In the early days of Smartly.io, product design was done solely by Engineers. Sounds scary, doesn’t it? Lucky for us, they did a pretty good job. However, as our platform became more complex and we wanted to maintain an efficient and enjoyable user experience, it was time to start investing in product design. We hired our first Product Designer in 2017 and since then, we have grown the Product Design Team to 15 people and developed a design system.
Since day one, our approach to product design has been characterized by fast iteration and close cooperation with customers. While the size and scope of the function have evolved, those principles still stand. We are also known for the way we experiment, build, and test multiple prototypes on a daily basis, as well as the eyebrow-raising level of autonomy each Product Designer has in their work.
Autonomy Enables Experimentation and Learning
We believe in a multi-disciplinary approach where each Product Designer is integrated in a Product Development Team, works closely with that team’s Engineers and Product Manager, and owns the design for a specific product area. The whole Product Development Team also works as an autonomous entity owning their part of the product, which allows Designers to make quick product and design decisions within their area of ownership. This autonomy enables flexibility to operate without limitations and move fast.
Smartlie Designers value our culture of experimentation that allows them to take chances and fosters both exploration and learning. Testing multiple prototypes daily allows for a quick feedback loop and quick improvement. A Designer will always get support if they want their design to be critiqued, but the final version can be anything as long as it follows our common UX patterns and best practices. “We offer a great place for experienced Designers to push their limits. When we say a Designer owns their product area, we mean it. Based on my previous experience, our level of autonomy is quite unique.” Mikko, the Design Lead, says.
Autonomy doesn't mean that Designers work alone, however. The work is inherently collaborative since Product Designers need to have a deep understanding of customers' needs and solve them in close collaboration with Engineers and Product Managers through efficient UI and UX. Now that the Product Design team has grown, we have started a new subteam that is solely focused on developing our design system and building the component library. We expect it to make Designers’ work more enjoyable and allow them to focus their efforts on areas where their skills bring the most value to the customers.
Deep Understanding of Customers’ Needs Is Crucial
Our Product Design team builds tools for advanced performance marketers and creatives who use those tools several hours a day. The workflows for creating digital advertising campaigns are often complex, and we aim to simplify them, which demands a lot from UI and UX design. “Our largest customers like Uber, Under Armour, and eBay are eager to contribute their feedback and ideas to the design process, because we aim to make their lives easier by automating their repetitive, manual tasks,” Mikko says. As the Product Designers represent these highly experienced end-users in the Product Development Teams, they need to deeply understand the customers’ workflows, goals, and needs. “What might come as a surprise for a designer joining our team is that we have a specific need to understand ad tech terminology as well as a big demand for business area knowledge to serve our customers the best way possible,” says Mikko.
Thanks to our collaborative design process where Designers co-create the user interface together with customers, our customers are only one call or Slack thread away. Even more feedback flows through our Customer Success Managers and internal end-users in the Creative and Managed Services Teams, in the form of feature requests and bug reports.
Operating in an ecosystem that is as fast-moving as digital advertising means that outpacing the competition and continuing to deliver to customers requires our Designers to adapt quickly to changes in the industry. Our customers adopt new social media platforms, and we have to both serve them and exceed the standards set by these platforms. “Our commitment to great product design, good UX, and making complex and difficult things easy, effective and enjoyable requires our Designers to create new design iterations and prototypes several times a day. Growing the Product Design team in the spirit of the way we do product development is an interesting challenge,” Mikko says.
Wipe out Manual Work with Us
Working at Smartly.io, Product Designers can enjoy their design in production and receive continuous feedback when seeing customers use our product. There is a tangible outcome as you see the real-world impact that you are making. Become a Product Designer at Smartly.io, enjoy a high level of autonomy and see your designs used and loved by some of the largest advertisers globally. We are now hiring several Product Designers: