We are thrilled to have Abby Luke, a growth designer at ezCater, as our new guest of Women Crush Wednesday series!
Welcome, Abby! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Heya! I’m a summery Boston native interested in utilizing design solutions to make digital experiences more personal and intuitive. My creativity seeps outside of my day job and into my hobbies like my homemade kombucha, pottery, indoor gardening, and weaving. My happy place is the beach and my biggest brag is that I’ve run 3 marathons (2BOS + 1NYC). When I’m not traveling, I live in a jungle-like condo in Jamaica Plain with my partner Todd and my sun and stars (aka cats) Margot and Theodore. To date, I’ve taken approximately 4,268,999 photos of them.
How did you get involved in the tech industry and specifically in design?
My path into the tech industry was through my co-op program at Northeastern University. On-the-job experience showed me how design could be applied to digital platforms and engage with real people. The interactivity intrigued me because I’m such a visual learner and person, and I wanted to find a craft that brought aesthetic composition and problem-solving together. My creativity can be traced all the way to preschool where I reportedly drew rainbows every single day. I also ate play-doh, but didn’t end up making a career out of it.
What does a growth designer do?
My perspective is that a growth designer balances visitor goals with business metrics, focusing on measurable high-impact opportunities. I’m currently working at the top of ezCater’s funnel helping acquire new customers and keep them engaged. I try to find ways to give a compelling first, second, third impression that molds into a positive experience and mutually beneficial relationship. I hope to connect with real people and motivate them through building trust so their expectations match what they’ll find down the road.
My growth design role gives me a green light to think bigger than an MVP-to-feature product lifecycle. My workflow is scrappy and experimental so I can quickly find levers that make a difference. Our fast pace doesn’t mean small experiments; we are creative about which tools will help get the knowledge we’re after. This might mean running an A/B experiment on a high traffic page or running a user study to gain insights without building anything live.
Prior to being a growth designer, you were a UX designer. How do these differ?
At my last gig, I was a UX designer, meaning I leveraged research methodology in a design workflow to inform decisions and explore ways to alleviate customer pain points. Every team and every company is different. At ezCater I now partner with design researchers who focus on the research side, planning what qualitative tools we’ll use to learn from our customers and visitors. I collaborate and strategize with my research peers to accelerate my work.
I flexed into UX because I’m interested in human factors and the psychology that informs design decisions. Now that I’ve seen behind the curtain there’s no designing without the end-person in mind. Prior to my UX designer role, I got a glimpse into research even though my focus was more UI and branding focused. The aesthetically pleasing design principles and creative workflow I learned help fuel my work now.
Now as a growth designer instead of specifically UI or UX, I’m resilient to change and “failure” (aka where all the best lessons are) because of the experimental nature. I’m also able to see direct value very quickly as a result, which is completely addictive.
What does your typical day look like?
My design process isn’t a straight line but includes a variety of the following: sketching, wireframing, polishing UI, making clickable prototypes, crafting Sketch symbols, creating shareable slides for each of my projects, planning my design roadmap, compiling assets for hand-off, brainstorming experiments with my project manager, talking over development solutions with engineering partners, reading through customer research, attending moderated sessions between a researcher and customer, and sifting through appetizing food photography (gotta be careful working at ezCater on an empty stomach!). Rinse and repeat.
Could you please share how your squad is structured and how you work with everyone?
My squad is flexible and laid-back despite our fast pace. I’m the design lead partnering with other functions to achieve our business goals. My product manager is an essential partner-in-crime: we brainstorm experiments, strategize and prioritize the roadmap, and collaborate with marketing for their expertise in SEO, SEM, acquisition, and retention. My product manager’s analytical skills help with interpreting our results so we can learn from each outcome and determine next steps. Our dedicated design researcher and I interpret customer feedback and plan how we should respond to each nugget of knowledge through design opportunities. I also partner with an engineering manager to strategize development solutions and figure out how to execute all our big-picture plans. I collaborate daily with the rest of our software engineers to hand-off designs, QA live solutions, and find compromises with the fluid nature of the web.
Outside my squad I align with my peers on the design team to contribute to vision work and process, and support each others’ career goals.
How do you as a growth designer interact with data and analytics?
As a growth designer, I’m bringing together qualitative and quantitative information to make decisions with an emphasis on shipping to learn. By combining design with product, marketing, and analytics, we’re able to connect meaningful metrics to business goals. A huge part of any designer’s job is communicating value, and my goal is to advocate for the customer perspective through data storytelling. An experiment (or any tool for learning) is much more actionable if one can articulate first the problem at its core, then the previous knowledge that went into the design solution, and then the customer journey through the ultimate results. To understand the reaction to each element, we look at the bounce rate and order start rate (or whatever the metric is) through the eye of the visitor.
A lot of designers out there do not have as much interaction with data. Could you please teach us something new?!
The great thing about rapid experimentation is learning quickly and seeing direct results from our work. The double-edged sword is that we “fail” fast and often. Optimistically, failure is the best kind of learning because sometimes it means you can pivot to something out of the ordinary and take an even bigger risk than you originally thought. When interpreting our quantitative data, we make decisions based on specific metrics that could vary across projects. Bounce rate reduction might be the most important key to a landing page overhaul that works to build trust and brand awareness. Checkout start rate and new customer acquisition rate might make the difference in another project because the goal is more action-oriented. Sometimes results catch us off guard and qualitative research helps bolster our understanding of what visitors are really thinking on the page.
Transparency is a thread throughout our work — so which information helps the visitor and which scares them away? We learned in one of our tests that displaying pricing (delivery fees, minimum order cost) upfront actually led to more quality engagement down the funnel.
Often people think of reducing steps from A to B as best UX practice, especially in ecommerce. Another twist for us revealed that we could improve mobile engagement by adding another step to get to know the visitors’ needs. Research with potential customers backed up why this was successful: people felt comfortable giving information about their event that would, in turn, make search results more relevant and tailored. There are a ton of factors at play for each project but these types of anecdotes help make our data points more accessible and understandable for peers outside the bubble of our squad.
How do you define UX in your current role as a growth designer at ezCater?
The core user experience (UX) is fundamental for bringing a visitor along for the ride with moments of delight that help them achieve their goals. With so many distractions fighting for attention, it’s crucial that any platform alleviates, rather than causes, stress. My squad works at the top of the funnel so I need to make sure the experience is visually consistent and sets up accurate expectations for the rest of their journey. The visitor shouldn’t suspect that a different designer or team has built each part of their experience.
I’ve created design principles for my squad based on the potential customer’s thoughts and emotions during each step of their experience. To expand our network, we’re targeting anonymous visitors with SEM traffic who we haven’t gotten to know yet. How do we give a good first impression and make their experience positive and memorable? We’re working to personalize in a way that can anticipate their needs without burdening the visitors’ cognitive load by asking a million questions.
Research is at the core of any UX design practice. Since we’re lucky enough at ezCater to have dedicated design researchers, I partner with my peers to listen to customers, identify pain points, synthesize themes, and brainstorm directions we can design and test.
What do you love most about your job?
Within digital design, I most love the interactive nature, behavioral psychology, and constantly evolving technology. Putting the customer at the core keeps me ever curious/delighted/surprised!
What are the challenges that you are facing at the current point of your career?
I’m a solo growth designer at my company and since it’s a somewhat new concept there aren’t a ton of resources or fellow growth designers just yet. On the flip side, I can pioneer and develop the practice at ezCater.
How do you overcome those challenges and what tips do you have for those in a similar situation?
By using the internet for its best purpose (besides animal live streams), I’ve found community in growth design. There are Slack channels, a virtual conference, and a ton of resources to help me learn.
IRL I grabbed coffee with a designer who’s focusing on growth at a fellow Boston tech company. Word of mouth is the best way to make connections and network beyond current coworkers to meet friends-of-friends. Answering the age-old question at meetups, “What do you do?,” gives me an opportunity to refine my elevator pitch and articulate exactly how my growth work brings value.
What are your short-term goals, and where do you see yourself in 5 years?
In the short-term, I’m trying to demonstrate leadership and apply strategic thinking to vision planning. I’m gaining more confidence by running workshops and developing frameworks for elevating themes and communicating lessons. Technology can take us in endless directions, so in 5 years I’ll have 5 more years of experience I can share with others. I’ll also probably be more aware of what I don’t know just yet.
How did you hear about Ladies that UX and how long have you been a member?
About 7 months ago I was drawn to ezCater for its empathetic, active design team. At its heart are two of the LTUX Boston organizers, Lara and Olga. I was eager to be a part of an inclusive design community that could help me stay in touch with coworkers I’ve met across jobs, see how new ideas are applied across industries, and get out of my comfort zone.
Favorite brunch spot in the area?
I’m a sucker for brunch tapas! My favorite tapas spot in JP is Tres Gatos — colorful, delightful dishes.
Thanks so much for sharing your story, Abby!
Thanks for having me! 👋