How We Formed the UX team in OLX

I’m no longer with OLX Philippines and I still get asked how we had started its UX team.

OLX (originally called online exchange) is in the online classifieds business. It’s mother company is Naspers. It targeted developing markets in Asia and Latin America. Naspers is considered one of the dominant online classifieds players worldwide.

New Roles in Companies

RJ David, my old boss, was the original founder of Sulit.com.ph. This company would later be rebranded as OLX.ph. OLX held internal conferences that shared knowledge between the different OLX countries. Rj attended one of these conferences and came back with a insight. Two important job functions would come in companies — a business data intelligence role and a user experience designer role.

Knowing this, he had started invest in people with the necessary skills to get OLX ahead of the market. First he gave one of their engineers, Micael, the lead UX role. Micael showed a lot of interest in the field.

Second, he hired me. I was hired as UX Manager in October, 2013.

Mica became my first team member. Two of us was informally the initial UX team. We worked with the Product Engineering department.

This was the first step in forming the team — a high level sponsor that believed in UX.

There was a bit confusion back then since there were two of us managers in the Product team. Initially we had two different functions. One would plan, the other would execute. It didn’t make sense though so RJ decided to change the set-up. I left the product manager role.

To separate the function of the UX team from the Product team, I pitched to RJ to form the UX team. The function would be mainly to conduct usability tests, A/B & Multivariate tests, and provide actionable insights for the company.

In 2014, when the team was formed, there were few companies who knew about UX, Design Thinking & Experience Design. Even fewer had implemented anything remotely similar to it. I was mainly relying on personal experience. I also asked regular feedback from friends in the UX Community. One of the main things I’ve learned and always believed in was to “prove by data.”

Our First UX Test

In one of our initial A/B tests, there was a discussion (or how I perceived it — a minor argument) over how to phrase the call-to-action button. We originally had the text “Post a FREE ad.” There was a move to change the text to “Sell your item now.”

One of the first A/B tests we did in OLX

I recommended we do an A/B test with our current tool (Optimizely) to resolve the discussion. The test results indicated that “Sell your item now” was clicked 30% more than the previous text.

We made this as a default text. A week later we saw our competitor change their text to match ours. This was our first little win — getting insights proven by data.

This is also how the process began to roll out. We showed “little wins” that the rest of the company could act on. The UX team became experts in doing research.

This became our internal team motto — prove by data and highlight the little wins.

Weekly Minimum Viable Product (MVP) Sessions and in-house Training

My boss (RJ) had set up a weekly innovation meeting. These were called our MVP sessions. I viewed it as an opportunity. It was an important next step to sell the design culture within the company. Every week our team worked on different tests. Most of the tests were design related. Some tests included:

  • Changing the home page to something that had one image and a simpler call-to-action
  • Designing different button designs and color combinations
  • Testing banner ad placements

We also conducted field usability testing and persona research. We’d go the the field and record people as they used the OLX app.

We reported the results to the rest of the departments on MVP Mondays.

MVP Sessions with the OLX Team

I made it my mission to sell UX within the organization. I was invited several times to teach Design Thinking in OLX induction trainings internationally.

Teaching Design Thinking

I taught design thinking in Dubai, Singapore and Indonesia. In Indonesia we had a 3-day session. We taught not only design thinking but the different design tools like optimizely and surveymonkey.

This was another model that gained the design movement within the company some momentum — developing internal culture through different UX training.

Free Lunch

One of my happy surprises in OLX was when the admin team decided to do their own design thinking. Their exercise was to solve the problem of food waste.

The company offered free lunch several times a week. However, people didn’t always like the food. There would be a lot of leftovers at the end of the day.

Admin consulted with me to figure out better solution. What came out it was a prototype of a food coupon. The admin team tested the prototype for a while. After seeing success, it was eventually rolled out.

OLX Admin doing their own Design Thinking

As Far as We could Go

Almost 2 1/2 years in OLX and the UX team, I decided (for a number of personal reasons) to move on. I resigned OLX in April 2015.

Before I left, I ensured someone would continue the UX tradition. I recommended a UX colleague within the local tech community. Christine took on the UX lead role. Eventually, the UX team was incorporated within the Product and Design Teams.

What I learned forming the UX team

Key lessons I learned from this experience:

  • A High Level Sponsor really helps in pushing the design culture within the company
  • “Little wins” and “proving by data” mattered a lot. It highlighted the value of doing research and usability tests.
  • Continuous design training (or idea-selling) was important. It helped spread the design culture

Hope this helps you in forming your own UX team as well.

About Ely

Ely is a User Experience/User Centered Design Coach. He is the co-founder of a UX Design agency ApicalDesign.com. If you’d like UX design work, visit our website or email us (hello@apicaldesign.com)

Ely is also the founder of a design community called UX Philippines. He worked as UX manager in a US Nasdaq-listed Top-100 E-Commerce Site (US Auto Parts) and in a Global Classified-Ads Site (OLX).

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