designers collaborate with the engineers to really get it constructed. They’ll try to construct as shut as potential to what we’ve designed — and we’ll work with them to resolve any discrepancies. 

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