Or why I decided to attend a design in one of the warmest and sunniest days in Amsterdam.

Unless you live in the Netherlands, you’re probably unaware that when the sun shines everyone escapes outside to enjoy the good weather. ’s event at Uber HQ in Amsterdam had been on my calendar for a while but I did not know that Thursday evening would be one of the warmest days of the year. 
Despite the heat, I got on my bike and headed to the event with no regrets.

I started using Figma in my design process quite recently. Now I’m even more excited to use it since their Web API announcement which consists in a simple and powerful idea: each Figma document can be accessed through API. Amongst the rest, this means new and better collaborations between designers and creative technologists.

Collaboration is a fundamental condition that helps me grow both as a person and as a designer. Therefore I was very pleased to discover that one of the trends presented by the first speaker Dylan Field, CEO at Figma, was about Handoff to Handshake.

Dylan described a process for the near future in which we will need cross-functional sources of truth so that designer, creative technologists, project managers, copywriters and other stakeholders could work together in a more collaborative way.

“It doesn’t really matter where the source of truth is as long as everyone agrees that the source of truth is somewhere.” — Dylan, CEO at Figma

The important aspect is to identify the place that host the source of truth so that we can all point to it.

Another trend showed the power of design in having more value than ever before and in attracting everyone to participate in the design process. 
Dylan mentioned that companies that don’t have design at their core can’t expect to survive over others. He showed how data on the designers to engineers ratio in some companies has been changing over the past five years. One of the most drastic cases is IBM who went from 1 designer to every 72 engineers (1:72) in 2012, to one designer to every eight engineers (1:8) in 2017.

Dylan continued his talk by walking us through three stages of design in organisations:

  1. Misunderstanding: design is seen for its contribution to aesthetics rather than functionalities
  2. Designers have a seat at the table: “Design is now part or core of the decision making”
  3. Non-designers want a seat at the (designer) table: since design is becoming more important, over time more and more people would like to be involved in the design process.

The third and last trend presented by Dylan was Design Systems. There are some benefits in implementing a good design system:

  • Consistency: good for usability
  • Velocity: move faster through the design process
  • Collaboration: gets more people involved

Dylan closed his interesting talk with raising and discussing some important questions like “Is there room to be creative?” or “What does this mean for the future of designers?”.

I really liked Dylan’s talk because the trends he shared were backed up with a lot of research, data and conversations with people working and willing to improve the industry.

The second speaker of the evening was Femke, product designer at Uber Design.

I was already following Femke on Twitter since she co-hosts a design related podcast series called Design Life (you should check it out) and I was curious to listen to her in real life.

Femke’s talk ‘Designing for the masses’ showed the possibilities and implications when designing on a global scale. She started talking about the misconception that when designing products sometimes designers have a clear and defined user in mind. Since Uber serves people all over the world with different needs and goals, the question was:

“How do we customise the experience to meet everyone’s needs?”

One of the ways to answer this question is segmenting Uber users into different User groups:

  • Language: think about how the designs get localised into the different languages
  • Literacy level: some drivers have low or none literacy level, so designers introduced voice tooltips that will guide drivers through the experience
  • Device: most users use low-level android devices, not the cutting edge technology
  • Culture context: keep in mind language translations
  • Location: it goes beyond the places where users are based, but takes into account also safety aspects
  • User role: consider if the user is a driver or a rider and their respective goals

Another way to address this question is through User Research, which helps Uber designers understand how real users interact with the product. At Uber, they use different methods such as user testing, shadowing, a/b testing, and trip interviews in which they interview the drivers while working.

“It’s kind of like stepping into the driver’s office.”

I was not so surprised to discover the methodologies and process techniques, but I was very impressed to see what Uber designers managed to achieve with them. 
Femke showed two interesting examples:

  1. The first one was about the earnings tracker. 
    While researching and designing the recently launched driver partner app, the designers discovered that drivers care a lot about their earnings, so they positioned an earnings tracker on the home screen.
    After testing it, they learned that some drivers felt unsafe or showed discomfort in displaying their earnings, therefore they introduced a privacy toggle that would allow drivers to hide/show they earnings on the home screen while empowering them to customise their own experience.
  2. The second example regarded the introduction of cash as a payment method. 
    Uber uses a digital payment method that makes the trip experience seamless. However, when Uber was launched in certain markets they discovered that many of the local population couldn’t have access to Uber due to a lack of having a digital payment method. So in order to provide a reliable transportation for everyone and everywhere, Uber needed to consider the unbanked — those who rely on cash as their primary way to pay. Introducing the possibility to pay your ride with cash came with some safety concerns and a new challenge for Uber’s team in making the experience safe for both riders and drivers. 
    The unexpected (at least for me) solution was to link Uber with Facebook to help verify the riders identity. The social integration allowed drives to feel more secure in handling cash transactions and enabled more riders to take trips.

Femke’s talk was a great example of designing for and with real users. It also remarked the importance of testing products and be open to change and improving constantly.

The third and last speaker was Heleen Boland from ZorgDomein, a Dutch medical company.

Heleen’s talk focused on the extensive benefits of using Figma to create a Design System. Figma allowed her team to focus on the content rather than spending time researching design tools most suited for them.

Then Heleen shared some tips and tricks for using Figma with the audience:

  • Use components as boilerplate if that makes more sense
  • Use notes directly in the frames, they are more visible than comments.
  • Differentiate between main design and experimental alternatives by placing coloured rectangles within the files
  • Make formal design asset files stand out with background colours

She concluded her talk by taking the opportunity to give some improvement suggestions to the Figma team members. 
This fun short moment prepared the audience for the closing Q&A session.

As any good event I have attended so far, the people make the real difference. I enjoy a lot when I am able to learn new things, question and confront my process and have the chance to connect and interact with very interesting and interested people.

See the wrap-up event video

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