After six months of ideation, research, prototyping, user-testing, and development, we have finally released the new, internal digital presence for IBM’s global design community. The process was an incredible, exhaustive, exciting, tiring, and beautiful exercise in boiling an ocean.
How rude of me… that was the middle of the story. Let’s try again.
In an earlier version of my life as an IBMer (going on 6 ½ years strong), I was the guy who made sure that all the technology worked in IBM Studios Austin. One of my many responsibilities was to make sure that every designer coming through our program was equipped and ready to work on day one. I, along with some amazing volunteers, would get everyone’s laptop loaded with all the necessary software so the newly hired designers could start working immediately.
To this day, one of the things I hear from people that went through that onboarding process is that they still use the bookmarks I left for them in their browser.
The intention behind these bookmarks was to be a finely curated list of every online resource a designer might need to be successful at IBM.
As our program grew over the years, initiatives would start and stop. Websites, Box share-links and short URLs would be shared. Our collective intellectual properties spanned what felt like hundreds of resources across our intranet. Discoverability became hard, and knowledge of these digital experiences became known only to the tenured and well-connected. Designers had no official spot to find all the resources they needed in one place. It was a Wild West, a wasteland of wikis and sites spun up and forgotten. This was a design problem that needed to be solved.
IBM’s award winning intranet is known internally simply as “w3.” It’s one of the largest intranets on the planet. To have a digital property hanging off of
w3.ibm.com/___ is a sign of legitimacy and trust to the IBMer. The Designer Success team, under the leadership of Douglas Powell, VP of Designer Practices & Community, saw this opportunity to connect the larger design community through the (at the time) dormant w3.ibm.com/design. We began what we lovingly referred to internally as Project Singularity and started to collect every digital experience that spanned the designer experience.
I’m not going to lie… this process was hard. I can’t tell you how many iterations of our information architecture we went through before we finally landed on one that our users and executive stakeholders could all rally around. While a little painful, this was entirely necessary to gain the clarity and understanding we needed to codify our point of view.
One of the newer technologies that the Carbon Design System team has published recently is a Gatsby Theme powered by Carbon components. Gatsby is an open-source framework based on React. Within minutes, I had the shell of a website ready to go. All of the content is generated by MDX, which means that the designers on my team can edit the Markdown while I’m able to drop in React components with ease.
While the designers on the team worked tirelessly to interview users, meet with stakeholders, and prototype, I started worked on spinning up our staging environment. IBMers have an internal version of the IBM Cloud, along with access to TravisCI for custom deployments. Every time we merge to our master branch, TravisCI deploys a new version of our site with zero-downtime deployment. 💪
Aligned with the IBM Design Language by powering our site with the Gatsby Theme, we were finally ready to share our labor of love with the rest of the global design community.
What an incredible journey this project was. I had the pleasure of working with some amazing designers that all brought their A-game: (When you read them, read them like you’re announcing members of a rock band because that’s how I wrote them)… Allison Biesboer on content design and marketing; Emily Kim and Michael Bush on UX design, content, and research; Conrad Ennis on UX design and visual design; and Eunice Chung as our project lead, content writer, and wrangler of executive stakeholders.
I hope that the IBM design community has as much fun consuming our new platform as we did creating it. I also hope we, as a community, continue to iterate and build upon it, adding new resources and connecting more of us together as we grow in our domains, practice our disciplines, and navigate our careers at IBM.
If you’re an IBMer, check it out at https://w3.ibm.com/design. Sorry, external friends… I want nothing more than to share it with you, but this one is behind the firewall 🔥.
Scott Strubberg is a Front-end Developer and pretty handy with Design Operations at scale. He is based out of Austin, TX. The above article is personal and does not necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.