At Drift, we put the customer at the center of everything we do, and for the product team that means offering our users the best in-app experience possible. It means delivering a product that’s functional, reliable, usable, and delightful. It means we want our product to be the best out there!
Over the years, Drift has scaled a lot. Our product team grew rapidly and, with it, so did our product. But as different teams built different parts of the product, something happened – it became harder and harder to make sure every team was creating consistent experiences. And while we’ve built a product our customers love, it’s not as consistent as it should be to live up to Drift’s incredibly high standards. We want to build an app so cohesive that our customers can’t tell where one experience starts and another ends.
But do these small things really matter?
Let’s be honest: when you spend all of your time working on new features, smashing bugs, and pushing the product forward leaps and bounds at breakneck pace, it can be hard to convince people that the petty irritations are worth spending time on.
“Why spend 30 minutes changing the colors of these icons, when our customers aren’t going to notice the difference?”
“Why scour our app for all the places where we’re using an outdated product term and replace it, when customers probably don’t realize we mixed up the words?”
“Why do something that the customer can’t even tell we did?”
While these things may seem small on their own, add all of the petty irritations up and you get one big frustration. Every time the user takes an extra second to think about what a certain button will do, to figure out what an overly generic error message means, to scan every page for the “back” button because it’s in a different place every time, it’s irritating. And those petty irritations add up, create friction for users, and can make your app look downright amateur…which will eventually reduce a user’s trust in your brand.
Like Stewart Butterfield echoes in We Don’t Sell Saddles Here, we’re pushing for higher standards and smoothing out those petty irritations that have multiplied as we scaled.
Drift’s UXU Process
So how are we actually smoothing out these irritations? We don’t want to take engineers away from their core feature work for weeks or months at a time to rebuild pages, and we certainly don’t want to stop production all together and start over.
So instead, the product design team has developed a program that fits into our engineers’ existing workflows and complements their core feature work: the UXU (“ucks-zoo”), aka the User Experience Update.
Each product designer at Drift creates and maintains an UXU backlog, where they list any inconsistencies, petty irritations, and small confusions they find in their part of the app. Every Monday, they prioritize a few UXUs for their teams to tackle that week (posted alongside some majestic UXU deer emojis 🦌). Prioritization is determined by how much time their team has to tackle an UXU, how severe the need for an update is, how relevant the update is to current projects, or even based on the occasional UXU weekly theme determined by our Design Director, Tim.
But Julie, how do you get engineers to actually prioritize UXUs along with their existing work?
Well, reader, we decided to make UXUs fun! And what’s more fun than some friendly competition and an emoji deer mascot? 🦌
Every Friday at 3pm, we hold an UXU raffle: every completed UXU is 1 raffle entry for the designer/engineer pair who worked on it. We grab two 10-sided dice (because we ship a lot of UXUs 🙂), roll ‘em on camera to determine the winning pair, and they receive a gift card to a local coffee shop to celebrate the win and bond over a warm beverage.
It’s always difficult to introduce new processes to teams. So, we decided to start small and scrappy by shooting a quick selfie video to get a couple designers on board and pitch it to their teams.
In week 1, we shipped 6 UXUs between two designers and two engineers. Now we’re on week 15 – every team in the department participates, and we’re averaging 30 UXUs every week! That’s a running total of 330+ UXUs in the past three months alone, which means we resolved 330+ inconsistencies and petty irritations fixed for our customers! So, in addition to shipping features our customers love, we now also add polish and shine to the app they live in every day.
Our goal with the UXU process is to eventually stop needing it. In addition to this process, we’re also leveling up our design system and changing the way we do front end, so we can crush existing inconsistencies with UXUs and prevent new ones from ever cropping up. But that’s a whole other blog post 😉
Believe that small details matter? Ready to join our UXU process? Our product team is hiring. You can get more details and apply to our Senior Product Manager position here or the Senior Product Designer role here. Or learn about life at Drift here.