Get stakeholders addicted to Design
Solving basic design problems is an exciting and teachable skill
Poll Everywhere is a live-polling SaaS company, serving 75% of the Fortune 1,000.
As product people, we tend to have more ideas than people to build them. Often times, we encounter a class of design work that doesn’t require a member of our design team to validate it.
Tweaks to copy, messaging, notifications, minor rearrangements of existing components, building a landing page from a high performing template, etc;
These are all things that should be doable without a measurable burden on designers. The trouble is that many stakeholders don’t have the technical chops to bring these ideas to life.
Design at Poll Everywhere is not a dark art. If we could lower the barrier to entry on this technical design work we’d empower everyone on the team to improve the product.
Our 4-step approach
01: Be inclusive
Building off our Design Principle Open Kitchen, we started with a weekly invitation during our all-hands meeting.
Since then we’ve expanded our Sketch inner circle to include members from Engineering, PM, Marketing, Sales, and even the Executive team.
You’re probably cringing at the idea of a cornflower-blue necktie messing around in Sketch. Use this as an opportunity to mentor non-designers on your craft.
02: Do a live demo
Make it look easy.
Inspire stakeholders to think to themselves “hey, I could do that.”
A good place to start is to take a well known part of your product, and quickly reproduce it.
For us, it was a “rebuild the homepage in 10 seconds” demo.
All you do is click `Symbols > Pages > Home page` and drop it onto the artboard.
Then, with each person, show them how to do what you just did, step by step. You’ll see their interest pique as they’re able to recreate a familiar part of the product.
03: Give them a gentle push
Make it feel easy and fun to start creating.
Remember that stakeholders are going to be occasional users, and that creative software is notoriously complex. Help new people feel comfortable by focusing on a small part of the interface.
For us, we focused on the Insert > Symbol menu. We’ve made it easy to find and insert our components; things like buttons […].
We’ve reduced the mental burden of developing a user workflow by making available the interactions we already use across the rest of the product.
We thought deeply about how we organize these files, ensuring the arrangement mirrors the information architecture of our UI.
The result is that when a stakeholder approaches Sketch, they clearly recognize how they’ve seen each piece used.
An added benefit is that, since these are all blessed as part of the Design System, is that we get mockups that are on brand and are production-ready.
04: Keep your skills sharp
Based on another Design Principle, Sharpen & Hone, we run a standing meeting called Sketch Lvl Up (more on that 🔜) whose original purpose was to share great Sketch workflow tips and tricks amongst designers. It has since transformed into a way to onboard different stakeholders.
We walk them through building a UI, landing page, or email template, that they’d been imagining but didn’t have the resources to do in code.
By leveraging the components we’ve already built and our design tooling, we set stakeholders loose with components that are Design Approved™.
This gives us a head start when putting together pitches for new projects, and frees up design to dive deeper on the company’s hardest problems.
This also helps us save time re-phrasing design problems and UI patterns, since our stakeholders are now familiar with the basic concepts.
You can do this. Don’t treat your skills as a dark art: instead, up-skill each stakeholder into a champion for design.