In his talk at UX London, Aarron Walter explains how MailChimp redesigned their interface from the ground up, despite having over 5 million users.
- When you redesign a system, often it’s the pro-users that suffer due to their muscle memory interactions
- MailChimp had technical debt dating back to 2001
- There was also a shift in user behaviour – a need for access on mobile devices
- Performed lots of research on which devices and their contexts of use
- Used findings as a springboard to watch users using MailChimp
- Found they no longer used the system in a static place (i.e. cubicle desk at work)
- Mobile devices were not eating desktop usage, but extending it
- Forced design team to rethink assumptions
Creating a vision
- Hired actors and wrote a script. Produce an internal video of ideal MailChimp user scenarios. Used as a vision for company
- Video showed user starting email campaign on desktop, moving to mobile, receiving feedback from team members
- Video demonstrated teamwork over many devices
- Was confusing and daunting at first.
- Started with small units of interface but quickly realised it would be a massive change
- Had to choose whether new app would “work differently but feel same” or “feel different but work same”
- They were iterating like mad. Had to stop and choose one to build and test.
- Divided the problem down to its smallest units. Tackled them one-by-one
- Developed a pattern library – styles, grid system, animations, example code snippets (ux.mailchimp.com)
- They printed every page out so everyone in company could add notes and scribble annotations
- Created collective ownership.
- UI printed on paper gave a fresh perspective to designs
- Changed layout of office to bring designers/devs/QA/marketing together to talk and brainstorm
- This built energy, excitement, camaraderie
- Launching is just as scary as redesigning from scratch
- Needed to communicate to 5 million users that a change was coming
- Wrote blog posts and emails to users justifying redesign
- Soft launch with a modal window giving users a choice whether to try new interface
- “You may” instead of “You must” is better psychologically
Feedback and iteration
- Categorised feedback based on personas
- Shifted to faster release schedule (2 week sprints)
- Devised a mantra – “listen hard, change fast”