How We Do Product and Marketing Design Critiques at Stash
Below is an article originally written by Brian Beavers and Christina Chang at PowerToFly Partner Stash, and published on July 25, 2018. Go to Stash's page on PowerToFly to see their open positions and learn more.
Stash's employee and customer base have been on a rocket ship with no signs of slowing down. As our design, research, and marketing team have continued to grow at Stash, we realized that we needed a new way of getting eyeballs on our work and getting timely critiques.
Like many product design teams, we use a combination of Sketch + Zeplin for design, feedback, and specs for engineering. But shoehorning feedback into Zeplin seemed like a misuse of the tool to us. We take vacations and sick days. We are often heads down busy with our own tracks of work on our squads. We're in meetings or discussions throughout the building and can miss important threads on Slack or Zeplin. We often lack context behind certain projects, thereby missing the hypothesis and goals behind a particular solution.
So my first pass at revitalizing how we do design critiques was by setting a standing one hour meeting every Wednesday afternoon (midway through the week to allow for time to prioritize design work and iterate within our squads) with the following mission:
The purpose of this meeting is to have open and timely critique among team members and stakeholders. It is also to foster a more collaborative, human environment where we gather around, look at the work in-progress, and discuss our product solutions with each other in real life. The hope is that this will lighten some of the Zeplin discussions, give everyone a dedicated time to review work, push for more design consistency across squads and leave Zeplin for more engineering-based usage.
And this was the format:
- 1 hour long, 10–15 minutes each per squad or project (with timer)
- Take the first five minutes of critique to walk around the room to look at the work printed
- Write notes, questions, or feedback on stickies in relation to the project
- To keep the meeting efficient and keep everyone's attention, please take long discussions offline.
- No phones or laptops
- Stand up and discuss around each other's designs
- Attendees: All product managers and product designers from each squad, ux researchers, copywriters, and marketing designers
- Print out your flow or design(s)
- Set the stage for the audience. Walk them through the challenge or problem statement, the goals, and the hypothesis.
- Tell the audience what type of feedback you're looking for (user flow, interactions, general UI, copy, etc.)
- Tell the story. i.e. "The customer will be coming to this page from a button on home. Only customers who have a bank linked will see this."
- Tell the audience the goal(s) i.e. "We want to encourage customers to Auto-Stash more than $15/week."
Coordinator + Timekeeper (Another designer or PM):
- Focus the audience on the critique, the goals, the hypothesis, and the feedback the designer is looking for.
- Please keep everyone's time in mind so that all designers have enough time to present; especially if lengthy or non-relevant discussions come up
- Make sure everyone has the opportunity to speak up. Oftentimes you'll find the quiet ones provide the most valuable insights.
- Ask clearly defined questions i.e. "What were you trying to achieve with the placement of the icon there next to the headline?"
- Be candid and honest. It shouldn't be a compliment sandwich. Feedback should sound like, "Having Stash Cash preselected feels like an efficient way to move the customer through the funnel." or "When you show too many payment options, it gets confusing and overwhelming, especially on mobile".
- Tie everything back to the goals and/or hypothesis. It should not be about liking or disliking the design. How is it meeting or missing the business and/or customer goals?
- Provide directional suggestions, but avoid problem solving
This product and marketing design critique format worked for awhile. Then we ballooned to 25+ attendees. Having 25+ people stand around an 11x17" print-out of a flow required magnifying glasses. After a few months of print-outs, we pivoted to a structured Google Slides format where the goals, the hypothesis(es), and link to the prototype or Zeplin were presented on a TV.
*This image is for illustrative purpose only.
But we started to lose focus. Then attendance started to dwindle as work that was being presented became less relevant for some in the original meeting invite. And then we started to feel like the feedback wasn't quite as timely or as focused as it had been in the earlier iterations with 10–12 people.
So we went back to the drawing board.
Christina Chang (one of our new Product Designers at Stash) had a friend that recommended an intriguing critique format called Tactical Design Critiques. The dramatically different approach convinced us this was worth trying:
- Small groups only — for us this meant only involving our small product design team of 6–7
- One designer comes prepared with work to get critiqued, throws it up on a projector or large TV. The designer can't say anything to explain their work to the rest of the group.
- The rest of the group goes around the table, and one at a time says onepoint of critique or tension. Everyone is discouraged from giving compliments and building compliment sandwiches.
- If you don't have a point of critique, you can skip. If you don't understand a person's point of critique, you can ask them to clarify.
- Most importantly, you cannot ask the designer any questions and they can't jump in to respond and clarify.
- At the end of 25 minutes of critique, the designer can take 5 minutes to summarize and explain how they will take the feedback into their designs.
At first, this format felt like it was potentially limiting since designers are so used to providing context and defending their work. But, we quickly discovered that the designers became silent note-takers scribbling to capture feedback, and thereby less attached to their own work, able to step back and simply listen.
Because it often feels too intense in normal critiques to give so many suggestions, this format created the opportunity for comments on everything from copy to color to user flows to consistency. It's a twist on user testing, except with users that happened to be designers you work with.
We've found it to be a very refreshing way to deep dive into one user flow at a time, and hone in on problem areas without involving egos.
Design critiques, much like design itself, can never truly be "perfected" or "done", in our opinion. Audiences change, timelines change, team dynamics change, team needs or priorities are constantly shifting. As they say, change is the only constant. We're still figuring out what works best for us.
References to design critique formats we used to iterate on ours:
Branwyn Baughman, recruiter at Lockheed Martin, shares an exclusive take on the most important tips to keep in mind when preparing for an interview.
Take a look at the company's application process, culture, and values, as well as some top-notch tips that Branwyn outlines on how you can make your application stand out.
To learn more about Lockheed Martin and their open roles, click here.
6 Tips for Companies & 5 Tips for Individuals from Indeed's Group VP of ESG, LaFawn Davis
Earlier this month, LaFawn Davis, Indeed's Group Vice President of Environmental, Social, & Governance, joined us as part of our Diversity Reboot Summit to talk about the 'shecession' experienced by many women, and especially women of color, as a result of COVID-19.
LaFawn shared some great tips for companies and individuals looking to be part of "the great rehiring." If you're looking to find a new role, or to ensure that you help bring back diverse talent displaced by COVID, check out her advice below, and catch her complete talk here or by clicking the video above!
Q: What would your advice be to companies that are looking to step up their diverse hiring in 2021?
My advice: Good intentions are no longer good enough. Nobody wants to hear what you meant to do, wish you could have do, intended to do. Nobody wants to hear that you can't find Black Women or any other dimension of diversity. We're obviously out here.
My squad and I have a saying "Impact over intentions." So, if 2020 was the year of good diversity and inclusion intentions, let's make 2021 the year of actions and impact.
So, now that we got that out of the way. If you're looking to step up your diverse hiring. Stop and get your house in order. Because you shouldn't just want to hire a diverse workforce, you should want to grow and keep them too. So there are 5 things, ready?
1. Focus on long-term systemic change.
There's a lot of momentum — and need — for change right now. It's not just about a message of support or donating to a cause one time. Take a look at your own systems. How do you hire and grow employees? Do your succession planning, talent reviews, recruiting and other processes have built-in biases? Is equality part of your core values? Are you actively working toward change? Recognize that talent is equally distributed, but opportunity is not. Above all, hold yourself accountable for the way things are, then work to improve.
2. Take a close look at your data.
Share it internally to be transparent with employees of where you are now. When possible, share it externally to be visible and accountable (I'm happy to announce that Indeed will be releasing its own diversity data this summer). Use it as a baseline for comparison against what you hope to achieve.
3. Change behavior.
Focus on behavioral changes throughout the company with an emphasis on coaching, training, and having crucial conversations with managers. Leaders and managers set an example for the entire workforce. If employees see the behavior of managers or leaders in a negative light, a true sense of belonging is difficult to achieve.
4. Representation matters.
If leadership roles are perceived as exclusive to many members of the workforce, then a broader sense of belonging will continue to elude many employees. People in leadership roles should reflect the diversity of a company's workforce. Observing someone "like me" in a leadership role helps attract and retain talent and motivates workers to pursue roles with greater responsibility.
5. Create Policies And Procedures Reflective Of The Entire Workforce.
As you work through new or existing policies and procedures, be aware of barriers experienced by different populations. Take, for example, the case of caregivers. More scheduling flexibility for calls can go a long way for employees who share their home workspace with others and must tend to family responsibilities while working remotely.
Q: Do you have advice for individuals that are looking for new career opportunities, especially women of color who might have lost their previous jobs during the pandemic?
Adaptability has always been an important part of an individual's career progression - even before COVID-19, it is especially important now.
It is important to show a potential new employer how your abilities adapt to a new role or a new industry. Focus on skills more than just experiences because skills can be applied in so many different ways. So… I'll give you 6 things for this one.
1. Perform a professional audit. Taking some time to understand your qualities, qualifications and values can help focus your career transition and narrow down your career path options if you haven't already. Doing so can also help you understand how you might position yourself during the job search.
2. Identify your hard and soft skills. Soft skills are often the most transferable, so identifying them early can help you understand the ways you might bring value to a new role or industry. Taking inventory of your hard skills will help you identify if there are certain industries that might be easier to transition into.
3. Highlight your biggest career wins. Communicating the impact you've made throughout your career can help employers quickly understand the value you'll bring to their organization, even if you come from another role or industry.
4. Utilize online job search to your advantage. Pay close attention to the requirements and duties of jobs so you can evaluate whether the career would align with your skills, interests and values.
5. You just need to meet "most" of the qualifications. Try to focus on positions for which you meet at least 60% of the qualifications with your transferable skills. Meeting 60% of the qualifications isn't a hard rule, but it's a good general guideline to help you determine whether it's worth applying for.
6. Get a sense of the company. Before interviews, do some research to learn how inclusive a company is. Peruse the organization's core values, its social media accounts, and any recent statements in support of marginalized groups. Pay attention to the interviewers themselves. Is the panel diverse or are you likely to be an early "diversity hire"? If the interviewers seem to be emphasizing "cultural fit," ask what that means. Basically, be an active participant in the hiring process. You are also interviewing the company, as much as they are interviewing you.
Stephanie Acker, director of inside sales at Commvault, gave us a behind-the-scenes look at the company's application process, culture, and values, as well as her own career journey.
To kick things off, Stephanie mentioned the three things that make a great inside sales professional: an independent work ethic, the ability to learn and execute on their own, and an awareness of what keeps them motivated.
Over her 12-year career at Commvault, Stephanie's greatest motivation has been helping customers to find solutions and catapult them to success. In both her past role as a sales representative and her current director position, Stephanie remains committed to ensuring her team understands what motivates them to sell and setting them up for success.
The biggest surprise during her career at Commvault was becoming the director of inside sales. Stephanie shared that she loves working for a company that listens to new ideas, thinks outside of the box, and tries new things.
Don't miss her take on what moves a candidate forward in the interview process! For example, Stephanie loves when the interviewee gets into "the zone"—showing their selling technique. She also shares her favorite interview questions.
As Stephanie says, stop thinking and apply today!
To learn more about Commvault and their open roles, click here.
When you think about strong female leadership, what comes to mind? For Tatiana L., a global client partner in Miami, it's about more than having an executive seat, being a mother, or making dreams come true. "Good leadership is about being open, flexible, and able to understand different perspectives," she says. "It's about fostering collaboration, bringing people together, and empowering them to connect."
Tatiana L. is a global client partner based in Miami.
Tatiana is part of the Women@ Facebook Resource Group and helped plan Women's Leadership Day, an annual global community summit. While the highly-anticipated event takes place over just one day, its massive impact is felt over the course of the entire year.
Amy W. is an operations lead based in London.
"Women's Leadership Day is more than an event. It's energy, and it's a movement," Amy W., an operations lead in London, says. "Moments like this can completely change the perception of women in technology."
From choosing the content and programming for the event to making it accessible for women around the globe, we went behind the scenes with seven members of the Women@ Facebook Resource Group to learn more about how women are empowered—and are empowering one another— in their career journeys at the Facebook company.
Behind the scenes with Women@
Amanda M., an internal recruiting manager based in Singapore, speaking onstage at 2019 Women@ Leadership Day in APAC.
"I've always been passionate about empowering women, but I didn't know how I could do it at work. My first Women@ experience changed how I felt at Facebook," Amanda M., an internal recruiting manager in Singapore, remembers. "From then on, I wanted to help other women feel heard, valued, and confident."
Planning the global event, which brings together women from more than 20 countries, calls for close collaboration across multiple teams, regions, and timezones. Members of Women@ also partner with other Facebook Resource Groups, such as the Pride@ Resource Group, Latin@ Facebook Resource Group, Desis@ Facebook Resource Group and Black@ Resource Group, to ensure all women at Facebook are represented and feel included.
Vivian V. is a program manager based in the San Francisco Bay Area.
"Across regions and communities, we each bring unique differences and powerful stories. When one of us moves forward, we have the opportunity to bring all of us forward," Vivian V., a program manager in the San Francisco Bay Area explains. "While planning the summit, we meet weekly to talk about what women in different regions are experiencing. From the event theme and content to planning speaker sessions and fine-tuning details, we each have items to own. Two months before the summit, we meet daily to share updates and make sure nothing slips through the cracks."
"Just like me, women in APAC look forward to Women's Leadership Day all year long," Amanda says. Planning something that's deeply meaningful to so many people can feel like a lot of pressure, but at the same time, it's uplifting. I appreciate that we have the opportunity to talk about our individual and shared challenges, and we map out ways we can build community while empowering leadership for women across the globe."
Empowering confidence, equality, and leadership through storytelling
Paris Z., a vertical strategy lead in Singapore, and Amanda M. collaborate with women across the globe to plan Women@ programming and events.
Women's Leadership Day encourages women to talk about challenges like experiencing imposter syndrome, breaking through barriers, and how to manage work/life flexibility. "Storytelling is a huge part of the event," Paris Z., a vertical strategy lead in Singapore, explains.
Vivian says, "I've been at Facebook for nearly two years and help plan these events, and honestly, I never really understood imposter syndrome before I got here. Working with the Women@ community and hearing from our speakers—who are talented, brilliant superstars—I've seen firsthand how it affects them too."
Michelle C. is a client partner based in London.
Michelle C., a client partner in London, says that the summit's speaker sessions, which feature people from inside and outside of Facebook, are a highlight of every event. "We had a speaker from Tel Aviv who talked about the importance of balance in her personal life and how she co-parents with her husband. She shared specific things she's done, like adding her husband to the WhatsApp chat groups for mothers she's in and reminding her daughter's school that her husband is also available when their child feels sick. Her message was that we'll never be equal in the workplace until we're equal at home, and it really struck a chord."
Paris says that in APAC, Eva Chen's talk about facing challenges amidst the coronavirus pandemic and how she's raising her daughter was a top-rated session because it was so relatable. "From talking about her daughter's love for dinosaurs—a "boy" thing—and raising kids to fully be themselves to opening up about what it was like to grow up with immigrant parents from China and Vietnam, Eva inspired us with her authenticity and openness. Her struggle to feel supported while working in fashion and tech, rather than medicine, is something a lot of people in APAC understand."
"Every woman has a unique story," Michelle says. "Hearing from others is inspiring, validating, and truly eye-opening. It reminds us that we're not alone."
A memorable and lasting impact
It's no surprise that with the tremendous amount of planning and careful consideration that goes into the summit, its full impact is impossible to measure.
"It meant so much to me when people shared such positive feedback about Women's Leadership Day," Paris says. "We heard that some attendees felt inspired for days and weeks."
Kira G. is an agency partner based in Berlin.
Kira G., an agency partner in Berlin, has witnessed how the summit's programming can inspire action, even helping people push past a career plateau. "We might reach a point in our careers when we think, "I can't do this anymore, I'm not moving forward'," she says. "Women's Leadership Day gives us fresh perspectives, shows us new approaches, and starts important conversations. This can unlock new paths for growth and help us move forward."
Impact is felt in other Facebook groups, communities, and across teams too, inspiring interest and allyship. Amanda explains, "I felt so proud when a male VP from the Sales team came to us after hearing about what people talked about at Women's Leadership Day. He told us he wanted to learn more because it's everyone's responsibility to be an ally."
Empowering the community throughout the year
While Amanda describes Women's Leadership Day as a "bump in energy and inspiration" and "an injection of adrenaline", Vivian says that the real magic is what happens afterwards—and takes place all year long.
"When we think about Women's Leadership Day, our focus is on making sure that the powerful messages we hear and experience serve us throughout the entire year. We ask ourselves questions like, "How can we sprinkle these themes into our programming throughout the month or quarter? How do these ideas fit with our Women@ initiatives?" Going through something awesome together is just the beginning. Our work takes place year-round and we're constantly building on it to do more."
Paris agrees: "There's no shortage of amazing stories from our Women@ community throughout the year. Women's Leadership Day is just one channel for those stories, and I love how it stays top of mind with people and empowers them to do more good. When we come together, we can do anything we dream of."
"We're building a sisterhood and a community," Tatiana beams. "It feels so good to know there's always someone there to support you."
Learn more about Facebook's Employee Resource Groups, including Women@ here.