As Senior UX Designer for x.ai, a New York based startup focused on building a digital personal assistant for scheduling meetings, I was responsible for building design and user research practices in a tech focused environment.
When I was hired in 2016, I was the first ‘traditional’ UX designer on staff, joining an AI Interaction Designer who focused on the conversational email UI. I set out to build scalable design systems as well as infuse the company culture with user-centric thinking. Here’s how I went about it –
Creating Design Systems
A primary need of any startup is a scalable approach to UI design. At x.ai, I took the lead on ‘my.x.ai’, the UI-based companion to the conversational email interface. When I inherited the site I found few overarching rules to govern interaction and visual design decisions.
I started to define our system by performing a a design pattern audit, creating a basic style guide, and collaborating with Engineering to clean up the CSS structure and create systems to ensure design integrity moving forward.
My second step was to infuse the Product Management team with design-minded processes. I did this through facilitating feature kick-off sessions, product ideation sessions, and interaction design whiteboarding sessions with the team. By leading these sessions I introduced the team to a human-centered design process. The Product Managers have continued to use these tools an techniques in their own product design process with consistent results.
Establishing a User Research Practice
Prior to my arrival, there had only been a single round of user research of any kind performed early in the initial product creation. I started a user research practice to enhance our understanding of our current customer behavior, as well as to inform product design decisions ahead of major feature designs.
Next, I focused on evaluations of interaction designs and assessments of new features through usability testing. Once again, this was a new process at x.ai, but one that was welcomed.