Designing for the Future of Work

Launched, 2019 🚀

A Toronto startup set out to tackle the problem of disengaged remote work culture. The mission was to normalize remote work. After grueling months of sweat and tears, the team launched Whiip, a visual employee platform that makes intro's between employees based on interests and skills.

And I was the founding designer at Whiip.

Goal

Validate our idea & launch a product to help disengaged remote work culture

Impact

In Oct 2019, launched the product with 10+ SMB's

Team

Lead Product Designer (Me),
1 Engineer, 2 Design Interns

stack

Go, React, Typescript, PostgresSQL, Figma

Startup

User Research

Product Thinking

Interaction Design

Visual Design

Problem at Scale

159%

Growth in remote work
since 2005

Global Workplace Analytics

85%

Of global workers are disengaged from work

State of the Global Workplace (Gallup)

$7 T

In lost productivity due to
disengaged workers

State of the Global Workplace (Gallup)

Global Problem: Remote work is on the rise, yet more workers are become disengaged. Moreover, remote workers are 2X more likely to become highly stressed than on-site workers. This results in a productivity loss ($7T) and profit loss for the businesses.

Our Own Problem Discovery

We dug deeper into the problem & target market.

To recruit participants, we leveraged the co-working spaces + targeted cold emails. The main question of our research was "What's your biggest problem in engaging remote teams?"
We had surveyed & interviewed about 40 managers and employees of tech companies and agencies in Toronto, and these two specific problems surfaced:

Too many meetings to stay on the same page, yet priorities are still unclear
→ 2X more meetings than non-remote teams

Less collaboration, hard to get help
→ Less productive

Lean Startup - Narrowing on the Goal & Metrics

Using the data from our user interviews and researches, we narrowed down our goals and value metrics.

Goal: HMW help disconnected remote teams to be more productive?

Value measured by:

# of meetings

Ease of use

Employee engagement

Explorations

We then brainstormed a few solutions.

We used the Effort x Impact graph + process of elimination

We tested first on web app then mobile
— because our target users used their computers to have meetings and communicate with remote teams

We conducted concept testing with several solutions
— some were tested with Figma prototype, some were made into functional software
— through the testings, we decided on simplified OKR + employee appreciation

Some of our explorations

Workspace forum v.1

Workspace forum v.2

Twitter for workspace

Hypotheses used

If we align the teams by OKR, then they'll be engaged because they're working towards clear goals.

If we provide a self check-in, then they’ll have less meetings.

If we notify remote teams to take watercooler breaks, then they’ll be more engaged and less intimidated.

User Testing

For quantitative feedback, we gave the testers 10 tasks inside the prototype to complete and measured Task success + Perceived ease of use. 
And the average score was 6.5/10. That’s not that bad, right?

But it didn’t take us long to realize something was very wrong.

Initially in our qualitative feedback, people were telling us that it is “Simple”, “Clear”, and “Transparent.”

But as we continued on, we were getting hostile responses.

It looks nice, but I’m confused. Is this more work?”

Does this mean I have to update this sh!t everyday? I already spend hours updating my manager!”

Why are we getting such mixed feedback?

Analyzing the users from user testings, I noticed the positive feedback were from managers, while the negative feedback were from individual contributors.

Digging deeper, I realized the majority of the users from user interviews were managers. So we accidentally became biased and created a tool for managers. We had failed to achieve deep user empathy 😞.

The Pivot

Pivoting the Strategy, too

Although we had failed Experiment #1, we found one common pattern — everyone liked the Spotlight feature, both managers and individual contributors.

We decided to pivot and narrow our focus. This impacted the strategy, including the goal & value metrics.

Goal: HMW improve the disengaged remote teams to improve collaborative culture?

Hypothesis: If we help employees connect with each other based on interests and skills, then they’ll feel more comfortable and connected with the team.

Value measured by:

# of connections

Ease of use

Employee engagement

Information Architecture - Optimal Route to Value

We looked for optimal, but flexible ways to deliver value to our users.
We focused on making it dead simple for the user to gain value from our app (minimal interaction cost).

Final Design

Our Design Principles

Finally, we've come to make Whiip - a visual employee directory that helps employees quickly find & connect with each another.

We learned from our failures. So this time, we developed a design system & guided ourselves by our own design principles:

Simple

Transparent

Inclusive

Visual design wise, we kept things neutral.
This assured the app is shaped by the customer company's brand (by their images & logo).

Spotlight

Simplified for user’s attention — this is the entry point to the app, where the user’s motivation is the highest. Based on user testing, users were hooked right away on reading about a person in Spotlight.

Putting 1 person in the focus at a time — we want the user to give attention to the Spotlight person and connect with them.

Emphasizing the face, then name — helping remote workers become familiar.

Recommended for you

Personalization — we can recommend someone who’s relevant based on similar goals & interests, so user is more likely to engage and collaborate.

People

Prioritizing transparency & simplicity

Humanizing workers, not be a row in excel sheet

Know your team's faces & names

Know who to reach out to when you need
- Star icon to save for faster contact

Group Sessions

1-to-many connections

Scalable mentorship and internal training

People - gallery view

Prioritizing transparency & simplicity

Humanizing workers, not be a row in excel sheet

Know your team's faces & names

Know who to reach out to when you need
- Star icon to save for faster contact

People - list view

Efficient search

Quickly find anyone in the company

Keep track of who you've connected with

Impact

10
Companies

Validated our idea by launching pilots with 10 companies 🚀

+20%
Ease of use score

Usability testing score increased by 20% since the pivot📈

110+
Connections made

On our platform, from
 300 pilot users 🤝

Simple and effective in getting to know remote coworkers I would’ve otherwise missed out on collaborating with."

User feedback

Faster and more fun than our clunky HR software"

User feedback

+Bonus: the timeline

Key Learnings

Culture is the pre-requisite to profit
— Humanize your business first. Help people feel engaged and connected at work.

Use data, but with deep user empathy ♥️
— Relying too heavily on data led us to the wrong path earlier on. Listen to frustrations; be an advocate for users. 

Make something people want, inclusively
— Be intentional from start! Keep checking in for any bias.